Oct 2, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 585: Street Wolf #1, July 1986


*sigh* Before I begin talking about Street Wolf, which is a very serious comic, can we all just take a moment and dwell on that tag line. "It's Hot, it's Fresh, and it's Mature." That is one hundred percent the tag line for a porn site now, I'm sure. But Street Wolf is 30 years old this year, and exists in a simpler, Internet-free time.

Alright, enough nostalgia. remember a few months back when Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther dropped, and the rhetoric of representation was fierce? Well, the creators of Street Wolf were well ahead of the curve. This comic features, in the three main roles, three people of colour - two African-American characters and the titular character, Nathan Blackhorse, a Native American. And, quite wonderfully, their particular ethnic backgrounds don't matter one bit to the story. There's even an exchange in which Joyce Prescott evinces shock that Nathan doesn't know which Native American nation he belongs to, to which he replies that he's American, and does she know which African country her descendants are from. It's a bit heavy-handed, but makes a point that can easily be applied to our contemporary moment, the thought that what you look like doesn't necessarily equate to some kind of national or ethnic fidelity.

Issues of race are always hard to talk about, but should be (both hard and talked about, that is). What's quite lovely about this comic is that it only very briefly addresses the ethnicities of the characters, and then moves on to the story - this one involving runaway children and child prostitution. I did mention that Street Wolf is a very serious comic, right? Mark Wayne Harris and Dennis Francis handle this awful and delicate subject with some real skill and tact. I'll admit that when I picked the comic up, I was fully expecting some overblown, hyperbolic 80s comics storytelling, but what I got instead was an affecting, moving, and disturbing piece of storytelling. The comic is old enough that there is still fallout in the American consciousness from Vietnam (I'm currently reading Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried - you should go and read it), which is addressed in the comic, but it's also dealing with a problem that's frighteningly contemporary. Comics dealing with social issues are always a dodgy prospect, but Street Wolf, and its creators, manage it quite nicely.


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