The other day, I was talking with one of my coworkers about music, race, and politics. I can talk about anything, but those three things, including comics, can keep me talking all day. We were talking about one of my favorite artists, J. Cole. Cole’s career has been an incredible one. No one can argue that. But there’s a constant critique I hear about J. Cole and it makes me livid. His recent album ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ is my favorite work of his to date. While the lyrical style isn’t my favorite, his vulnerability on this album makes it one of my top of all time.
I’m a writer. I write articles and reviews on this site, but my passion is writing novels. I appreciate the meaning of the word, evolution. Or the action of evolving. Writers must evolve or you face the dull reality of complacency. It’s not a world you want to live in. If you don’t evolve as a writer, your mentality on the world never changes. That’s not a good thing. The main reason I write is to learn more about myself. The more I write, the more I evolve. I don’t want to think the same way I do now when I’m 55. Racism, fascism, sexism, and other social justices are things that I’ll never change my mind about. But perspective is something we can never get enough of. Writing helps most people look at things in different ways. Cole took a chance on this album, and he evolved on this album. The album covered topics he’s talked about before, but something new as well. Cole touched heavily on black masculinity in this album. Songs such as Neighbors, Foldin’ Clothes, Change, and She’s Mine Parts 1 and 2, talk about a subject most rappers won’t touch because it will ruin their image. I commend Cole for taking a risk and being open with his thoughts on the matter. Unfortunately, that’s not what some people heard on this album. My coworker said one of the critiques of the album was the fact Cole talks about the same thing. Police brutality, racism, and being a real nigga. Things Cole has touched on more often than once. My coworker asked me, “What do you say to people who say ‘How many times can you talk about that stuff?’” I answered with a quote by another one of my favorite rappers, Lupe Fiasco.
“I know you’re saying, ‘Lupe rapping bout the same shit’ Well, that’s cuz ain’t shit changed bitch.”
That’s my mentality whenever people get upset or they find it boring whenever someone talks about the same thing over and over. The only reason I gave you that little story is because this piece, another addition to my DCEU series, focuses on diversity. Real diversity. I know I’ve written about this topic before. Actually, I write about this topic more than most. But until the DCEU shows me they are willing to commit to diversity, I’ll keep talking about it.
WHAT IS DIVERSITY?
This is an easy question for most to answer. I wrote a piece on Cyborg a while back explaining why his addition to the Justice League is a poor excuse for diversity. I’m approaching this from a different angle though. Because extreme fans of the DCEU have been fooled by films such as Suicide Squad and Justice League that the DCEU is all about diversity. That isn’t the case.
Look at both of those films. Suicide Squad has two black males, an Asian female, white males, white females, they have it all. Justice League has a white male, a white female, one black male, one Hawaiian male, and a young white male. The look of those casts is a diversity dream. DC only does this to satisfy people though. What I mean by that is the DCEU is in desperate need of a character who is about more than superhero culture. Superhero culture is all the nonsense that comes with being a part of the superhero world. World-ending events, metahumans, investigations, villains, all of that is superhero culture. It’s a fun culture, but too much of it makes a superhero comic, film, or television show feel fake. It doesn’t feel authentic. When you add elements of real cultures from around the world in a superhero comic, film, or television show, you have a perfect mix of cultures. The best shows mix them just right so we get enjoyment from both. The DCEU so far, has been nothing but superhero culture. Wonder Woman has a chance to fix that with conversations about women’s place in society, but every film before it, nothing. Justice League more than likely won’t mix the two, and that’s perfectly fine. Event movies like Justice League should be about 80/20 when it comes to superhero culture and real culture. Let’s look at the DCEU’s attempts at real culture though. There aren’t many, and their attempts are nothing but stereotypes.
Man of Steel had the best mix of real and superhero culture. Clark’s family life was something I enjoyed in that film. There wasn’t much else there, but they tried. The rest of the movie attempted the whole “illegal alien” thing that we are unfortunately still dealing with today, but it didn’t feel authentic to me. Batman v. Superman had none of that. The best they did at mixing the cultures was once again the whole Superman is an immigrant thing. I didn’t mind it not being in that film though. That film was an event film. Doesn’t need to blend too much because of the abundance of superheroes in the film.
