Thursday, March 25, 2010

Profile: Sha-Shan

First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #108, May 1972

History: the daughter of a Buddhist community leader in Vietnam, she had first met Flash Thompson while he was serving in the army there, and had been lost in the jungle during a battle with the Vietnamese commies. She helped save Flash's life after he was unfairly targeted by a gang of worshipers of her father's for supposedly causing him a coma after an air raid. She was pushed into an arranged marriage with a crook named Achmed Korba, later seen as Brother Power (and she as Sister Sun) as a supposed balance to his evil nature, but it backfired when Korba decided to attack Spider-Man, much to her displeasure, in Spectacular Spider-Man #3, February 1977. Korba was killed in an explosion, and Sha-Shan was then free to rekindle her relationship with Flash.

Current status: limbo (depending on your viewpoint, that is. I'll explain below why).

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: some of her appearances were fairly stereotypical in their depiction of an Asian. In 1986, apparently because the Vietnam background details were becoming outdated, she broke up with Flash and was dropped from the cast in Spidey's world, and was not mentioned again for many years.

What's wrong with how this was done? In honesty, there wasn't much done wrong with her departure, except for how they almost completely wrote her out, all because of how the Vietnam war background itself was becoming dated. Could they not have possibly retconned the story so that her country was a fictionalized one instead, which could've helped make the story more durable?

I guess this also highlights a notable problem with some of Marvel's early approaches circa the Silver/Bronze Age: they built stories based on real life countries and their problems of the times, rather than come up with fictionalized ones. Later on though, when characters like Silver Sable came along, the Marvel staff did use fictional countries like Symkaria as a home base.

That Sha was depicted in a stereotypical manner as an Asian woman who was all but submissive was certainly an unfortunate detractor.

Oddly enough, Sha-Shan has apparently resurfaced, but the problem is that it's post One More/Brand New Day, and if the Joe Quesada regime is going to ruin the Spider-Marriage, to say nothing of Peter Parker and company's own characterization, that's why it's invalid...and coming much too late.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Profile: Adam Grant

Adam Grant/Morgan
First appearance: Adventures of Superman #429, June 1987

Current status: dead.

History: When Cat Grant was first introduced in 1987, she was a news columnist who'd come from Los Angeles to work for the Daily Planet, and she had a young son named Adam, via her ex-husband Joe Morgan, who'd been a cast member too.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: he was murdered by the Toyman (or as recently claimed, a robo-Toyman) in Superman #84, December 1993, after this villain kidnapped him along with several other children to his hideout. After Adam tried to help work an escape plan, Toyman decided to kill him for daring to "disobey". He even later told Cat Grant while in prison that he killed Adam because she was "a bad mommy".

What's wrong with how this was done? Although it had been established since Toyman/Winslow Schott's reintro in 1987 that he was capable of killing, he did have limits and an honor sense, drawing the line when it came to children. For example, when he discovered that Sleez from Apokalips was planning on harming children at the Happyland Amusement Park, he turned against him and even tried to blow Sleez to smithereens. Superman #84, penned by Dan Jurgens, usually a pretty good writer, was quite a departure from that initial characterization, taking an otherwise established villain and making him more reminiscient of those you'd see in Batman, making him hard to use without embarrassment for many years.

(In fact, I suspect the Batman movie of 1989, to say nothing of comics like Watchmen, might've had an unhealthy influence that led to this kind of bad storytelling that was harming comics in the mid-90s. I know that the Batman movie seemed to have influenced the short Flash TV series that aired during 1990-91.)

This is an early example of a young child becoming a sacrificial lamb instead of being developed as a character, and took place during the time when several other heroes/cast members were being offed, including at least 2 Infinity Inc. members I've already written about.

Was there anything good to come out of this? I don't think so. Recently, in Action Comics #865, Geoff Johns wrote a story claiming that it was actually a Toyman robot who committed this heinous deed. But how does that excuse the fact that a young child was slain as part of a mindset that went out of control in the 1990s, turning "minor" characters into sacrificial lambs? I'm afraid that's too easy to try and redeem a villain instead of try to turn back the clock on a young child's death in a world of fantasy. That's very weak and only suggests the writers/editors are treating this as fait accompli, exactly the reason why comics have become only so ghettoized and weaker in storytelling value as the years have gone by.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I'm going to write at least a few more items
It's been about 2 years since I'd last written on this little experiment of mine. Due to some new sad circumstances, I've decided I'll have to add at least a few more entries.

I'm coming away from the terrible news that Lian Harper - not to mention thousands of citizens of Star City - were turned into the latest of sacrificial lambs at DC in the abominable miniseries called Cry for Justice. And over at Marvel, I'm aware that Janet VanDyne, the Winsome Wasp, has also apparently bitten the bullet a year and a half ago in Secret Invasion.

That's why I decided I should update the blog a bit more, because there are a few more characters who could use an entry here if that's what is needed to combat the continuing problem with the big two turning their heroes and supporting casts into sacrificial lambs in the most sadistic ways possible.

Besides adding a few more profiles and records, as I've called them, I'll also be trying to come up with at least one entry dedicated to fictionalized cities and their unnamed citizenry who are also turned into sacrifices for the sake of it. Because even that's been getting way out of hand.

The problem can't be ignored. That's why I'm going to add more here.