Eli Bradley/Patriot of the Young Avengers is a character that comes up fairly often when discussing the portrayal of race in comics.
Back in 2006, David Brothers posted about his problems relating to Young Avengers, specifically Eli Bradley:
Let’s run down the Young Avengers.
Iron Lad: Will one day grow up to be Kang the Conqueror, but is fighting his destiny.
Hawkeye: Was attacked in a park, so she trained and learned to be prepared for next time.
Stature: Inherited her father’s powers through exposure to Pym particles, became a hero with her new buddies.
Wiccan: Probably a son of Scarlet Witch and Vision. He almost gets beaten up by a bigoted jerk when he tries to help a kid from the same fate, but nearly kills the guy when his powers activate.
Hulkling: Used his shapeshifting powers to get by at first, but found the strength to be himself after visiting the wreckage of Avenger’s mansion. He learned not to hide himself.
Patriot: Used to get beat up a lot because he was weak, gets tempted into using Mutant Growth Hormone to get revenge, and finally uses it so that he can be a hero like his grandfather.
One of these things is not like the other.
Eli was a coward. He was weak and his idea of overcoming his hardships was not, like the rest of the team, putting in that leg work and making yourself into a better person. It was to take the shortcut, get hopped up on MGH, and then lie about being a super-soldier to the people he called his friends. He’s just another failure. He’s 1970s Luke Cage, Ebony White, and Bishop. He’s Captain Marvel getting demoted and drummed out of the Avengers.
In a recent post regarding the portrayal of race in comics, Mad Thinker Scott posts his own perspective on the character controversy:
I do think that the characters created by well-meaning liberals might tend to be more boring if those writers try to remove anything that might be considered offensive from the character. For instance, there were people who were really bugged that Patriot was using mutant growth hormone to get his powers. I understand why people wouldn’t want the black character to be the one using drugs; however, I have to admit that that origin of his powers and the conflicts it created for his ethics (i.e. do the ends justify the means?) and his teammates (i.e. is our teammate a hero, a villain, an addict, or some combination of the three?) was inherently more interesting than what was assumed to be his origin (i.e. he inherited his powers.) In the area of gay characters, I think it’s kind of sad that so many gay readers are affronted by characters portraying what could be called “gay cultural influences” but are usually called “stereotypes.” There is this strange irony that many of us want more minority characters in comics are frequently the first to dismiss those minority characters as “tokens” and to find flaws in them so we don’t have to like them and can continue to complain about the injustices were are subjected to.
Notintheface responds to Mad Thinker Scott’s comment with his own perspective on the problem with Patriot:
Why did he have to regain his Super-Soldier powers in the next story arc? We could have seen Eli over several issues working to improve himself to compensate for the lack of powers. We could have seen him strive to become a great non-powered hero in the tradition of Batman or Nightwing or the original Hawkeye Clint Barton. Or even his fellow non-powered teammate, Kate. (Kate’s origin is not without its own problems, particularly the hackneyed rape-as-motivation angle.) Even if he eventually regained his powers, we could have watched him grow, whether in YOUNG AVENGERS or elsewhere.But that never happened.
And that’s the heart of the problem: Heinberg, and Marvel, went to great effort to tell us how Patriot was a great leader, with or without his powers.
But they never really showed us.
What do you think?