In 1988, DC Comics briefly introduced a supervillain to its universe called SnowFlame. SnowFlame, who i09 reports debuted -- and was killed off -- in New Guardians #2, was a Colombian crime lord that got his super powers from inhaling enormous amounts of cocaine, "all the while dressed like the Secretary of the Interior for the Ice Capades."
"Cocaine is my god," SnowFlame exclaims in the comic book," And I am the human instrument of its will!"
About 25 years ago, the character was a mildly offensive novelty -- a byproduct of the War on Drugs, served up with a not-so-subtle side of xenophobia. As Atop The Fourth Wall, a show devoted to bad comics, pointed out, the New Guardians series of the time was rather rife with objectionable situations and stereotypes -- such as Extraño, a gay Hispanic magician that died after being "bitten by a goblin who gave him the AIDS virus."
Different times, different vibes. But a character like SnowFlame would never fly today, right?
While SnowFlame has remained somewhat of a cult fascination over the years, his notoriety spiked recently due to one artist's web-based comic, which spares the villain from his death in a chemical shed explosion in order to delve deeper into his character.
Written and drawn by Julie Sydor, the webcomic (which is not affiliated with DC Comics) aims to fill out the drug-snorting, one-off bad guy. In the 15 pages of the series that have been published so far, Sydor has given SnowFlame an alias, Fabian Orosco, and the beginnings of a backstory.
Humanizing as such treatment may be for a token villain, the narrative is still almost comically heavy on drug references. This isn't surprising, since super-human drug use is SnowFlame's claim to cult status.
But while Sydor showed caution with regards to her work's drug references -- placing disclaimers on her site and explicitly stating that the comic does not condone drug use -- she was less careful with some comments made by a minor character in the comic.
In the first installment of Sydor's comic, a wide-eyed female describes SnowFlame as "faster than a guerrila [sic] 'copter... more powerful than the U.S. Border Patrol."
Given that SnowFlame is a drug-slinging megalomaniac that worships llello as a god, the joke makes sense within the story. But it also comes at a time when immigration is a hot button issue in the United States, particularly among Latinos.
In an e-mail to The Huffington Post, Sydor said that she did not intend to imply any racial overtones in her work, and that she intended no offense toward Latinos, or to anyone who has had problems with drug addiction.
"[The original SnowFlame] is very much a product of the decade he was created in," Sydor wrote. "I intend to write SnowFlame as a fully dimensional multi-faceted character, and not a stereotype of Colombians or even a stereotype of druglords."
While the new SnowFlame webcomic doesn't come close to the rhetoric of ethnic stereotypes that makes aspects of the original New Guardians so offensive today, when one's chosen task is to resurrect a villain from a less tolerant era -- especially one that directly references some of the more damaging stereotypes about Colombians -- a little extra sensitivity never hurts.
Picture of the tombstone of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, taken on December 2, 2008, in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia, on the 15th anniversary of his death. AFP PHOTO / Raul Arboleda (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Jaquin Guzman Loera, a.k.a. 'El Chapo'
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Edgar Valdez Villareal, a.k.a. 'La Barbie'
FILE - US citizen Edgar Valdez Villareal aka 'La Barbie', alleged drug lord of the Beltran Leyva cartel, is presented to the press at the Federal Police headquarters in Mexico City, on August 31, 2010. Mexican authorities started the process for La Barbie's extradition to the US on November 20, 2010. AFP PHOTO/Alfredo Estrella (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Martin Beltran Coronel
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Rita Angelica Aviles
Rita Angelica Aviles (R), detained along with drug lord Martin Beltran Coronel (not in the picture), is presented on May 13, 2011 at the premises of the Mexican Defense Secretary in Mexico City. Beltran Coronel was captured with other four members of the cartel in Zapopan, Jalisco state. AFP PHOTO/OMAR TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
Norma Yuliana Aviles
Norma Yuliana Aviles, detained along with drug lord Martin Beltran Coronel (not in the picture), is presented on May 13, 2011 at the premises of the Mexican Defense Secretary in Mexico City. Beltran Coronel was captured with other four members of the cartel in Zapopan, Jalisco state. AFP PHOTO/OMAR TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