Suicide Squad rolled around next. This film wasn’t an event film. DC tried to make it seem like it was, but it wasn’t. Their attempts to dive into real culture failed miserably here. First with Katanna. Her backstory was half-assed and she didn’t even talk. They could have given her more dialogue, a better backstory, anything. Her arrival on the team as the Asian badass made her role feel bland. A stereotype. Next came El Diablo. His backstory was sad and Jay Hernandez played the character well, but still it didn’t feel real. The stereotypical gangster who murdered someone, gets sent to prison, becomes a pacifist, but ends up dying due to violence anyway. The same people who watch superhero films may not watch gangster films or black films, but let me tell you, that is a huge stereotype. One that instantly comes to mind is Sharif from Menace II Society. OG Bobby Johnson from South Central, even though he doesn’t die at the end. The last attempt in that film came from Killer Croc. It was so half-assed it makes me never want to watch that film again. He said he wanted BET (Black Entertainment Television) in his cell at the end of the film. The culture of domestic abuse wasn’t touched on in the theatrical trailer at all either in regards to Harley and Joker. I don’t care if it was in the Extended Cut (fool me once, shame on me, you know how the saying goes. I didn’t buy or watch the Extended Cut)
Three DCEU films, no diversity. Nothing deeper than superhero culture. That needs to change and fast because DC will get left in the dust if they don’t adjust. Marvel is going head first into a different culture when Black Panther comes out in 2018. Their claim to fame though are the Netflix shows. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage have done a tremendous job touching on different cultures other than superheroes. Catholicism, rape, and black culture have all had their time in the sun. The good parts and the bad parts. We’ve seen a brilliant story of ideals crafted with Daredevil and Punisher. The most realistic villain to date in Kilgrave. And Harlem isn’t a city that goes down swinging. We learned that in Luke Cage. DC needs a story that can introduce us to both a new hero, and a new culture. The perfect hero for the job is David Zavimbe, the original Batwing.
WHO IS BATWING?
Most people don’t even know who Batwing is. That’s completely fine. I heard about the character a couple of years ago, and knew I’d like him. A brief history of his creation, Batwing was a part of the series, Batman Incorporated. It’s a series where Batman takes the Batman ideals and begins to spread them throughout the world. He wants to find and equip future Batmen in their fight against crime. Batwing was created by Grant Morrison and was the first character from this series to get his own comic.
David Zavimbe is a genius. Bruce Wayne level genius. It’s the main reason Bruce gave him the Batwing suit. The suit isn’t like the rest of Bat-family’s suits. This one is thick armor. A shiny metal and metallic wings that help David fly when he is in battle. The coolest thing about David Zavimbe? His realism is undeniable. His origin story is one of the most tragic I’ve ever read before. And it isn’t tragic in the way most superhero origins are. The culture his story introduces us to is a brutal one. One most Americans haven’t seen or know about. Sure, they make jokes about Africans when describing hungry children, but this culture is much more than that. If Batwing was in the DCEU, the last thing they could do was make a joke about BET.
I won’t get into heavy spoiler territory with Batwing’s solo run. I really encourage you to check out the first three volumes. There’s a reason I only say the first three. We’ll get to that later. Anyways, David Zavimbe has always been a genius. When he was a child, around ten years old, both of his parents died of AIDS. Being an orphan in the Democratic Republic of Congo isn’t easy. Both him and his older brother, Isaac, were recruited by General Ayo Keita. David and Isaac were forced to kill other soldiers whenever Keita wanted them to. How many movies would show that? Young boys who are cold-blooded killers. David and Isaac were so exceptional that Keita moved them up the ranks to his elite squad. This is a perfect representation of the brutal culture David was forced to grow up in. The DCEU needs this type of raw world to pump some life into their films. This part alone, is enough to put David into the film universe.
The other reason David should be in the DCEU is the richness of his story. Batman is involved as well and so is Nightwing and Robin. David fits in perfectly with the other members. The story involves Batwing fighting against corruption and crime in his city of Tinasha. David isn’t some disconnected billionaire who broods over a screen all day. He is a police officer. I know being a police officer is tough, but I couldn’t imagine being one in Africa. David is a simple man who wanted to make a difference when he got older. The only way to do that in his mind, is being a cop. Unfortunately, the police force is just as corrupt as the city, so he has to keep a close eye on his precinct. David’s workman mentality reminds me of Daredevil. His intelligence rivals Batman, but Bruce Wayne to me is almost not human. Some of the things he does, some of the things he says, Batman sometimes feels like an alien. I love that most of the time, but when a hero has Batman level fighting skills and intelligence, and he’s more emotional, you have a compelling story. Daredevil is that way to me. Batwing is that way as well, except, like I keep mentioning, his culture is brutal. His upbringing is unlike any hero we’ve seen before. How many lives did he take before the age of 20? Batman does the things he does because he never wants to go down to that dark place. David has been there. He’s shook hands with the Grim Reaper as he’s handing him another body. David is Batwing so he can someday make amends for all the monstrous things he does.
