Friday, October 31, 2008

What's Happenin' Baby? Meet the Brown Bomber!

Regular readers know I love my obscure comic book trivia. I got a surprise in this weeks Justice League of America #26, where Dwayne McDuffie has been quietly turning out an excellent monthly read. He has also strengthened one of the strongest lineups for the JLA ever, including such strong African-American characters in the cast as Firestorm, Vixen, and Black Lightning. In this issue, he wrapped up an ongoing Vixen storyline with a reality-warping trek into a might-have-been world where everyone is disturbingly different. This would have had a lot more impact if DC hadn't been spending the last three years putting its multiverse through the wringer on a routine basis, but this deviant reality still has a few clever twists, not the least of which is the inclusion of the most racist, most misguided near-disaster character in DC Comics' history.

Note how all of the regular Leaguers get an alternate counterpart here; Impulse stands in for the Flash, Hawk replaces Hawkgirl, but who's the bald bigot, and where's Black Lightning's stand-in?

OH SNAP. I cannot believe it, but somebody finally pulled the Black Bomber out of cobwebs, and used him in an actual story. And it is devilishly clever of mister McD to use him as a Black Lightning analog, because Black Lightning owes his existence to the ignoble Black Bomber.

Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella explains it best in his essay Black Lightning and Me , part of which I quote here:

"I created Black Lightning after convincing DC not to publish another "black" super-hero on which they had started work. The Black Bomber was a white bigot who, in times of stress, turned into a black super-hero. This was the result of chemical camouflage experiments he'd taken part in as a soldier in Vietnam. The object of these experiments was to allow our [white] troops to blend into the jungle. In each of the two completed Black Bomber scripts, the white bigot risks his own life to save another person whom he can't see clearly (in one case, a baby in a stroller) and then reacts in racial slur disgust when he discovers that he risked his life to save a black person. He wasn't aware that he had two identities, but each identity had a girlfriend and the ladies were aware of the change. To add final insult, the Bomber's costume was little more than a glorified basketball uniform. DC had wanted me to take over writing the book with the third issue. I convinced them to eat the two scripts and let me start over. To paraphrase my arguments... "Do you REALLY want DC's first black super-hero to be a white bigot?""

MY GOD THAT SOUNDS AWFUL. Brown Bomber is obviously an "homage'' to the dreadful, ill-conceived Black Bomber. Hats off to Dwayne Mc Duffie for this brilliant nod to comics almost-history!



RAB said...

Yes, far as I could tell, the only purpose that cameo served was to give McDuffie bragging rights for having introduced the character. It added absolutely nothing to the story.

And honestly, speaking without snark as someone with a lot of respect for Dwanye McDuffie, that issue was so pointless as to fill me only with profoud apathy and despair. It read as if he just lost interest halfway through. The bad guy says "All this random stuff that happened was to prove some abstract point that doesn't require further explanation" and it was over. It just seems like a waste.

Anonymous said...

Brad Meltzer included Black Lightning (and Vixen for that matter) in the new JLA, not McDuffie. The only black hero he included was Firestorm. Granted, that should change next month with the appearance of the Milestone characters, but still, facts are facts.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

The CPT gag alone makes this worthwhile.


John Pontoon said...

This universe should have a black version of Kanjar Ro. He should be called "Kanjar Bro."

Johnny Sorrow said...


I don't get it.

Verification word: thruspa

The sound of the Brown Bomber transforming back.

Brian Hughes said...

Colored People's Time is an African-American inside joke referring to their frequently being late for appointments. ex: "Sorry I'm late, I was on CP time." My wife told me this.

Hypestyle said...

great issue.. heh.. I knew about the bomber's history beforehand.. but seeing this now.. I wish the character had still been introduced earlier in continuity, so he could die a horrible death in a Crisis or something.. now is it me, or does the Bomber's normal form vaguely resemble Brian Bendis, (who of course, transforms into a quasi-Cage parody)?

Chris Sims said...




Brian Hughes said...

As a kick in the face, baby.

Anonymous said...

He would e a hit with Black comic readers like myself. Like Tyler Perry meets Spiderman.

Anonymous said...

Love the concept. If DC gave me the reigns to the character I'd make him as popular as Deapool with a decent origin story to boot.