| operative network | writing archive: columns - reviews - interviews - features

hannibal tabu's column archive: the operative word
the black hero origin algorithm

NOTE: Thanks to a number of corrective emails after Dirk Deppey linked to me today (10/20/03), I have noted that Vince Moore is no longer with Danse Macabre, XS is a less-obvious Flash-inspired hero and therefore a victim of the soon-to-be-explained Algorithm, and of course Invisible Kid II is Lyle Norg's beyotch. Mea culpa. I should also note that I was soon corrected by Dwayne McDuffie, who pointed out some other exceptions to the rule I missed. Your mileage may vary ...

I was very bored one night, spinning story ideas and jokes with Vince Moore, former grinning mug of Culver City's Comics Ink and creator of Doc Abraxas for Danse Macabre Studios(dansemacabrestudios.com), when we discovered the hidden Black Hero Origin Algorithm, used in secret like an evil Ouija board by the largest comic book companies of the land.

"But, Hannibal, what is this secret formula, this horrible set of factoids?" you ask. Allow me to elucidate, gentle reader.

There are four basic portions of the Black Hero Origin Algorithm (name patent pending, apologies to Alan David Doane of ComicBookGalaxy.com). All but twelve of the Black characters who could be considered "heroes" (and all of the villains) we found (thanks to the wonderful people at The Museum of Black Superheroes at www.blacksuperhero.com) have at least one of the following characteristics:

  • They were raised in poverty
  • They have been in the Olympics
  • They have a criminal background
  • They have been inspired by white heroes
Many have two, or even three (I believe we found some that had all four) of these characteristics, but we were laughing too hard for me to remember which.

Go ahead. Poke through the site. Try. We'll wait here. I'll even give you thirteen characters we found in DC and Marvel's current continuity that do not follow the Algorithm:

  • Xs (DC, Legion of Super Heroes, henceforth LSH)
  • Kid Quantum (DC, LSH)
  • Invisible Kid II (DC, LSH)
  • Tyroc (DC, LSH)
  • Joto (DC, Teen Titans)
  • Bloodwynd (DC, JLA reserves)
  • Dr. Mist (DC, Global Guardians)
  • M (Marvel, Generation X)
  • Synch (Marvel, Generation X)
  • Deathlok III (Marvel)
  • Black Panther (Marvel)
  • Hardware (Milestone)
  • Static (Milestone)
We couldn't find any hard evidence of Synch being raised in a bad neighborhood, but we've both been to St. Louis, so we bet on it pretty heavily. Joto barely made the cut, being half alien, but his personal identification with the Black side of his heritage got him on the list.

Of these, two thirds are in the DCU (if not retconned out of existence, we're having a hard time proving Tyroc in post-Zero Hour continuity) and four—a full third—exist only in the thirtieth century. Milestone, a universe with more Black characters than any other, could only manage two characters (if this is wrong, I'll go on Usenet and apologize to Dwayne McDuffie myself) outside of the dreaded Algorithm (according to what rumors we've heard, that DC had veto power over Milestone decisions, that could serve as an explanation).

These numbers are hard to dodge. Obviously, it affects independent and smaller publishers even more: Their Black characters, in or out of the Algorithm, are suppressed by the Algo-Vibes put off by the preponderance of characters who fit the mold.

The Algorithm is a strong force for Black characters to deal with. We had some arguments—Maggott, Joto, Bishop (who now is considered of Aboriginal descent, which some don't consider Black, even though most Aborigines look just like my uncle), Vykin the Black (who probably is the only person in the only ghetto on New Genesis, we decided)—but ultimately, we were able to discern this with all the scientific certainty two bored Black guys with an Internet connection can muster.

Do with that information what you will.

Hannibal Tabu is a madman, a professional Web producer, an angry Black man, a writer, a husband, a brother, a son, a friend and, by God, a fan. He shakes his fist at infinity from the heights of his self-indulgence, found at www.operative.net.

top | help 

| writing & web work | personal site | writing archive | contact |

the operative network is a hannibal tabu joint.
all code, text, graphics, intellectual property, content and data
available via the URL "www.operative.net"
are copyright The Operative Network, LLC 2003,
and freaked exclusively by hannibal tabu

accessing any of these pages signifies compliance
with the terms of use, dig it