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Generic Characters

I spent a little time reading sections of Scott McCloud's comic book "The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln". I wonder what Mr. McCloud thinks of America. There's a section where the main character has a nightmare of different images from America, and I wonder whether these images represented what a liberal progressive thinks that the morlocks in flyover country like without reservations. The "nightmare America" images in the book included such things as:

  • a bunch of guns
  • hamburgers
  • blondes with big tits
  • big pickup trucks
  • angry deceitful Richard Nixon
  • Coca-Cola
  • nukes
  • cowboy hats (also rednecks)
  • rich guys who dress like the guy in Monopoly

Yeah, I don't know. I can't read his mind. I know he doesn't like Donald Trump, though, so I just wonder but unless he admits it, I can only wonder.

But! While perusing Mr. McCloud's book (written in 1998) I realized he'd written the first (I think) generic black main character in comics. The African-American male in this story presented with a number of characteristics that I recognized in many other comics published later that also featured a black main character. These generic black personality features included:

  • Being super-smart
  • wearing glasses (to show smartness)
  • dreadlocks
  • signature gesture: folds his arms, raises his eyebrows and leans forward expectantly after a white person says something stupid / uncool
  • apparently an expert on American history

And while I was at it, I decided to write down the characteristics of every African American female main character in every comic book since the year 2000:

  • Super-smart
  • glasses (smartness multiplier!)
  • kinky, crispy hair tied into two afro-puffs on top of head with hair scrunchies the size of sweatbands
  • signature gesture: folds her arms, raises her eyebrows and leans forward expectantly after a white person says something stupid / uncool
  • expert knowledge in one or more Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics disciplines

Lastly, the song Oye Como Va crept into the news this week. I'd heard the song all my life, so I decided to look up the lyrics. I was thinking that maybe the lyrics gave it some redeeming value, or they were deep, or something, but they weren't. At all. Here's the literal English translation:

Hey listen to this
This music is fun to dance to
You are a mulatto woman

Try harder. Seeya next week!

Comic transcript

We're looking at a classic Crimebuster comic today and for the next couple of weeks. Like all of them it has no given title, but it's packed with action! If you would like to know what it's about, just read the angry caption on page one but remember to come back to this page for the latest!

Billy Bates is pumping his fist and listening to the radio excitedly. THe radio's electrical cord is draped in front of the desk for some reason, rather than behind it, and the radio says "At Belmont park - the seventh off at 4:31 - The winner, "Miss Muffet", 4.10, 3.00, and 2.40 - Second, "Dixie Lie" - 11.20 and 7.10. Third, "Carpet-Bagger", 2.60 to show - in the running of this race, "Gloomy Day" broke down!

"Whew!" exclaims Billy, "Luck was with me! Now I wonder how "Darkmoon" made out!"

The radio replies "At Monmouth Park - the eighth off at 4:34 - The winner "Darkmoon" - 2.90, 2.60 and 2.20 - Second..."

Billy's smoking a cigarette now, he says "Umm... not bad - just chicken feed! I have to pay off once in a while!"

Billy goes outside to stand by his bookie lampost. He's looking at a small book and he smiles and says "Forty bets today - Word certainly gets around fast! This beats any job I'd ever dreamed of finding!"

Manny, a middle age blond guy, real skinny and twitchy, comes up to Billy and jerks his thumb in a direction. "Hey Bet-a Buck, the Big Boss, Lucky Dan, wants to see you!"

Billy smirks. "Lucky Dan? Gee - what's he want, Manny?"

We're in Lucky Dan's office now, and he's an Italian, I guess, with wavy hair and a big moustache. And mounds of hair on his hands. The office stinks from a cigar. Two people are sitting behind Dan and helping him glower at Billy. "Sit down, Bet-a-Buck! I head you're makin' book - It's against the law, you know! I don't know how you got in the racket, but seein' as how you're in - how about signin' up with my syndicate?"

Billy replies "Why? I'm doin' okay on my own!"

Dan says "Yeah, on peanut bets, but what happens if someone comes along with a big bet on an out-of-town track? If you take it and the nag comes in, you're out of luck - wiped out!" Dan claps his paws for emphasis.

Billy says "Well, what if I did join the syndicate?"

Dan spreads his hands in magnanimity. "We'd cover your bets for you! We got guys at all the big tracks - an' we get inside dope on every race! You'd only get a cut on every bet you booked, but you wouldn't get stuck on any losses - so it would average out the same - only safer!"

Gee, the writer of this story sure knows a lot about betting on the ponies.

Billy sticks out his hand. Shake. "It's nice of you to ask me, Lucky Dan, but I'd rather stay independent! I hope there's no hard feelings!"

Billy leaves. One of the other guys says to Lucky Dan, "So he wouldn't come in, huh? What do we do - Rough him up? Leave him to me, Dan! I'll get him in line!"

Dan inhales. "Naw - I like the kid's spirit! I have a better plan! We'll dump a big bet on him - a sure thing, put him on a spot where he'll have to play ball!"

Billy's back at the lamp post again, ready to book people's horse racing bets. A guy in a black shirt and white tie and a tiny moustache holds out an envelope. He says "Hey - are you Bet-a-Buck? A friend of mine asked me to give you this! Play it to win on "Rosy Ring" in the fifth at Santa Anita!"

Billy takes the envelope, says "Okay, bud!"

I have no idea how bookies made money back then.

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