Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Tyroc



Tyroc was the first black member of the Legion Of Super-Heroes, and might still be the only one for all I know, having lost track of who's in The Legion way back in the 20th Century.
Anyway, Tyroc comes with a great behind-the-scenes story I'd like to share with the class. It goes like this:
In Superboy Starring The Legion # 207, in a story called The Rookie Who Betrayed The Legion, Mike Grell had drawn the tales' misunderstood villain as a black guy. Unfortunately, famously conservative editor Murray Boltinoff wasn't impressed, and bizarrely told Grell he didn't want any negative mail from DC's black readers.
When Iron Mike pressed the point, Murray mumbled something vague about there being plans at some point to come up with a black Legionnaire, and he didn't want that spoilt.
So begrudgingly Grell changed the character's face, leaving just enough to make it obvious that what readers were looking at was a black man painted pink:


And, natch, tons of mail came in accusing DC of doing just that.
Then a few months went by, with still no black Legionnaire, and with Mike constantly badgering Murray about it, until finally, in Legion#216 Tyroc appeared with, as Grell said in an interview in Back Issue:
'The stupidest power of all. Aside from that, what was worse in my mind-as a writer, as a reader, as an artist, as an inhabitant of the planet Earth-was the concept of the explanation as to why there had never been any black people in the 30th century: They had all gone to live on an island, which sounds like the most rascist concept I have ever heard. So ( in protest ) I cobbled up a costume that was a combination of Elvis Presley Las Vegas shows and old blaxploitation movies.
With such a mismatched beginning, Tyroc never really stood a chance, and in fact mostly disappeared from the pages of The Legion thereafter, only popping up every five years or so to remind us he was still around.
But I still kind of like him, ludicrous artists' revenge of a costume and all. Here's his debut.













2 comments:

  1. LSH was my favourite DC comic as a kid and I never even noticed they didn’t have a black character, that’s really poor (of me as well for not noticing it). I just assumed “Tyroc” was a (pretty poor) character used to make a political point and I actually thought (at the time) the back story of the island he lived on etc was to make an anti-racist staement , obviously that wasn’t the case from this story. I think there have been a few black characters in the Legion since then including Computo (female) and her sister who was the new Invisible Kid at the time (although they may have been in a side team – I lost track on the Legion a few years after this tale appeared. Interesting article somethings weren’t as good back then as they are today after all (not that they are by any means perfect now)

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  2. Yeh, I forgot about the second Invisible Kid. Hey ho, Tyroc is still fun.

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