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The Controversy over Green Lantern's Buddy "Pieface"

Tom "Pieface" Kalmaku
The new Green Lantern movie has brought something to my attention. It seems like there's been some retconning going on with Hal Jordan's faithful sidekick and best friend, Thomas "Pieface" Kalmaku. Let's set the record straight.

First of all, non-geeks may be asking "Who's Pieface?" Here's a quick review: Tom Kalmaku is Hal Jordan's best friend and sidekick. He first appeared in the second issue of Green Lantern in September 1960. He's an Inuit from Alaska and a mechanic at Hal Jordan's Air Force base. He's also Hal Jordan's best friend, knows Jordan's identity as the Green Lantern, and helps him out on occasion in Hal's fight for justice. His nickname is "Pieface" or just Pie for short.

The current explanation for his nickname "Pieface" is that Tom likes to eat Eskimo Pies. That may be the current explanation, but that's not the real reason he's called Pieface. Pieface was (and still is) a racial slur for Asian people, referring to their relatively flat and round facial features, comparing them to the bottom of a pie. It's true that Tom is not technically Asian, but in the 1960's, they didn't make those kinds of distinctions. Anyone with Asian features was a "pieface," just like anyone with dark skin was a "Negro."

It's not like DC hasn't tried to fix the problem. The nickname disappeared from comics during the eighties with Hal just calling him "Tom" until the DC crossover event Millennium, where Tom is elevated to superhero status. During Tom's ascension, Hal whispers "Pieface" as an affectionate reference to how far Tom had come. Then DC: The New Frontier re-told their first meeting, and Tom chastised Hal for using the nickname. In a recent issue of Green Lantern, Hal's original origin was (again) re-visited and Tom reacted violently to another pilot for using the slur. Hal defended him, and said that he would never use it, thereby retroactively erasing every time Hal used it later on. Some people found that too PC, but I liked it. There are a lot of things in the world (and comics) that we can do without. Instead of trying to re-write history to make the slur acceptable, let's just go ahead and stop using it. Now if they can just get rid of Marvel's African-American superhero duo, Fried Chicken and Watermelon...

1 comment:

  1. I never knew what "Pieface" represented. I was, however, puzzled by that nickname for any number of reasons. Though it is/was distinctive.


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