Sunday, September 05, 2010

Drat those logistics!

The latest collection of classic Broons and Oor Wullie comics is in the shops now! Well, according to Lew Stringer, who knows about these things, it's been out for a month, but this is the first time I've seen it. Anyway, once I'd read the comics, my eye was drawn to the small print on the first page - "While every effort has been made to preserve the authenticity of the pages reproduced here, for logistical reasons, certain minor adjustments have been made."

That's strange, I thought - previous collections haven't had a disclaimer like that. And what are "logistical reasons" when you're reproducing old newspaper comics? Well, I had to investigate further, and here's one of those minor adjustments that were logistically necessary! Here's one of the reprinted strips from this year's collection:

And here's the strip as it originally appeared in 1937:

Spot the minor adjustment? Now, don't get me wrong here. As a general rule, I do think racism is a bad thing, all in all (I would hope that goes without saying, but you never know). But I don't like the idea of reprinting old comics and whitewashing out the offensive racial stereotypes. Besides which, that unfortunate black member of Wullie's old gang (I've seen him referred to as 'Ezzy', but he's unnamed in all the comics I've seen - Wullie's original gang were a nameless horde, hugely indebted to the Our Gang movies, for the first couple of years) wasn't there in an attempt at racism, he was an attempt at political correctness, 1930s-style, and inclusion. He's drawn like that because that's how you drew black people in those days.

And okay, there were some Oor Wullie strips where his purpose is to play up the usual comedy-nigger clich├ęs, but he's always just one of the gang, and a valued member at that. Here's one of his greatest moments, where he's elevated from the ranks of the horde to become Wullie's most loyal sidekick:

(Note the fat one called 'Sandy' in that strip, by the way - after a couple of months as 'Geordie', he became 'Fat Bob', shoved the rest of the old gang aside, and the comic evolved into the familiar lineup we know and love today)

So here's to Ezzy, or whatever his name was, and I want you all to go and draw him back into your copies of "The Broons and Oor Wullie - Family Fun Through The Years"! For logistical reasons!


Unknown said...

Hey, look at this, some eejit is reading this and replying in 2016! Led here on account of looking through my facsimile 1940 Oor Wullie annual and wondering if anyone had anything to say about the black boy. So, uh, well spotted? Back then? In 2010.

Zoomy said...

Wow, thanks for the comment! I love it when someone ends up reading something I rambled about, years ago!