Like all media, comic books aren't free of prejudice and discrimination. While there has been social progress in comic books, you can't ignore its history. Over the years there have been offensive comics and racist comic book characters that would make modern audiences cringe.
Even today, there are still comic book characters that are stereotypes, but many have since been edged away from their racist, homophobic, or politically incorrect roots. Take a look and wince at this list of politically incorrect heroes, bad comic stereotypes, and just plain offensive comic book characters.
While Luke Cage was retconned, redesigned, and rewritten to be a better, three-dimensional character, you can't ignore his roots. Cage was originally a jive-talking product of blaxploitation. Wearing a tiara, donning chains, and calling women "foxes," Luke Cage was certainly a product of the '70s that wouldn't fly in current times.
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In 2003, Marvel decided to reboot an older cowboy character from the 1950s into a homosexual hero. While the intentions were good, the follow-through failed. The Rawhide Kid played up all the gay stereotype tropes in insulting everyone's fashion sense, speaking in hacky double entendres, and being an effeminate goof despite his heroic ideals and quick-draw shooting skills. The comic was even a part of Marvel's adults only MAX line despite not having any salty language or nudity. The Rawhide Kid was considered too raw for children simply because he was gay.see more on Rawhide Kid
Debuting in Tales of Suspense #50, the Mandarin is essentially every Asian stereotype wrapped up into a single character. Skilled martial artist? Check. Trained Asian mystic? Check. Genius scientist? Check. Having a name that just focuses on his race? Double check.
The Mandarin was arguably Iron Man's most recognizable villain, which made him last longer than he probably should have. While his character evolved to be more than the sum of his stereotypes over the years, it's still hard to justify having any character named "The Mandarin" in today's modern landscape.
#48 on The Best Comic Book Villains
#21 on The Best Hulk Villains Eversee more on Mandarin
He-She Can't Even Get Basic Human Anatomy Right, Let Alone Gender
Yep, that's a hermaphrodite supervillain, but not just in terms of genitalia. He-She was a villain of the Crimebuster in Lev Gleason's Boy Comics and used his/her... er, ability (?) to be a man and a woman to commit crimes. He-She would use the woman half of his/her body to lure in unsuspecting men with his/her feminine wiles. Afterward, He-She's male half would be used to kill and rob the victims.
So, aside from being an offensive characterization of actual hermaphrodites, gender fluid individuals, and transsexuals, He-She makes no logical sense to begin with. In order for any of He-She's schemes to work, He-She would have to make sure only one side of his/her body could be seen. Kind of awkward for a woman to strike up a conversation with a guy when she's looking and talking out of one side of her face. Thankfully for He-She, comic books take place in a 2-D environment.
Tyroc Is A Black Separatist Created To Justify The Absence Of Black Folks In DC Comics
The Legion of Super-Heroes has had white heroes, blue heroes, green heroes, but no black heroes until 1976. That's when Tyroc hit the scene as DC's first black superhero, a full year before Black Lightning made his debut. But, once again, good intentions went awry.
Instead of being a hero that stands alongside the Legion, Tyroc was a black separatist. The character believed in segregation between his race and others. That was because, in the Legion's universe, all the black people lived on a single island away from other races and cultures. This was to explain why there were no black people in the Legion comic beforehand. Yikes.
DC Comics legend Jim Shooter was outright embarrassed at the character, especially since he had been trying to get an African-American hero into the Legion since the 1960s, but had been shot down by editors. Even Tyroc's co-creator, Mike Grell, hated the character and intentionally drew a ridiculous costume for Tyroc out of protest. If a character's co-creator hates the character and what he stands for, why even bother?
Wonder Woman is a super-strong Amazon warrior. Writers at DC needed to create a proper, equally strong villain for her to fight. So, in 1965, in Wonder Woman #157, Wonder Woman faced her greatest challenge yet: a giant egg with a face. Granted, it was a giant egg that was a top-ranked Chinese Communist agent, but it's still just an egg waiting to get cracked.
Egg Fu was just the "sneaky Asian" stereotype literally plastered onto a giant egg. From the sinister eyebrows, Fu Manchu mustache, and Charlie Chan broken English, this character had every Asian stereotype scrambled into a single character. In later years, Egg Fu would lose all the chop-socky nonsense because DC, for some reason, still thought that a giant egg was a salvageable villain.
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Ebony White Is A Caricature Straight Out Of A Minstrel Show
The Spirit's sidekick and friend Ebony White is the epitome of having good intentions while still feeding into stereotypes. Debuting in Will Eisner's The Spirit in 1940, Ebony White was a resourceful young man that helped the Spirit solve mysteries, fight enemies, and could drive a cab at age 12. Yet he was drawn with big pink lips, bugged-out eyes, and spoke in a minstrel show-like speech pattern. Then there's the obvious racial pun within his name.
Eisner received both praise and criticism for White's creation because, while the character was a full-blown stereotype, White was portrayed as a hero and more clever than he appeared. Eisner owned up to using a racial stereotype but defended his stance, stating that humor at the time consisted of "bad English" and "physical difference in identity."
Extraño Is A Gay Hero Who Gets Attacked By An 'AIDS Vampire' Named Hemo-Goblin
During DC's Millenium event, a new group of heroes was formed called The New Guardians. One member, a Peruvian magician, was given enhanced powers as a force for good. This magician's name was Extraño and he was considered DC's first openly gay superhero. Sounds good, right? Well, while Extraño was gay, he was clearly written by straight men.
Extraño had every single stereotype of the fey gay attached to him. Campy and played up as the comic relief, Extraño would often refer to himself as "Auntie" and was incredibly flamboyant in both action and costume. As if it weren't too on-the-nose, Extraño was attacked by an "AIDS vampire" named "Hemo-Goblin," as the AIDS scare was at its peak in the homosexual community during the 1980s.