Who knew Chris Sims was so controversial?
Last week, Mr. Sims wrote an article for Comics Alliance noting that in the push to restore…well, let’s just call it what it is, the restoration of the old Superfriends (Hal, Barry, Ray, Ronnie, Aquaman)…the racial diversity has inadvertently been set back as well. And from Mr. Sims’ piece other comics blogs such as Stars And Garters, Bleeding Cool, Pretty, Fizzy Paradise (actually a response to the Bleeding Cool post), Comics Oughta Be Fun, and probably a whole bunch of others have weighed in. Also, some Spotlight blog I can’t place the name of right now.
EDIT: Apparently I’m not the only one making the Superfriends connection.
One line from a different Stars And Garters post came with this statement.
Snell over at Slay, Monstrobot was complaining about how Ryan Choi has been shunted off to the sidelines lately. But Ryan fans should count their blessings: At least when Ray Palmer came back Ryan wasn’t erased from existence.
Well, so much for that ray of hope (pun semi-intended).
Not too long after the article we find that in Titans Special: Villains For Hire, that current Atom Ryan Choi is killed off by the DC Universe’s top assassins. This, of course, is to make way for Ray Palmer’s return, because he was used so well in Countdown. (Sarcasm doesn’t come across well in text.)
And since DC has already regressed the Atom name back to Ray Palmer, Ryan Choi was very much expendable (if you go by the idea that Ray was now the Atom again, that is).
And we get a perfect response a week later to Sims’ piece, which ended with:
Which is one of the things that’s so galling about the regression from Ryan Choi to Ray Palmer. It’s been a running gag among my friends that in comics, only white Americans ever find meteors, get splashed with chemicals or get visited by spacemen, everyone else (from Jack O’Lantern to Black Bison to the Gaucho to Apache Chief to Samurai and so on) has to have a power that relates to their race or their country — specifically, the broad stereotypes drawn from white Americans’ perception of their race or country. It’s almost inescapable, and it reinforces the idea that non-white characters are defined solely by their ethnic differences.
But Ryan Choi was a character that actually had a character, and was one of the few Chinese-American characters in comics that didn’t have powers relating to Kung Fu dragons. He was just a guy with super-powers that was filling a role that nobody had bothered to do anything with in years.
And now he’s been shoved into limbo so that Ray Palmer can come back, reduced to a gentrified footnote so that the DC Universe can a little bit more like it did in 1978.
And a week later – he’s killed off.
Sadly, the writer is correct here. We just got through talking about how he was the rare case of an Asian superperson who didn’t get his/her powers from something relating to a dragon, ninja clan, or something else that comes from the “Oriental” area of the world. (For lack of a better term.) It’s the same way Ray got his powers, using a device to channel the power of a piece of dwarf star (itself scientifically questionable, which should be fine if it weren’t for creators screaming “realism” these days).
Now did Ryan have to be killed off? No. Wally West and Kyle Rayner are being pushed aside to make room for their predecessors to return. We know Dick Grayson will step down (again) once Bruce Wayne makes his return and re-assumes his mantle as Batman. (The question being what will Dick go by now that “Nightwing” is being used by a Super-title character.) For that matter, Ted Kord didn’t have to die in order for a character like Jamie Reyes to come along.
So why kill him? Shock value, which is all death is “good for” nowadays. It’s why anybody dies in a comic, especially if nobody can figure out what to do with the character. (Sure, this is why Barry Allen died in the first place, but at least his death, and Supergirl’s, actually served a purpose, and they went down fighting during Crisis on Infinite Earths.) And what can you do with a new Atom when your bringing the old one back? If they’re not going to have more than one Flash (does Jay Garrick ever get called by that name these days?), why would they have more than one Atom?
And who hired the assassins? Dwarfstar, Choi’s evil opposite. Yeah, nice one.
Choi died for shock value and for the crime of not being the one from “that show” or “that time period”. Does he have a fanbase? Sure does. He’s even responsible for a trope name. (I so want to read that comic!) And a better one than Kyle’s “contribution“. The comic took place in a fictional town set here in Connecticut, so we got screwed over. Not that it sounds like a fun place to visit, mind you. And again I remind you, he once fought Hitler with a Jetpack, and Godzilla Batman. That’s the fun kind of insane. And it is THIS version of the Atom currently on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, not Ray Palmer. Explain that to the kids, along with what happened to Jaime!
So while it’s disappointing to Asian-American readers, it should be a disappointment to us all. Not only because of the race issue, but because they’re killing off a great character to bring the “one true version” back. “True version” to the current staff, anyway.