DVD REVIEW- "White Scripts and Black Supermen" directed by Jonathan Gayes, PhD

White Scripts and Black Supermen cover art by John Jennings.
In college I minored in Social Science, a combination of Sociology and Psychology. This facilitated lots of ruminating on race, and the the many ways we talk about it as individuals and as a society. Also being a card-carrying comicbook nerd enthusiast, I jumped for joy at the thought of White Scripts and Black Supermen, a documentary featuring scholarly discourse focused on the genesis of black superheroes at all-white companies like Marvel and DC...

White Scripts and Black Supermen is directed by Jonathan Gayles, PhD, an Associate Professor of African American Studies and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Learning at Georgia State University in Atlanta. In his own research, he became familiar with how much scholarship was already being developed, and saw that not only was there a thriving community of scholars that were critiquing these representations of black masculinity, but some of these men were actually creating new heroes of their own. Gayles' exhaustive list of interviewees included college professors, underground creators like Dawud Anyabwile (Brotherman)  as well as mainstream comicbook creators like the late Dwayne McDuffie and Tony Isabella (co-creator of Black Lightning, Black Goliath and Misty Knight).

There's significant discussion about characters like Luke Cage, the Black Panther, the Falcon, etc. Where they come from and what they have meant (and continue to mean) to children and adults who grow up with them. Gayles doesn't force his conclusions down the viewer's throat. The film is more of an exploration of black masculinity in comics than an attempt to make a definitive point. Each scholar, fan, and industry insider Gayles interviews has a unique take on the characters, and Gayles does his job: he reports their opinions and lets each viewer draw his own conclusions.

So I really enjoyed this documentary. Even though I'm very familiar with most of the characters discussed, I actually learned a lot watching it. It's the kind of conversation-starter that helps us keep a healthy dialogue going about history. As I've said before, this movie needed to get made. The only complaint I have about White Scripts and Black Supermen is that it could have been longer, which I suppose is not a complaint at all. You can purchase a copy of White Scripts and Black Supermen on DVD to watch at home for $24.95 at BlackSupermen.com. Because it's such an important documentary, you should encourage your public libraries, university or other group to purchase a copy or license and do screenings. You know, to help get more conversations started!


Samax Amen draws people, places and things for fun and profit. He is the artist of many great comics you never heard of like Herman Heed, Champion of Children, The Brother and The World As You Know It. He even writes and draws his own comics, like Dare: The Adventures of Darius Davidson, Spontaneous, and Manchild when he gets around to it. Because making comics is hard and stuff, he started GhettoManga as a blog in 2006 and as a print magazine in 2008. 
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Arkonbey said...

This comes up quite a bit but, it's important that it does. I do wonder if it's time, not for a Black Superman, but a Superhero Who Happens To Be Black in the same what that Nightcrawler is a superhero who happens to be German.

Man. This is too interesting a subject to deal with not in person.

samax amen said...

I'm sure German people would argue that there aren't enough "non-stereotypically" German characters, but perhaps I digress...

X-men has been an impressive leader in diverse characters since the Clairemont years,so I would argue that "happens-to-be" black superhero already exists, but the question isn't whether those characters don't exist, but whether they are handled in a way that puts them on fair and equal footing with their "happens-to-be" white counterparts or not.

Al Williams said...

I cant wait to see this. Some of my favorite black creators are in this. It reminds me of the extremly awesome article you featured in the Luke Cage issue of GMQ.

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