A while back, David Brothers wrote a fantastic series of posts over at 4th Letter about the Black Trinity and how it relates to comics. He examined three concepts found not only in comics, but in other artistic forms as well—the Black Reality, the Black Fantasy and the Black Ideal. If you’ve clicked the links I’ve provided for you, and you should, you’ll notice that David used only male characters as examples for these concepts.
David and I had talked for a bit off-blog about how some of the comic industry’s most popular black female characters could fit into his concept of the Black Trinity. He had even attempted to talk me into doing my own series of blog posts examining the Black Trinity from a female perspective, but at the time I was more than a bit weary of talking about comics at all. Until today. Until I was presented with the following image:
Today? Today we are going to talk about the Black Fantasy from the female perspective. And the Black Fantasy is Storm. Storm is what black women want, or are constantly informed by the media that they should want, but are also told that they never will achieve. To be loved and to be beautiful. To be free. To be special.
Beautiful. Beauty is perhaps the most notable of Storm’s attributes. After all, her birth name, Ororo, is said within the pages of X-Men to mean beauty in Swahili (instead of uzuri, the actual Swahili word for beauty). Her stunning features are often remarked upon by other characters that come into contact with her. Her eyes are of the bluest hue. Her white locks are pin straight and luxurious. Truly, hers is the epitome of the “good hair” that our media proclaims all black women should desire and strive for. Even Claremont knew and reinforced this.
But who could blame Harmony? What black woman wouldn’t envy Storm? Storm had no need of relaxers or sunny Saturdays spent beneath the searing metal of her grandmother’s pressing comb. She never sat patiently while a beautician sewed blonde ringlets to her head to hide her tightly woven brown cornrows from view. Her hair was naturally straight. Her hair was naturally light. She was born conforming to the majority of our society’s beauty norms. She was born not looking like all the other little black girls. And because of that, she was lauded as beautiful. Because of how not black she appeared to be. How sad. How sad that the black fantasy presented to little black girls is to be able to shed not oppression, but to shed one’s blackness.
For fans of the character watched while the features the character did have in common with many young black and brown girls—brown skin, full lips, almond-shaped eyes—all features that Storm has never been complimented on, slowly faded from view as many colorists selected light tan hues and artists preferred sharp angular features to depict Storm.
Special. The specialness of Storm has always been repeatedly reinforced within the pages of Marvel comics. Storm was born special. Her powers are special. Her physical features are special. She is so special that the character is apparently too special to be simply black. And so Storm becomes a mutant with a capital M. No intersectionality for the goddess. It’s all Xavier’s cause, all the time. Aside from brief contemplations of her heritage, of course. But is that ethnic heritage something she wants? Survey says no. Not the African-American part, anyway. Nor the Kenyan side, as well. Storm seems to have wholly embraced her husband’s culture with her betrothal to the King of Wakanda.
Loved and Free. And what of Storm’s husband, Black Panther? With her marriage to T’Challa, Storm has been given what many covet, a land where one can escape white supremacy and an adoring black king to stand steadfastly by her side. Storm has successfully claimed every aspect of the fairy tale. But is it a fairy tale worth reading? Black women cannot live vicariously through Storm. She is the Black Fantasy Marvel spent more than two decades telling us we could never be. The fantasy is useless, for there is no comfort in engaging it. The character only serves to remind us of how short black women fall from the racist norms society demands we aspire to.