This one slipped under the radar too quickly for my tastes, so I’m going to try and revive it a bit here.
About a month ago, Willow at Seeking Avalon discovered that Vixen’s skin tone had been lightened in Justice League. The post was picked up in a few places, and the natural reaction of many superhero fans is to call the problem a “coloring error.”
Except… her nose is very thin, isn’t it? And her lips, her cheeks, her eyes tend towards the European. Seems someone forgot to tell the penciller the memo that this character is supposed to be black.
And this isn’t an uncommon problem. I remember when I first started watching the X-Men cartoon and reading the comics. How many artists drew Jubilee as an Asian-American character? Very few. I could swear she had blue eyes in a lot of places. And did anyone realize the Wasp in Ultimates was meant to be Asian before they had the scene where another character suggested casting Lucy Liu to play her in a movie?
This has been going on for quite some time, actually. And no one wants artists to start drawing racial caricatures. However, these people are paid to draw stories. These stories come alive with how the characters are portrayed. They have to look different. They have to be able to express emotions. If you can draw a genuine smile and differentiate it from a smirk, you should be able to draw mouths of different sizes and shapes. Noses of different sizes and shapes. Faces shaped differently. Distinctive characters, without going overboard.
More than one person has theorized that this isn’t so much a matter of lack of skill, but a matter of the artist finding white women more attractive than other races. Cheryl Lynn has some advice in that case:
Last, but certainly not least, are those artists who have wonderful artistic skills but simply think that white women are the most beautiful women on earth. Scratch that. The only beautiful women on earth. And because they believe that all heroines should be beautiful, the result is that they depict non-white heroines with stereotypically white features. They give a character like Storm the features they think a beautiful woman should have instead of the features a beautiful woman from Kenya would likely have.
And that’s a problem. How do you resolve it? Well I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to change what he or she finds to be beautiful. Hell, that’s impossible to do anyway. But those artists will have to work against their brains a bit. Those artists may think that giving a character a wider nose or eyes without lid creases will make that character unattractive. What needs to be realized is that the audience has a much broader definition of what is attractive. Have you ever given someone a gift that you didn’t like but you knew the other person would love? You put the other person first. Those artists need to put the audience first.
And if the problem isn’t one of personal taste and you just can’t draw any women but white women, why are you drawing a title like Justice League?