If & Hope – Michael Davis, From The Edge

Michael Davis writes

Jack Kirby created the Black Racer, and his bedridden alter ego Sgt. Willie Walker in 1971. In the origin story Walker, an African American is paralyzed during a firefight in Vietnam. The army returns the young hero home where his wife resigns herself to taking care of him.

The ‘Source’ Kirby’s mysterious power entity visits Walker and turns him into the Black Racer. Doing so gives Walker the power to fly, travel between worlds and with just a touch bring death instantly to anyone. The Black Racer moves between worlds via the Boom Tube uses skis to fly, and his death touch can come from his eyes or hands.

I was a big a fan of Kirby as there ever was but this was a bit much to take. Yes, most of the powers the King bestowed on Walker my young mind accepted hurriedly. One thing was a bit much for even my fourth-grade mind to grasp.

A Black man skiing? Yeah, right.

That may seem silly nowadays but back in the day, trust me, not a whole lot of brothers on the slopes.

Silly was the last thing on Kirby’s mind when he created the Black Racer. Some still think he’s the most powerful character in the DCU. Kirby’s use of the Vietnam war as a story point was as realistic a statement as any he transported into his famous ‘Forth World’ Universe. Sometimes Jimmy Olsen’s book (part of Kirby’s titles) would venture a subplot on a common theme, but most of Kirby’s storytelling was grand space opera.

Nowadays any writer would be hard pressed to space opera anything featuring a paralyzed Black Vietnam vet without a realistic viewpoint deserving of the material.

A significant difficulty in telling any story featuring real world issues is the scrutiny from those living with those predicaments. They read any account with more than a passing interest. Some in that fan base may care more about accuracy than entertainment.

Put another way, you write about someone in their community you better get your sh-t straight.

Seldom do I see caregivers in comics do much besides listen to talk and bring food to the person they watch over. I don’t recall ever seeing Sgt. Walker’s wife was other than the origin story. It’s been a while since I’ve read New Gods #3 so I may be wrong on that score. She may have been just a voice off-panel like the parents of Charlie Brown and the rest of his Peanuts crew.

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