Monday, March 02, 2009

The Whitening or Jayne Is Going to Brick Someone IN THE FACE

If you haven't noticed, I tend to get enraged over certain topics. I also then tend to rant about them, which I'm assuming is why some of you stick around and read my posts. Well, that and my grudge match with Alan I Make Cthulu Cry Moore. It would certainly be a more interesting grudge match if Alan Moore knew I existed (that's a lie. Please never let Alan Moore learn of my existence, dear god, I want to live).

For once I have no Alan Moore related news to discuss in this space. I know, I know. I'm shocked too. Instead I want to talk about comics. Well, a comic. And no, this has nothing to do with space Buddha, even though I'm still holding out hope that he's going to pop in Green Lantern eventually.

Awhile ago Darcy gave me a copy of the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, because she's an awesome friend who also enables me. Neverwhere was the first novel I ever read by Neil Gaiman, back when I was but a wee geek, and I still love it. I own both the novel and the the BBC mini-series, and while Neverwhere may not be some of Neil Gaiman's finest work (he does use stock characters, which do have, admittedly, a Gaiman twist, but still), it's a well written fun read, which is sometimes hard to find when I'm subjected to erotic vampire thrillers and magical cock ring AUs.

The adaption was written by Mike Carey, who I know from his work on Hellblazer, and penciled by Glenn Fabry. This adaptation is serviceable. Carey does a good job of keeping the elements intact, and while there are a few quibbles I have here and there, it's a pretty straightforward telling of the narrative. I think it would have been better if Carey kept the narrative boxes in the third person instead of having Richard narrate it, and it does suffer from the comic book syndrome of bolding every other word, but it's a perfectly fine read.

Fabry does a nice job on the art. He isn't my favorite artist, and his character designs are not how I pictured the characters at all, mostly because I found the actors from the mini-series to be perfect for their parts, especially Paterson Joseph, who played the Marquis de Carabas, but Fabry did a good job of bringing London Below to life.

But that isn't what made me want to throw the book against the wall. But first, before I go on a frothy rant of caps lock keyboard mashing, let's take a look at some of the art, because I try to balance out my rage with some snark. And not snarky rage, which I will probably resort to later.

Here we have Door and the Marquis de Carabas. Fabry took Neverwhere and really punked it up. I'm not in love how Door looks in this, although the keyhole around her eye, which everyone in her family has, is a nice touch. Also, my god is she boobalicious in this. On a shallow note, I covet her coat.

I find de Carabas' design growing on me. The Marquis is my favorite, which is not surprsing for anyone who even knows me a little bit. A snarky , bitchy man, who can be surprsingly brave and also pretty damn kick-ass is my favoritest type in fiction. Just a note to all your writers out there: you want me on your side, give me the bitch and the snark and I'm yours.

I like how de Carabas doesn't have a face, and his red lips make me think drag queen, and of course he would have a pimp cane. He's the goddamn Marquis de Carabas. I would be entirely okay if the entire book was just him snarking at everyone.

There's Richard, who is an everyman, and Fabry makes him look like a kicked puppy, which works. Hunter, though, well, I'm mostly okay with her design. I would like it if her breasts weren't about to pop out, but at least they gave her a jacket and pants and boots. Also, I do like her African motif and her mask.

Ah, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. You always manage to creep me out, but I don't see what's supposed to be so terrifying about thi--

Well played, Glenn Fabry. Well played.

Also, the Angel Islington in this is fabulous:

Things to love: the cotton balls covering up its breasts, the golden mask over its naughty bits, the thigh high boots, the fact that Islington is drag queenariffic. Also, its wearing a tiara. Like you do.

The one advantage of adapting Neverwhere into a graphic novel is the beast. The mini-series had a budget so ridiculously small that, well, the beast was obviously really, really fake. And as magnificent as Gaiman's prose is, sometimes you just can't beat an amazing visual:

This is Fabry's touche response to me putting down his character designs, isn't it? Again, Mr. Fabry, well played.

Now let's get to the part which made me want to throw the books across the room:

For those of you who aren't familiar with Neverwhere, Gaiman took parts of London, like the tube stops, and made them literal. Earl Court turned out to be an actual Earl, Knights Bridge was a bridge at night that is terrifying and awesome, and these are the Black Friars.

The Black Friars, which you may have guessed by their names, are black. They were all black in the book, they were black in the mini-series, but here they are magically white. In fact there is one, maybe two, black men up there.

And thus the book throwing commences.

This is not the first time any characters of color are magically made white when adapting from its original source. When the Earthsea miniseries came out a few years ago, adapted from Ursula LeGuin's novels, she had an island where the majority of the population was black, but they were all made white in the mini-series.

DC character Vixen is being drawn with more European features and lighter skin, and the movie version of Wanted had black Fox played by not black Angelina Jolie. Not to mention how all the main characters in the live action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender are being played by super white actors, when the entire show was based on Asian culture, and both Katara and Sokka and the water tribe are very much supposed to be Inuit. And let's not forget Jake Gyllenhall is cast to play the prince in Prince of freaking Persia.

In media, and I mean all the different forms--television, movies, comics, novels, and so on--it is still pretty damn white out there. It's changing, true, but you are more likely to see a white man starring in any show or movie or novel or comic than a man or woman of color. And when you have parts that are specifically meant for non-white characters and to suddenly have them played by white people that is wrong and racist and it needs to stop.

I don't know who is to blame for this whitening in Neverwhere. Maybe it was the colorists who didn't know the Black Friars were not supposed to be WASPs, or maybe the editors just didn't give a shit, but either way someone who was familiar with Gaiman's work should have pointed out that it was wrong and racist and it needed to be fixed.

And while I know that the Black Friars are just a small part of the story, it was still enough to ruin this comic for me, and that is a shame.


Danicus said...

I actually found pretty much all of Glenn Fabry's design choices grated me... but then again, I saw the BBC series before reading the novel, so Paterson Joseph, Laura Fraser, and co. all pretty much became what i saw when I read the novel.
The Beast was masterfully done though, I will gladly admit to that. much better than a shadowy Highland Bull.
I dont know what the deal is with the Black Friars becoming White Friars... but it bothered me a lot too. Making everyone white in movies and such is something that's always annoyed me. if you take away the setting of Avatar, the asian influence and all that, i get the feeling i wouldnt have enjoyed it as much.

...and yeah, The Marquis De Carabas is more or less exactly what I wanted to be in high school. everyone owing me favors, wheeling and dealing, etc.
I apologize in advance is this is rambling and weird, but im tired and having trouble tying all my ideas together.

Jayne said...

I heart Paterson Joseph. No matter what else he does he will always be the Marquis de Carabas to me.

Also, as much as it angers me about the black friars becoming white, I find it so typical of the trend that's going these days, and that saddens me. You know, after the keyboard mashing rage.

I'm still going to brick someone over this, though. My day is just not complete unless I threaten some person who I don't know and will never meet with hypotehtical bodily harm.

Danicus said...

hahahahaha, my day usually has at least one moment of hypothetical worldwide genocide, so I guess you're doing better than me.