What's the Word: MPH

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Ra’Chaun Rogers

While surfing the internet, looking for new comics to read I ran across an Image comic introducing more of Mark Millar’s work to the imprint, following on the heels of a scene in Kick-Ass. This book was called MPH and is about a group of inner city youth from Detroit who find a drug that grants them super speed. But the youths don’t wanna be heroes, no of course not because there’s “Dolla, Dolla Bills to be made ya’ll.”

The fact that the cover features a young Black man and that this is defined as an high-octane “urban” adventure makes me ask two questions. The first is: who thought this was a good idea? There is nothing fun or funny about this, the fact of the matter is it’s pretty (wait for it…) offensive. What provides powers to these “urban” adventurers has to be a drug, and of course instead of doing something noble with it they use it to make money… this reminds me of a statement I read a while back when Miles Morales first appeared stating that he couldn’t be Spider-Man because he was black and wouldn’t care about saving people. I’m paraphrasing but that is the first thing that popped into my head when I read that.

So before the collective voice of mainstream comic book fandom accuses me of being overly sensitive. I’d like to come to my second question, which is: for whoever came up with this blurb (I’m not gonna throw Millar under the bus, because this maybe all Image’s doing), how many African-Americans do they know personally and how many -- if any -- of them speak like this?

There is a general consensus in the media at large (Thanks to the “rappers” who have abandoned the honorable path of the emcee) that Black folk have an eye for money and anything that can get them more of it. But the media also has a tendency of being more sensational than Spider-Man in the ‘90s, which is what the above quote from the Wu-Tang clan song C.R.E.A.M reminded me of.

It’s 2014 and, though the media isn’t aware of it, there are number of Black people doing things that don’t involve selling drugs  -- from creating new technology to becoming the youngest certified Mac professional. None of these things are hard to find if you googled them, so why is this, the already derided person, of one group of people what the Kick-Ass scribe chooses to write about?

Is it laziness? Shock value? Personal bias? It could be none of these things but it just makes me wonder what a creator who thinks that comics aren’t for women thinks about Black people?

Could I be completely overreacting about this? Of course I might be, but I expect a seasoned vet like Millar and a company like Image to know better. Again, I’m not attacking them, but who gets behind marketing like this? I doubt companies are doing group studies on what does and does not offend various underrepresented demographics, but come on, do they even care?

Have people become so unimportant to the industry that what is said or how they are portrayed doesn’t matter anymore? I would hope this isn’t the case and if it is, well, thank Anansi for indie comics. Regardless, I’ll keep my eye out for this comic as it gets closer to release, and hope that all of my outrage was ill founded.

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