It used to be “normal” to see Afro-American features bastardized by comic book artists and colourists. In the 1930s to 1980s, blacks had one look. They were like white guys with larger noses. They all looked the same and had afros. One thing that annoyed me early on was witnessing palms and soles that were same colour as their bodies – brown. I never thought that this comic book cliché which reeks of blackface was still a practice in 2014. I just saw it in the latest preview of Birds of Prey #33 from DC Comics.
The splash page of DC Comics’ Birds of Prey #33 features a black man crawling on the ground. The interior of his palms and soles are visible. Their colour is the same as the rest of the character’s skin. Dark brown. It’s a detail that annoys me and proves to me that although we are in the year 2014, stupidity about race in America continues. Anyone with any sort of brain knows that black people’s soles and palms are not the same colour as the rest of their bodies. The palms and soles of Caucasians are also a different shade than that of the rest of their bodies.
In the past, black comic book characters had one tone. They were all the same brown. That was understandable. Yet, even way back in 1984, some comic book creators were more sensitive to such details. The cover of Iron Man #183 portrayed Jim Rhodes's palms correctly. Such details affect young readers and their sense of self-worth and identification with a hero. I remember picking up this comic book as a kid, amazed at the correct depiction of a feature so often ignored.
Today, in the Age of Photoshop and Painter, comic book colouring is not limited by printing guidelines and budgets. Painting all characters the same brown, reeks of ignorance. Painting the palms and soles of these characters brown is insulting. It is blackface for comics.
Colourist Chris Sotomayor deserves the palm for this stupidity. His editors Mark Doyle, Rachel Gluckstern and Matt Humphreys deserve similar pats on the back. They let something ignorant get published under their watch. I stopped reading Birds of Prey recently. The series jumped the shark when Black Canary started flying like Marvel’s Banshee. Alex Toth must be reeling in his tomb as Black Canary no longer needs a custom motorcycle to travel. I’m appalled at this comic book and am doing what any enlightened person would do. I’m denouncing this piece of racist trash. Goodbye Birds of Prey.