Unacceptable Then, Unacceptable Now
This issue was troubling to read even after you taking into account the standard “different times” argument. In this book we swap out the continued very troubling representations of women for very troubling representations of racial minorities. We open with Thor in India fighting off a Chinese invading force for the local Indian army. He dispatches them with relative ease, leaving behind only discomfort for the white saviour situation in the modern reader, and a burning desire for revenge in the Chinese high command.
I am of course judging the story from the modern viewpoint, little about it would have been troubling at the time, when America and indeed the whole of the west had a very interventionist attitude. Within Thor’s inner monologues he kept referring to the Indians as “The Hindus”, something that sits ill at ease with me. I’m not sure if that was a prevalent term at the time, but it seems both sweeping and generalistic from a modern point of view. I was more troubled by some of the drawings of the Chinese characters in this book. A number of them reminded me of the imagery you saw in Bioshock Infinite’s Hall of Heroes. The intent their was to depict a society that harboured strong racist feelings towards The Chinese, and the similarities in some of the art work in this book were deeply troubling to me.
Nothing in this issue would have been controversial at the time of its publication, such depictions of minorities were common, but they were wrong then and they are wrong now and as a modern reader it is difficult to judge the merits of the work at hand without touching upon this. The story of the comic is standard for it’s time albeit with a weak villain. Thor defeated Radioactive man in all of two small panels and there is little about this foe that stands out. The art in the comic is serviceable, depiction of certain Chinese characters aside but certainly isn’t Kirby’s best.
Do not read this comic for it’s story, do not read it for it’s art, but do read it to see how much the media we consume has advanced. There are still troubling depictions of minorities, far too often they are type cast, and there is a diversity issue in almost every leading brand in every creative medium, but we can at least look to the sixties and say look how far we have come. As a society we have made strides towards equality, both in media and in general and long may we continue to do so. Works such as this, though they would have been harmless at the time, offer us an opportunity to look back and reflect and say look how far we have come. At the same time you have to wonder what the future generations will think when they look back on artistic works of the present day. We should strive to create content that makes future generations proud not look back in horror at what was acceptable in “the old days”.