July 30, 2014

African-Americans Evolving in Comic Books

By Alex Guzman

Can you think of a comic book or graphic novel whose central character is black?  Have you ever read of a black superhero that is not merely a sidekick, or an irrelevant character? Last month “Heroes in Black: Race, Image, Ideology and the Evolution of Comics Scholarship” was an event held at the CUNY Graduate Center on 34th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Professor Jonathan W. Gray, an assistant professor of English at John Jay College lead this talk.

White characters, like Superman and Batman, are more prevalent in comics than black protagonists. There were differences in their upbringings and how they became superheroes, but almost all of them were white. Black superheroes, like Luke Cage, were not always painted in the best light. Even though Cage was the main character in his comic, he was born of the exploitation of black people in the film industry. He portrayed the archetype of the big buck.

“Early black characters faced moral quandaries [and were] placed under the gaze of white superheroes [and] popular culture,” Professor Gray said. Compared to the 1970’s, black characters now embody fewer stereotypes.

The African riots and the Black Panther movement heavily influenced Cage’s character when Luke Cage comics first came out. But after his disappearance for some time, he reappeared with the rise of Barack Obama as a state senator.

The new Luke Cage looked different from how he used to look in the 70’s, which gave off a less extremist image, according to Gray. His new costume helped him to better fit in as a member of society rather than being associated with a specific ethnic group. He was now integrated with the black working class, rather than the black power movement.

Gray quoted Scott Buktaman, who said that young scholars say that comics pay special attention to non-traditional superheroes. Gray also quotes Scott McCloud, who claims “universality of the cartoon image” as a “white, heteronormative, masculine subject.”

Gray spoke of neo-liberalism and the introduction of the first black comic book characters to appear on their own.

“In 1975, Marvel creates four iconic black characters,” Gray said. He speaks of the Black Panther, Storm, The Falcon and the aforementioned Luke Cage.

Gray remembered how, in one comic, The Falcon is fighting an enemy while Captain America watches. He claimed that this “endorses militant black masculinity, [which] mirrors and mimics that of the reader.”

Gray mentioned that many considered The Falcon who was the true hero of that comic. He explained how “this displacement of course is incomplete [because] The Falcon has never had his own comic book.”

Gray looked at his audience to read their reaction, and continued, “I began to see Superman as a punk, that Superman didn’t relate to replenishing the earth, like Huey Newton and other people did,” Gray said. “In essence, Superman is a phony and a fake. He never saved any black people in this country in any comic book stories.”

The last of Gray’s PowerPoint slides was of Luke Cage. In this interpretation, Cage was a more humanized multicultural member of society, and not so much a member of one ethnic group specifically, as he walked with his white wife, pushing his multiracial infant son in his stroller.

Professor Gray is teaching The African-American Experience: Comparative Racial Perspectives in the Spring 2014 semester.

NewsFeed: Trying To Find Houses For The Formely Incarcerated

Police handcuffs

Image via Wikipedia

Even out of prison people with a criminal background still cannot seem to get a break. For the formerly incarcerated finding a home can be difficult especially when landlords can choose to bar such individuals. A toolkit or guide was developed by Fortune Society and John Jay College Criminal Justice to help people with a criminal past to find education and housing.  National Reentry Resource Center presents a webinar that reviews the toolkit as well as other findings to aid people with criminal histories.

Sources- National Reentry Resource Center

NewsFeed: The Crime Report Developed A Top Ten List for Criminal Justices Stories of 2011

crime reporting

Image by BryanAlexander via Flickr

The Crime Report, published by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice,with the help of contributors and bloggers complied a list of top ten Criminal Justice stories of 2011. The stories were according to The Crime Report to be significant and interesting in terms of Criminal Justice. Topics on the list include changes in corrections, re-evaluating the reliability of eyewitnesses identification, and redefining what rape is.

Source- The Crime Report

NewsFeed: Murder Is Down, But Why?

English: A federal agent making an arrest duri...

Image via Wikipedia

This year alone New York City has experienced its third lowest homicide rates of 502. The lowest being in 2009 of 471 and the second being in 2007 of 499. The decline in homicide is also more significant or sharper in the city than anywhere else in the nation. Mayor Bloomberg attributes the decrease to the work of police and fire departments but experts are not too sure about that. Experts such as Andrew Karmen, sociology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, attributes the decline to the current lifestyle of young adults. Karmen believes because young adults from ages 18 to 24 are attending colleges,  they are less likely be murdered then young adults that do not attend college.

QuickLinks: Law School

Best Schools for Public Service

the National Jurist

Murder Mystery

The Long Island serial killings of women prostitutes have become a mystery even being called “the Gilgo Beach Murder mystery.” Many experts believe that there are multiple killers due to the number of victims, the different methods used in disposing the body, and the number of years that separate the murders. Louis B. Schlesinger, Professor of Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice believes there is only one serial killer. Despite the number of victims and the gap in years between the first murder and the last, 15 years, he still believes there is one murderer. In response to the reason why the victims were dismembered in the past but are no longer, Schlesinger  explains that

English: Knife Fox Italiano: Coltello Fox

Image via Wikipedia

the killer must have just realized that it was too much work and decided to switch up his methods.

NewsFeed: Tuition Hikes Approved

English: City University of New York system logo.

Image via Wikipedia

The CUNY Board of Trustees approved tuition increase by a vote of 15 to 1. The vote will increase CUNY four-year colleges to $6,330 in the year 2015-16. This means that the tuition will increase annually by $300 until 2015. The student protests which erupted earlier this month was organized to prevent such a thing from happening. Protesters argued that a majority of CUNY students were low-income minorities that would be devastated by the tuition hikes. University Official countered that argument by saying, that because of state and federal aid 44 percent of CUNY undergraduates pay no tuition. The Board also approved $5 million in aid for low-income students.

 

 

Source: NY Times

 

QuickLinks: John Jay offers Human Rights Minor for Fall 2012

 

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

Image via Wikipedia

The Human Rights Studies minor
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

NewsFeed: Joint Degree MA/JD

A degree

Image via Wikipedia

John Jay College  and New York Law School next year will launch a four year joint degree of Forensic Psychology and Law. The aim for this joint degree is to have attorneys that are trained in mental disability law that can advocate and create public policy to help people with mental disabilities and also to have psychologist knowledgeable about the law. The joint degree program begins 2012 and consist of 128 credits; students would have to apply and get accepted separately to both to John Jay College and New York Law School.

The Mariette Daily Journal

QuickLinks: News Of Interest

The United States and Somalia have yet to ratify a treaty that protects the rights of children. The treaty is widely accepted among the United Nations and is considered to be a landmark in terms of children human rights.

Amnesty International