Comics Are for Everyone - Africa, Five Years From Now (Futures End)

This time around, I thought I look at a collection of relatively recent comics at things I noticed. Much like Daniel Quinn, I’m trying to avoid Africa for now (until I work on it with my current course), but it doesn’t hurt to take a look at it from time to time. It’s one of my favorite topics because its stereotypicalization is so widespread and accepted. It’s AFRICA, one continent where all the problems are the same everywhere and no distinct culture is really known. Africans are starving, poor and need our help. That’s the short version.

In Action Comics: Futures End, one of the issues of DC’s Futures End month, we see Clark Kent in the future (five years from now… don't ask, it's complicated - or rather convoluted) being another white savior.

Action Comics - Futures End #1 (2014) - Page 2 (Africa)

At least they mention it’s in Ethiopia, which is known for starvation and droughts. “All the hunger around here,” Clark says as the universal truth we are willing to accept about Africa in general. But of course he is willing to help, because it needs a superhero to save Africa. The Africans themselves are hopeless, as his partner shows, calling him “seven kinds of crazy” and stating clearly “there is no hope left in this land.” This happens often when Africa is depicted, that the Africans act as if they’re beyond help and there is nothing that can be done for them (I need to write about Blood Diamond one day, where this is very blatant). Poor Africans!

In issue 15 and 17 of The New 52: Futures End (which is an absurdly stupid title) we also visit Africa, this time just “The Horn of Africa,” since it doesn’t really matter which country to evoke the right feeling. Admittedly, the first page shows a city with yachts on the sea, something we normally don’t see in any depiction of Africa.

The New 52 - Futures End #15 - Page 17 (Africa)

Another page goes straight for what we expect from Africa: a scene of mass slaughter in an “uncivilized” village, as witnessed by John Constantine who is as unsurprised as we are within that setting.

The New 52 - Futures End #17 (2014) - Page 2 (Africa)

To evoke such an image is to reinforce our stereotypes. We are not as shocked by this image than when it was set in an American or European town. We expect such a slaughter to happen in Africa because we are told over and over again, that Africa is the worst place on Earth, that the most terrible things happen there, which goes back to our idea of a lack of civilization, of savages. We don’t question it because it seems natural. And by repeatedly using Africa as a general term, we ignore even more the diversity on that continent. People always argue with me that the same generalization happens with Asia or South America or even Europe, but I don’t think the same kind of ideas are so constantly repeated throughout every media as they are for Africa. But that’s too much for here. These current examples show (as older ones will), that not much has changed about that.