As Black History month draws to a close, I felt that i needed to “up the game” a bit, and do a composition that was truly excellent. I wish that I could take credit for the awesomeness that is Balactus, but he was created for an “Adult Swim” show on Cartoon Metwork called “Minoriteam.” Balactus appears in the final episode of the series, the only episode that is in fact a two-parter.
The plot of the show revolves around five male superheroes, each of whom is based on a racial or ethnic stereotype, who join forces to fight against a bunch of villains who are mostly discriminatory concepts. The show’s artwork is largely an homage to Jack Kirby (“King Kirby” is thanked in the show’s end credits), while the animation style parodies the limited animation of the Marvel Super Heroes Show of 1966. The opening tag declaring that Minoriteam is broadcast “FULLY COLORED” is both a racial reference and an homage to the “IN COLOR” or “IN TECHNICOLOR” line opening many old cartoons.
Balactus is very much what his name implies…a world destroying being much like Marvel’s Galactus. Notably, he was voted “defensive superstar of the millenium,” and can only be defeated by traveling backward in time to learn his true name (which we only ever have a portion revealed “leslie Ira…”). He was voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan, and was drawn, as was the show, in the style of Jack Kirby.
That being said, Balactus was a huge hassle to draw. I had to ink this to get the contrast right on Balactus himself, and was considering color. The choice came to do a color version now, or to get a few days ahead in the strip, so I chose the latter. Still…he came out @#$%ing awesome, so I’m pretty happy with that.
During the creative process for this, it came up in discussion that there is no legitimate reason for Galactus, of Marvel Comics fame, should be depicted as a huge white man. Although not an abstract, non-corporeal being, Galactus is a living force of nature set on correcting the imbalances between the conceptual entities Eternity and Death. Established by John Byrne in the eighties, his true form cannot be perceived by most beings; each species sees Galactus in a form they can comprehend, similar to their race or a deity of their religion. So really, there is no reason that Galactus himself isn’t a more diverse character in his depiction, except for the fact that he started out as a gigantic white man.
I wanted to end Black History month with something crazy cool…and the cosmic force known as Balactus seemed on the mark.
There’s no book report here today. No big exploration of history in comics or media. Just a cool looking image, as we put a close to Black History Month. The minor drama at school about not observing the month played out behind the scenes, in a way that more or less escaped my notice. A few book reports were read over the loudspeaker, and that was that. Given that treatment, I felt it would be smarter to end in a different way.
I think a big part of the key to diversity in comics and media is in not trying to force the issue. I think that the creators need to include the characters that the story demands, and in a more diverse world, stories will demand more diverse characters. I hope so, at least.
The protagonist looks bored, in Balactus’ awesome grasp, because she knows that she’s going to mention that his name is “Leslie Ira,” and successfully drive him off for an undisclosed period of time. Possibly a year. Still, the art here is key. I wanted something similar to the Kirby style compositions that I do for the Jewish High Holy Days. I wanted the same look and feel of awesomeness that I try and use to express the concepts of my own culture.
I think that if creators came to their projects with that feeling, that idea of representing other cultures with honesty, respect, and the same level of awesomeness they want for their own, we might be on our way to a better world. Or at least better comics.