June 22, 2012

Goofy moments in FLASH #127

Five Goofiest Moments in Flash #127-131

By Brian CroninThis back-up story from Flash #127 has two notable goofy elements. You see, one of Wally’s friends at school is an adopted Native American lad. The kid’s father is worried about him, as he has been acting secretive. So Wally tracks him to the woods where the kid undresses and begins to dress up as a Cherokee brave….

Wally follows him and sees him climbing over a wall. Wally thinks, "It's almost as if Tommy has reverted to the ways of his wild Indian forebears--as if he's started to raid houses here the way his ancestors once raided the settlers' homes out west."

Cronin's conclusion:So, first off, Wally worried about his friend “flashing back” to his tribal ancestry? Gah?!

But as weird as that it is by Wally, it IS kind of odd that Tommy changes into that outfit just to investigate some bad guys (not THAT odd, but still pretty odd).
In addition to these problems, Wally has history wrong. The Cherokee lived in the east, not "out west," until Andrew Jackson forcibly relocated them. Then they reestablished their own nation in Oklahoma, so they didn't need to "raid settlers' home."

You can see America's myth-making process at work here. Even though Tommy the Cherokee Indian is a good guy, the story associates him with savages. The only "fact" it mentions is that Indians raided homes. But many raids occurred because the settlers were trespassing on Indian land and violating treaties.

There are a few good parts. The story gives Tommy a particular tribe, although Cherokee is a poor choice for Wally's "savage" point. Tommy has short hair and apparently dresses normally most of the time. And he's a clever fellow who speaks normally as well.

For a 1962 comic book, I guess FLASH #127 wasn't bad. A lot of movies and TV shows of that era were similar. The creators strained to make the Indian characters decent and sympathetic--like real people, not mindless animals. They toned down the worst stereotypes, such as characters who spoke pidgin English like Tonto.

But the stories still were full of mistakes and stereotypes. It took the creators a few more decades to understand that most Indians didn't wear "feathers and leathers" or live in tipis. Not then and certainly not now.

These days, creators are still getting it wrong too often. Witness the witless Dudesons episode. But now they excuse themselves by saying it was irony or a "joke."

For more on the subject, see Goofy Moments in GREEN LANTERN #79 and Comic Books Featuring Indians.

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