The villain in this comic is sensational too. His name is Massacre. He and Batwing are engaged in a fight early in the first issue. At one point, David comes to work to find most his fellow policemen carved up like Thanksgiving turkey. He doesn’t have time to mourn them. Massacre arrives behind him. He sticks his machete through David, critically injuring him. When I read this, I legit thought David was about to die. That’s how horrible the image of him being stabbed was. Eventually, David recovers but he tries to fight before he’s 100%. David’s toughness is something to Marvel at. He knows struggle, hunger, pain, life has kicked him in the ass. A machete through the chest doesn’t even stop him. I loved growing with him and Massacre as they battled throughout the run. Massacre is methodical too. He’s killing former members of a group called the Kingdom. They were Africa’s Justice League in a way. Everyone in the country looked up to them. Batwing is trying to figure out why Massacre is taking them out. There’s an awesome moment in the comic where David is talking. He says, “I’ve been going about this all wrong. I’m not going to catch Massacre. I need to find his intended victims. I need to find the last of the Kingdom before he does.” He is talking to his “Alfred.” His mentor, Matu. Matu says, “You’ll stop him, David. I know you will.” David responds with one of the heaviest lines I’ve ever read. He says, “I will. It takes a monster to stop a monster….and I am a monster.” As he says that, a picture of him as a boy soldier appears next to him. I have to shout out artist Ben Oliver. The first volume of this run is drawn by him and this is some of my favorite art of all time. The image of Batwing as he says, “I am a monster,” is epic. This story is a solid one. A solid story is something the DCEU desperately needs. There’s no need for them to do anything to the story if David Zavimbe makes an appearance in the DCEU.
The DCEU needs realism. Bad. As bad as America needs a new President. And no, Superman frowning and Batman murdering people doesn’t count as realism. The main characters in DC have been interpreted differently recently because DC feels the need to change them. There’s no need for that. Superman is a straight shooter, but that’s why people like him. He’ll save your cat in a tree even if you slap him. Batman is a straight shooter. He doesn’t trust you until he deems you worthy. I like that too. You don’t need Superman to be full of melancholy and Batman to snap necks for them to feel real. There are a plenty of other characters who come from diverse backgrounds. If the DCEU doesn’t use them, we’ll continue to get weird representations of these characters. Black Adam, Shazam, Green Arrow, Flash, Cyborg, and Green Lantern could all take weird forms that we don’t recognize by the time they hit the DCEU. My first DCEU piece on Nightwing said they need characters who don’t have any “alternate” versions. No silver age or golden age mess. It’s the only way these movies will work for common fans, not stuck-up diehards.
David Zavimbe cannot be interpreted differently. His origin is a critical part to his story. He murdered hundreds of people during his time with General Ayo Keita. As a cop, he deals with corruption on multiple sides. He’s a tough one though. A constant fight. That’s David Zavimbe’s life. Bruce Wayne noticed his genius. He helped him in his fight against crime. David Zavimbe is a man who doesn’t know when to quit…. except when DC makes him. Remember when I said I enjoyed his first three volumes? Well, in the comics, David quits the role of Batwing. The character they choose to replace him? Luke Fox, son of Wayne Enterprises CEO, Lucius Fox. Luke Fox is not comparable to David Zavimbe. Fox comes from privilege. He’s a martial artist, but the culture David introduced us to during his run was something special. I couldn’t believe it when I found out about David. DC had a tremendous opportunity to explore Africa, but they settled for another person from Gotham. Had to keep it a black guy, so why not someone the people know. “Here you go” diversity at its finest.
So how would David fit into the DCEU? Well, since the DCEU is giving Harley Quinn and Black Adam a movie, I would imagine that Batwing could easily be fit into their scheme. John Boyega is perfect for this role. Not only is he a good actor, but he could provide some insight, given his African heritage. If the DCEU respected a character like Batwing at all, he could easily get his own solo film based off his original solo run. This could be the first in a series of International superheroes. DC could make a Justice League International or they could give the team a completely new name. Either way, David Zavimbe still exists in the DC Universe. He deserves another shot as a hero. They don’t necessarily deserve him though. They’ve shown money and competing with Marvel are their only objectives. As long as they can check the diversity slot when producing these films, they don’t look at it again. Stereotypes. That’s how DC will portray anyone who isn’t a part of their superhero culture. David Zavimbe can change that.
I hope you enjoyed this piece. This series will continue next Monday. I want to keep the next hero a secret until I post the article. If you like this one, let me know why. If not, still, let me know why. Remember to follow me @Hero_Review to get updates on future reviews. My next one will be Nighthawk #5 this Thursday or Friday. Until next time!!
My Cyborg article: https://heroreviewsandnews.com/2016/09/12/goat-article-why-cyborg-should-not-be-in-the-justice-league/