When DC Comics released its map of the World of Flashpoint this morning, fans began talking about it right away. What DC likely didn’t expect was the tone of that discussion. One of the largest complaints was readers’ quickly and strongly objecting to Africa’s being labeled as “Ape-controlled.”
The first comment on our post about the map, for example, was “‘Ape controlled’? Racist much?” And though other commenters were just as quick to point out that Africa is the home of Grodd’s Gorilla City, the expansion of which will be the subject of one of the Flashpoint mini-series, the wording of the label is undeniably unfortunate. Commenters also point out the mention of the “Asian Capital” that suggests to them a lack of awareness of the diversity that exists on that continent.
It’s not only Robot 6 commenters who are discussing the issue. The conversation is also being had at the Comic Book Resources forums, Comics Alliance, and undoubtedly other places I haven’t discovered yet. Comments range from the relatively benign (“It’s almost as if DC wants to start racial controversy”) to outright accusations of racism and misogyny.
Others have noted that even if no intentional offense was meant (and honestly, does anyone really believe that it was?), in addition to a lack of sensitivity, the map also betrays a lack of imagination. Gorillas in Africa, Nazis in South America, and pirates in the Atlantic — for example — are standard tropes in adventure stories. Even Alaska as “Land of the Undead” has me wondering if we’re going to see a 30 Days of Night crossover. I’m guessing that familiar clichés are exactly what DC’s going for, but I understand the complaint that some of these stereotypes could use a second thought and another look.
On the other hand, it strikes me that the Amazons’ taking over Britain and declaring it New Themyscira is a pretty original idea. And I certainly wouldn’t suggest that a world full of talking gorillas, Nazis, pirates, merfolk and Amazons is a bad place to tell a whole mess of stories. It’s just too bad that it’s been overshadowed by another mess altogether. Especially since this isn’t the first time DC’s been accused of this kind of thing.