Utterly Rampant, Out-of-Control Racism in Comic Books!
Tom Strong: Book One
Down from the Attic: 1
I mentioned a while back that I had, last Christmas, been up in the attic of the house where I once lived, and there came across a treasure trove of golden oldies. In fact, how the Hell I forgot these beauties is a mystery. Well, maybe not; the end of a relationship and all that.
Anyway, I decided I would review the batch some sixteen years after first reading them. Three of the collections were from Alan Moore’s then brand- new America’s Best Comics line, and what could be more pleasant and uncontroversial than to start with his affectionate homage to the Golden Age, Tom Strong: Book One, which collected the initial seven issues in one beautiful package.
Well, that was the theory, in any case; but it seems that writing a review of even one of Mr. Moore’s least controversial offerings is fraught with hidden dangers when the dreaded PC Police rears their ugly, nothing-better-to-do-with-their-time heads.
I mentioned to a friend how much I was enjoying this nostalgic take on Superman, only to have him say: “Yeah? Well, don’t mention that he has a black wife, whatever you do.”
I was intrigued. Why not? After all, the gorgeous Dahlua is a Princess from, eh…off the coast of Africa. And that is how I came to be aware of this 2013 correspondence on – of all places—the excellent Goodreads site. It all started calmly, if quite bizarrely:
Your review of Tom Strong, Book 1 was recently flagged by several Goodreads members. It appears that this section of your review could be read as racially offensive:
He’s got a pretty black wife and a pretty half-breed daughter
We strive to maintain a safe and comfortable environment at Goodreads, and we try to stay away from using potentially hurtful terms. Given this, would you mind rephrasing this part of your review or removing it entirely? If this hasn’t been replaced in three business days, we will unfortunately have to remove the review.
The Goodreads Team
Huh? “Safe and comfortable environment?” What was the problem here? Dahlua is a black woman and she and Tom’s pretty daughter Tesla is obviously a nice mix of black and white. Or aren’t we allowed to mention that Tom is a white superhero with good taste in women?
The reviewer, who signed himself MZA politely enquired whether an actual human was deleting his review, to which he got this reply:
We carefully examined your review before sending out this message. As a clarification, the review will only be removed in three business days if you do not remove the part that we highlighted in our previous message.
Please let us know if you have any questions about this.
The Goodreads Team
I can only applaud MZA’s answer to this unmitigated bullshit, because it isn’t a million miles away from how I would have answered myself.
I don’t have questions. You have been clear, and as I acknowledged before, it’s your site, not mine, you do as you please. But since I am talking to a human, you might as well know that what you’re asking me to do is change the way I write because someone else didn’t like it. What kind of person would submit to such pressure from a web site and “several” sensitive flaggers? That’s right, a coward. Think on it: what if the same standards were applied to books on Amazon or books in the library — as a company that celebrates writing in all of its manifestations — bad writing, good writing, great writing, uplifting writing, miserable writing, evil writing, confusing writing, divine writing — you can see the irony in deleting writing that doesn’t mimic a political orthodoxy or whose humor might be impenetrable.
It’s not that I don’t like your site. But if it’s true that you prefer to cultivate users of a certain political stripe and exclude the ideological riff-raff, it’d probably be more efficient to delete ALL my reviews. “He’s got a pretty black wife and a pretty half-breed daughter” is in the bottom-third percentile of most offensive things I’ve ever written.
To which he received:
Thank you for your feedback. While we do appreciate your position, this particular comment violates our Terms of Service. Sorry about that.
The Goodreads Team
I really must check out their reviews of Huckleberry Finn when I finish this.
God knows what they’ve renamed Nigger Jim.
Anyway, Tom Strong is a super-tough, near-invulnerable, mental giant of a Caucasian who is married to Dahlua, a woman who is of a colour that is not white or yellow. They have a daughter called Tesla, who is a mixture of both in colouring, funnily enough and together they help to protect the futuristic Millennium City from the various super-villains and parallel- world Aztec warriors who threaten it.
This is Moore and his artists having pure fun. In fact, if anyone should be offended maybe it’s the Nazi fascists who he mocks endlessly – and hilariously; especially through the thigh-high leather–booted, drop-dead gorgeous Aryan goddess Ingrid Weiss and her elite Slutstaffel.
The cover of issue #5 has these imperishable captions:
He Wanted Her for War Crimes but She Wanted Him for Love!
It’s hot as HELL, buddy, but you’ll shiver at the touch of this Teutonic torture-goddess and her Luftwaffe of Lust! You’ll never forget the hot lead kiss of the…
Ha ha! How can anyone who loves Ken Russell movies not be crazy about Tom Strong?
And Moore wasn’t kidding when he called his new line America’s Best Comics. Everything about this 2000 collection was a pure delight, even that oft-overlooked art form, the lettering, as presented by Todd Klein.
The main artists are Chris Sprouse (co-creator) and Alan Gordon; with a very respectable team helping out with the clever stories within the stories: Arthur Adams, Gary Frank, Dave Gibbons and Jerry Ordway.
For those who are familiar with Alan Moore only through Swamp Thing or Watchmen, Tom Strong is unreservedly recommended!