Character: Marcus

Source Text:  Nate Creekmore, Maintaining (2007-2009)

Entry Author:  Andrew Doig

Marcus is a high school student of indeterminate age. He is tall and lanky, with short cropped hair. He describes his complexion as “caramel.” He is a member of a middle class family, which is formed by his African American father, Caucasian mother, and his younger brother. Marcus is constantly questioning the implications of a mixed race identity in American society, and also what his mixed race identity means to himself. Although the comic strips are very funny, they regularly revolve around the exploration of this topic. Marcus’ mixed race identity is often an element in the other recurring theme throughout the comics, his teenage lust and desire for love. Sometimes his heritage helps him, and sometimes it does not in his hunt for love. His best friend Anton at times perceives him to be white, and at other times black. When he demonstrates that “all white people will chase after a frisbee” by throwing it, he forces Marcus to chase after the Frisbee. By fulfilling the stereotype that all white people will chase after a frisbee, Marcus appears to be fulfilling the white stereotype. But Anton is not persuaded by such simple categorization tests. Anton still prefers to give marcus the “black guy” handshake instead of the “white guy handshake” while he denies the same to an all white friend, demonstrating that Anton considers Marcus to still be black. For Anton, Marcus measure of blackness, Marcus is neither white nor black, but a mixture of the two. Marcus is constantly feeling anxious about his place, in ways that can feel like a portrayal of the “tragic mulatto”. In one strip he describes this feeling, saying “Sometimes I just feel like I don’t quite fit in with ANY group. Maybe thats just the funny thing about being mixed… a part of two worlds and yet fully accepted by neither. or maybe thats just the funny thing about being marcus…” We can see here though how the author is able to dissemble this trope by breaking it from the entirety of mixed people and placing it as a pathology on a single person, and also by the retort made by Anton who says “I gottwo notebooks full of funny things about you.” (May 09, 2007) By placing it among the absurd, Anton effectively destroys any truth quality that the “Tragic Mulatto” concept might have carried. This is not to say that Marcus is comfortable in his mixed race skin. He isn’t. He even struggles to describe to his younger brothers what it means to be in his mixed race position, in order that they can understand the world they are going to enter. He does this by suggesting that an Oreo is the perfect cookie to describe his situation, unafraid to assume the often disparaging mantle, but then retracting the statement as he does not see the two colors blending as the white portions and black portions have blended to form him into what he is. Marcus successfully inhabits a zone of both, even if it is difficult for him. This constant presentation of the difficulty of mixed life, as well as the analysis and subsequent humor from the absurdity of the positions and feelings that itcan create, no matter how real and devastating, is the basis for the humor in the strip.