What a beautiful, beautiful book.
I have not said this about a book for a long time. I read good books; I read fun books, sure. But a beautiful one? Not since the Alex Ross books.
And like Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek’s Marvels, The Other History of the DC Universe seeks to make the history of the universe it inhabits into a cohesive whole in context of the real world. This was done before with DC, sure, but it was never as successful.
John Ridley‘s here masterpiece, however, arguably does one better.
He represents the same history through the eyes of the disenfranchised heroes.
There are things about the DC Universe that already go underappreciated as things are; especially in that there are other heroes to follow than Batman and Superman. But even in THAT other things go more underappreciated. This book follows six heroes from minority groups highlighting how the journey of these minorities in recent history was reflected in the pages of DC Comics. What is staggering about this is just how much Ridley not only understands these characters but also the DC universe, and how much politics – despite what some people might say – has shaped what DC comics is today. Especially certain minutiae about roads not taken! There is also not enough space or legal permission to go around for me to quote the bits and pieces of this book that hit home; it is that well-written and that beautifully presented.
It also dawned on me how much it made sense that the first POC that had his own TV series (never mind that it got derailed by bad writing following the midpoint of the second season) was Black Lightning. It cannot be emphasised how underexposed the character is for how much the world around is built. How much both he, his family and the Outsiders have been wasted opportunities by DC for years.
In other words, this book represents inclusion done right. It gives opportunities to minorities by bringing their struggle front and centre not by shoehorning them in the stories of others, but by elevating their story in the context of the larger whole. A story that has always been there, but was not given the attention it deserved.
Which is a lesson for all who write tokenistic media; a lesson that is dear to me as an LSE and furthermore even as a human being who has been treated as “different” before….
Just because he liked comics and cartoons.
Perhaps even that in itself should help us reflect both as human beings and as a fanbase.
The Other History of the DC Universe review by Raphael Borg