Christopher 'Dudus' Coke
In this courtroom drawing dated June 25, 2010, accused Jamaican drug lord Christopher 'Dudus' Coke (C foreground), flanked by lawyer Russel Newfeld (L), pleads not guilty in US federal court in New York on drug and gun-trafficking charges following his extradition from Jamaica. Coke entered the plea during his first appearance at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. Judge Robert Patterson (R background) ordered that Coke be remanded to custody and set a new hearing for June 28, 2010 to decide whether he will be jailed indefinitely pending trial. The 41-year-old's arrest by Jamaican authorities on June 22nd was the culmination of a bloody showdown with the government over his extradition that led to the deaths of 73 civilians in a police and military assault on Coke's Tivoli Gardens stronghold. A Robin Hood figure with deep support in the ramshackle slums of west Kingston, Coke faces life in a US prison and millions of dollars in fines. AFP PHOTO SHIRLEY SHEPARD (Photo credit should read SHIRLEY SHEPARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Eduardo Teodoro Garcia Simental, a.k.a 'El Teo'
Eduardo Teodoro Garcia Simental, a.k.a 'El Teo' (2-R), one of Mexico's most-wanted drug lords with possible connections to the Arellano Felix brothers or Tijuana cartels, is seen escorted by police officers in Mexico City on January 12, 2010. Garcia was captured early on January 12, 2010 in the northwestern state of Baja California Sur, Mexico, along with one of his brothers known as 'El Torito'. AFP PHOTO/Alfredo ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
One of drug lord Noah Zaayter's armed bodyguards inspects a field of Cannabis plants in the village of Knaysseh in the Bekaa valley on July 30, 2008. With his pony tail, long sideburns, tight jeans and cowboy boots, Noah Zaayter cuts an odd figure as he struts through this tiny Lebanese village trailed by his own militiamen. The 37-year-old is one of about 50 drug barons who operate with near total impunity in the northern Bekaa, a lawless region controlled mainly by Hezbollah and for years synonymous with drug trafficking and militancy. AFP PHOTO/RAMZI HAIDAR (Photo credit should read RAMZI HAIDAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez, a.k.a. 'Don Diego'
Drug lord Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez (R), a.k.a. Don Diego, is escorted by Colombian soldiers in Bogota after being flown from where he was captured, 10 September, 2007. Montoya, 49, named alongside Osama bin Laden on the FBI's list of 10 most wanted fugitives, is one of the leaders of the North Valley cartel, and was captured Monday in Zarzal village, in the southeastern mountainous region of the Valle del Cauca department, where he had holed up with bodyguards and two relatives, officials said. The trafficker was behind 70 percent of the cocaine sent to the United States and Europe, 'and is considered responsible for more than 1,500 murders,' Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said at a news conference in Bogota. AFP PHOTO/Mauricio DUE-AS (Photo credit should read MAURICIO DUENAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Miguel Angel Mejia Munera
Colombian police take into arrest drug lord Miguel Angel Mejia Munera on May 2, 2008 in Mariquita, department of Tolima, Colombia. Miguel Angel's twin brother Victor Manuel was killed last April 29th during a shoot-out with Colombian police in theTaraza village. The United States offered a USD 5 million reward for information leading to the capture of the brothers whose running Colombia's biggest drug trafficking operations. AFP PHOTO/POLICIA NACIONAL/Nidia Amador (Photo credit should read NIDIA AMADOR/AFP/Getty Images)
Santiago Meza Lopez
FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2009 file photo, Santiago Meza, alias "El Pozolero," who allegedly worked for a drug lord from the Tijuana area, is escorted by soldiers and federal police agents as he is shown to the press after his arrest in Tijuana, Mexico. Relatives of kidnap victims who never returned home are now finding out that their loved ones may have died at the hands of Santiago Meza, who admits he disposed of hundreds of victims by dissolving them in acid, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias, File)
FILE - This March 9, 2002 handout file photo, released by Mexico's Attorney general office, shows Mexican drug lord Benjamin Arellano Felix the day of his arrest inside his house in Puebla, Mexico. Mexican prosecutors announced Friday, April 29, 2011 Arellano's extradition to the US. (AP Photo, file)