While Marvel Comics released a title led by a woman of color this week and DC Comics introduced a new Aquawoman of color, Marella of Earth-2, this week in comics was unfortunately marred by DC whitewashing two of their iconic black characters.
In Earth-2, Connor Hawke (originally the son of Green Arrow and his former girlfriend Sandra “Moonday” Hawke, pre-New 52) was revealed to be the name of a Roy Harper look-alike. “Connor Hawke” is, apparently, the actual name of Earth-2’s Red Arrow, who was previously referred to as “Roy McQueen” in creator interviews. While the use of the name, like Helena Bertinelli’s off panel death in Worlds’ Finest, can certainly be taken as insult by fans of the old DC character, it doesn’t completely rule out the (unlikely) possibility that the Conner Hawke of yore may appear on Earth-1 sometime in the future.
However, another character’s identity was also changed so drastically that her skin tone went from a dark brown to a literal paper-white in the latest issue of Green Arrow.
Prior to the New 52, Onyx Adams was a Gotham-based hero who left the League of Assassins to join Green Arrow’s formerly all-male monastery, and eventually allied herself with superheroes like Green Arrow and Batman. She was one of the very few black heroines that DC Comics had, first introduced in the mid-80s, and was a skilled martial artist and combatant who could stand toe-to-toe in a fight with Ollie or Bruce and even teamed up with Wonder Woman to battle Circe.
The change in her appearance is so drastic, it caused in uproar in the comics communities on Facebook and Tumblr. Popular tumblr blog DC Women Kicking Ass posted about both Connor and Onyx’s whitewashing, spawning a number of comments questioning why DC would use established names of notable characters of color if they were going to so completely change the race of those characters. Costumer Jay Justice, who cosplayed the original Onyx Adams in 2012, also commented on the negative impact of the change on her Facebook:
“This is extremely upsetting to me as a comic book fan, a cosplayer and a woman of color. Black women have very poor representation in DC Comics and this is not helping. Don’t tell me that they’re catering to the demographic–black women read comics. In foreign countries, all over the world. Thousands of us, in every state in the union.
Don’t compare the white washing of one of the few black characters to the reimagining of one of the many white characters into a person of color either. That is a false equivalence–it’s not the same. We do not have equal representation, which is the goal. If one of the thousands of white characters is re imagined as black, or Asian or Latino, representation for that group has improved immensely.”
DC has yet to comment on the whitewashing, though artist Andrea Sorrentino tweeted in response to a question about Onyx’s pale complexion: “I guess she should actually be [black], we’ve probably lost something in the design process, but we can fix it in next issues.” Many bloggers have noted that this incident happened on the first week of Black History Month, and though likely unintentional, it still adds salt to the wounds of fans, and makes the whole incident a lot more embarrassing for DC.