Dynamite Comics is Relaunching Shaft, but do we still need him?

The most famous bad mother shut yo’mouth will be returning in December from Dynamite comics.  With art from Bilquis Evely and written by David F. Walker Shaft will now have his own monthy series.  David Walker says,

“Working on Shaft, one of the most iconic characters in pop culture, is a dream come true, I’ve been a fan of the character since I was a kid, and especially love him in his original iteration, as created by author Ernest Tidyman. My take on Shaft is steeped in Tidyman’s work, and builds on the world created in the original novels. I’m exploring who he is as a man, as a private detective, and as a cold-blooded killer. This John Shaft is much grittier, more badass, with a complexity never seen in the films. The name may be familiar, and some aspects of the character may be recognizable, but at the end of the day, he will be something new and exciting – especially in the world of comics. This is Shaft the way Shaft was meant to be.”


But this begs the question do we need another Shaft?  Samual L Jackson and John Singleton tried to revive the character in 2000, and while the film wasn’t awful it wasn’t great and didn’t reignite a new wave of Shaft fever and the reason it didn’t is simple. We don’t need another Shaft.  Shaft’s influence is marginalized every time he is revamped for a modern era.  John Shaft was an important character in 1971.  As portrayed by Richard Roundtree he was a strong anti-establishment figure.  Shaft is an incredibly important cultural figure, but we have moved beyond the culture that created him.  We need a new generation of minority characters that have fun exciting stories that address socially unjust situations that are occurring now.  Will these characters owe a heritage to Shaft, absolutely but I find it in poor taste to constantly dust off these icons in the manner we do.


David Walker says the new series will be influenced by the Pulp novels written by Ernest Tidyman, but the novels were never close the phenomena that the movie series was.  And the art released clearly is inspired by Richard Roundtree.  I want new counter culture heroes that challenge the current status quo.  I don’t want to relive the victories that have already been fought.  A strong black man standing up to corrupt cops and having interracial sex does not hold the same level of shock value it once did, and this is a good thing.   Shaft was also a product of the sexual revolution, but now maybe we could look at how he simply uses the women in the film for sex and nothing else.  As amazing as Issac Hayes music still is think of the iconic line, “Bad Mother Shut Yo’ Mouth.”  This was a huge deal at the time to imply the word motherfucker.  We have moved well beyond this taboo.

If you go back and re-watch Shaft the film itself does not hold up well, and yet it is important movie.  It is an important and valuable expression of the anger in its time.  This is not something that can be replicated.    We need a new hero who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about.  A hero who is a product of the issues we as a culture need to look at now.  We need another strong character that challenges the cultural preconceptions of race, gender or sexual identity.  We don’t need to bring Shaft back.