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!