In this column, I will spotlight plotlines by writers that probably weren’t a good idea at the time and have only become more problematic in retrospect. I’ll try to stick with stuff that’s more ill-conceived than flat-out offensive (like racist stereotypes of characters during the 1940s).
Today we look at the very poorly-conceived origin of Captain America’s Golden Age foe, the Black Talon.
First off, you might be thinking, “But Brian, you said you were going to avoid racist stereotype characters from the 1940s because they’re too easy as targets. You are a lying liar who lies!” Fair point. However, I think that the Black Talon doesn’t really count as a racist stereotype – it goes way beyond that (there is obviously some racist stereotype stuff going on within in – but it is so much more than just that).
“The Case of the Black Talon” took place in 1941’s Captain America Comics #9 and was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Jack Kirby and Syd Shores, pretty much a Hall of Fame trio of comic book talent (although obviously Shores sort of pales in comparison to the first two – but Shores was pretty freakin’ awesome in his own right).
The story opens with someone known as the Black Talon killing famous painters. We soon learn that the Black Talon paints his victims after he kills them….
And then he goes to his next victim…
Cap and Bucky were too late to save this victim, but can they stop Black Talon and his gang (by the way, I love how bad guys having henchmen were such an ingrained part of comics even by 1941 that Binder can have Black Talon have henchmen for NO REASON and no one blinked an eye. The guy doesn’t actually rob people! Why would you be a henchmen to this guy? He’s just a plain ol’ serial killer!)?
They’re doing okay but ultimately, the Black Talon defeats Cap…
After the Talon and his gang escape, Cap and Bucky do some research and figure that the Black Talon must be this famous artist who lost his hand in an accident. They go to confront him at his home but find him dead. So they figure he couldn’t be the Black Talon. However, he was FAKING his death! He attacks and we get the ill-conceived origin of the Black Talon!
That’s some messed up stuff right there.
Cap manages to get free and defeats the Black Talon…
But the Black Talon escapes!!
Yes, they not only invented a character like the Black Talon but they thought he was good enough to bring back AGAIN! He ended up showing up a couple of times (all in Otto Binder-written stories. He must have really thought he had something with the Black Talon).
If you can think of a good example for this column, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.