captain ersatz

Black Superheroes and Electricity Powers

epperanalchemist asked: This is more an observation than a question, but any idea why it seems like so many african american superheros have lighting powers? Storm, Static Shock, Black lighting, and I think there are two more I’m forgetting. Like, is it concidence or is there a racist stereotype here that Im missing? (I ask because I was planning a superhero with lighting throwing abilities (alla Zeus, for example), and realized there’s a trend).

conqueror-worm asked: First, you all rock. Second, I’m writing a superhero story. My main character is an alien who crash landed here as a baby. She’s black though she’s an alien. Her super power is controlling electricity. I’ve seen a lot of posts/articles saying that a ton of poc have electricity related superpowers in movies and whatnot, and I was wondering if you all thought it was racist a trope? Or if it should be avoided? Thanks!!

Anonymous asked: Hi! I love your blog; I’ve been reading through it voraciously, and have found it tremendously helpful. I’m writing a story about people born with powers (metas); my MCs are a white teenager and a black teenager. I originally wrote the white teen as having electromagnetic control, but then I realized there’s a prominent black comic book hero — Static — who has the same power. Would it be appropriation to do this? Are there any ways to mitigate it? Thanks! 

The reason I’m concerned is because there are parallels between the white teen and Static; they both decide to use their powers to be superheroes (actual superheroes don’t really exist in this setting), they both fly by levitating ferrous objects, they’re both comic book nerds, etc. This power has a narrative purpose, but if I give it to the black teen instead, I feel like I might be pandering. Would lampshading help? Thanks!

Hi all.

So this is indeed a trope that a lot of people have noticed. Even TVtropes has taken note with their “Electric Black Guy” trope page. They actually explain the trend here:

In 1977, DC Comics revealed their first headlining African-American superhero with Black Lightning. However, due to numerous controversies and licensing disputes, in the many many adaptations of the DCU he has often been used via Captain Ersatz. This eventually developed into a consistent pattern in which Black superheroes had electricity-themed powers.

In short, this trope is when you mix the black person with Shock and Awe.

From my understanding, this trope is not one engraved in racism (at least not in itself) but is indeed a trope. Black heroes are typecast into roles with electricity powers because it’s what people have seen again and again, thus a “natural” inclination. Much like when people place marginalized characters into the roles they’ve always seen them in because it’s what they know, this is the same concept minus the explicit racist stereotyping roots.

And in regards to the parallel between the existing hero with electromagnetic powers; these powers don’t belong to Black characters, therefore it can’t be “appropriative.” There are plenty of superheros with electromagnetic powers that aren’t Black and their writers never had a need to lampshade their work.

I’m definitely hoping for more roles outside of Black characters = electricity, and I do know there are, and if you’ve got a unique Black character with electric powers who isn’t essentially a copy of one before them, great. However, most folks would like diversity even within Black characters with powers and not just a defaulting to the electricity trope.

~Mod Colette

Powers do not belong to any specific group or ethnicity and therefore this does not account as appropriation. Appropriation would actually be more like giving your white character dreadlocks like Static or making him speak in African-American Vernacular English just for the sake of making your character “cool” or “edgy”. 

These are obvious signs of appropriation, but are also easily avoided by not making those choices for your character. You do not need to worry about appropriation in this case, but do be mindful of any cultural appropriation from this trope that may influence your character. 

~Mod Najela