You really have to give Chris Sims a ton of credit for the timing of his piece, “The Racial Politics of Regression Storytelling,” which he posted at Comics Alliance last week (Bill linked to it this Sunday, beating me to it).
The basic gist of the piece is that DC, by regressing to the previous incarnations of legacy heroes, is making a racial statement, even thought it is not their intent, since many of the newer heroes “losing” their jobs/titles were racially diverse and are losing them to the earlier heroes with those job/heroes, who are invariably white guys.
It’s a very interesting piece, especially as you note that Warner Bros. has been pushing these newer heroes in their cartoons (like Ryan Choi, the Asian Atom, in Batman: Brave and the Bold), so you’d think that they would not be regressed to the older characters easily.
However, that is not the case.
And with this week’s Titans: Villains For Hire Special…well…(spoilers ahead!)…
The new villainous team of Titans make their big debut by killing Ryan Choi.
Writer Eric Wallace talked about the death at Comic Book Resources here, and again, I absolutely agree with Sims’ position that there are not any racial motivations behind the treatment of Choi. I’d say that the odds are pretty much 100% that Wallace was simply given a list of heroes that were notable enough that their death would matter but NOT notable enough that they could be killed off without it being a major blow to the DC Universe (or more specifically, stories currently being written by other writers – that is, that no other writer had current or future plans for Choi).
And since DC has already regressed the Atom name back to Ray Palmer, Ryan Choi was very much expendable (if you go by the idea that Ray was now the Atom again, that is).
And we get a perfect response a week later to Sims’ piece, which ended with:
Which is one of the things that’s so galling about the regression from Ryan Choi to Ray Palmer. It’s been a running gag among my friends that in comics, only white Americans ever find meteors, get splashed with chemicals or get visited by spacemen, everyone else (from Jack O’Lantern to Black Bison to the Gaucho to Apache Chief to Samurai and so on) has to have a power that relates to their race or their country — specifically, the broad stereotypes drawn from white Americans’ perception of their race or country. It’s almost inescapable, and it reinforces the idea that non-white characters are defined solely by their ethnic differences.
But Ryan Choi was a character that actually had a character, and was one of the few Chinese-American characters in comics that didn’t have powers relating to Kung Fu dragons. He was just a guy with super-powers that was filling a role that nobody had bothered to do anything with in years.
And now he’s been shoved into limbo so that Ray Palmer can come back, reduced to a gentrified footnote so that the DC Universe can a little bit more like it did in 1978.
And a week later – he’s killed off.
That’s some impressive timing there, Chris.