John Byrne Describes Marvel's Casual Racism In The Seventies

We're not talking Luke Cage's "Sweet Christmas" exclamations here. But in a discussion on the Byrne Robotics board about offense in comics, starting with the rejection by DC of the previously-approved Swamp Thing #88, John Byrne gave his recollection of Marvel offices back in the day.

I have commented before, on more than one occasion, that some of the current "generation", so eager to take offense at everything and anything, would suffer a severe case of exploding headitis, if they could time travel back to Marvel in the Seventies. Then the thinking was informed almost entirely by the eternally non-PC NATIONAL LAMPOON, and it seemed that no one could ever really be offended by things that were so totally off the wall — so utterly and deliberately extreme. Some example (and watch these get ME in trouble now!):

� It was the habit in the Office to refer to CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON as "Captain America and the Fowl Coon".

� Black Goliath was frequently referred to as "The Big Nig".

� One writer expressed his desire to do a Black Goliath story titled "The Jig is Up".

� Another wanted to put the credit names on furniture on the opening splash of an issue he scripted, so the name of a Jewish member of the team could be lettered on a lampshade.

� And, of course, the various examples of "fuck", "shit", and other such words worked into backgrounds are infamous.

And if there was anyone who didn't think these were "funny", they sure didn't say anything about it at the time!*

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* Altho in the PC world in which we live today, there are plenty of people now all to eager to talk about how "difficult" it was to work at Marvel in those days. Retroactive offense?

Out of curiosity, were any of the staff in the office black? And would it have mattered if they were?

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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