This is not the diversity we are looking for.
With all of the recent and seemingly arbitrary changes in the nature of certain comic book characters and the push of the general fandom to have more characters hailing from other minority groups, I felt that it was time to shed some light on what is quickly becoming a topic that precedes all other arguments in our culture.
I feel that there is a duality to this subject. First of all, things like race, sexuality, religion, etc are commonly interchangeable. Not because we want to suppress these things, but because they rarely have an effect on the super things that are happening on the glossy pages or silver screen. I mean lets face it, what sexuality Firefly is as Batman cuts the fuel line on his flamethrower doesn’t really have any relevance. Probably the best visual illustration of this is the meme floating around claiming a leaked photo of a black Spider-Man that just shows Spider-Man in his head-to-toe red and blue costume. In essence, it makes no difference.
There are obviously exceptions to the rule. There is a comic called Devilers where each member of the team of supernatural demon fighters comes from a different faith. In this situation, of course, religion matters. I am sure there are plot points across the spectrum of comics where, every now and then, these attributes that apply to the pedestrian parts of our hero’s lives, make a difference. The most recent that comes to mind is in the new Teen Titans series with the character Bunker roughing up a homophobic bystander and it causes some media heat for the titans. While this is a great plot point, I can’t think of any more off of the top of my head. These instances seem particularly rare.
Something else to think about is that many of these characters that people are pushing to arbitrarily change were created in a different time in our culture. Many writers and artists wrote and drew what they knew, and while it came out with some strange characters, it was simply just the norm. Consider Iron Fist for example. I wouldn’t expect a blond haired, blue eyed New Yorker to be the premier martial artist in the Marvel Universe, but there he is. Understanding this can go a long way towards realizing that it was not, and is not, some conspiracy in the industry.
I am of the mind that randomly changing these parts of a character are kind of a middle-finger to the creator of the character. That said, I don’t think alternate realities or short tales should have to conform to the standard. Not to mention, making a new character should be the first and foremost option. There has been a push to see a black Spider-Man on screen. I don’t see why we couldn’t, but why would we want to change Peter Parker when Miles Morales is already an established and interesting character. You make Miles the original Spider-Man and I think you take something away from him, since such a large part of his story is trying to fill the original Spider-Man’s shoes.
We also have the new Fantastic Four movie where we have a black Johnny Storm and his sister is white. It is all of four seconds to come up with a justification for that. Adoption, parents of different race, and step siblings to just name a few. On the surface this seems like an arbitrary change, but I disagree. Fantastic Four has always been about family, and by making a change to a family of some of the characters, you observe a brand new angle for that element as a whole. This wasn’t a diversity change, but a narrative one, not unlike the Ultimate Marvel universe did a decade ago.
For those of you who seek these changes because you think that certain races, creeds, and orientations are not represented enough in comics, I sympathize. However, you may just be misinformed. Gay heroes such as Batwoman, Alan Scott Green Lantern, and Wiccan are out there and popular. Some heroes, especially in Marvel, such as Falcon and Luke Cage have strong connections to their race as they were created in the midst of the civil rights movement. Hell, this new Ms Marvel is adorable and a Muslim, and so popular that she has been used as an anti-hate graffiti on buses. Val Zod, the black Superman from Earth 2 is way more interesting than the current superman in the normal DC universe. There really are no shortage of these races, creeds, and orientations in comics. Sometimes you just have to look for them.
Now you may be thinking that you shouldn’t have to work so hard to find them. However, the problem is that many of the characters that do exist with these attributes simply do not sell comics. For instance, I am a HUGE fan of the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle. For those of you who do not know, Jaime Reyes is a sixteen-year old Mexican-American who finds himself bonded with an alien suit of armor. After his creation in the DC event Infinite Crisis, Jaime was given his own solo series that had dismal sales. Writers loved using the character in other books, but for some reason our young Blue Beetle just couldn’t move issues. Part of the enmity was surely that he replaced a beloved character in the legacy of the Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, and when the writer made the book a political statement about illegal immigration it kind of lost even me. It was cancelled after 25 issues. During the New 52 he was once again given a solo series that fizzled again sales-wise. If you wanted a Latino superhero, why didn’t you buy the comic? For a time there was even an Asian Justice League style team featured in a comic series called Justice League Dance. From what I understand, the sales were incredibly low for the mini-series. If you desired an Asian set of super heroes, or even just one, why didn’t you buy this series?
So the diversity is out there, and there are dozens of ways to enjoy comics and movies without just trying to conquer already existing characters. While you can find characters of every race, creed, and orientation, you may have a hard time finding solo series for them. My suggestion to fixing the problem is make your love of these characters known, and then buy the comics when they happen. You might think it is racism, bigotry, or any of the other kinds of discrimination in the industry, but in this day and age, the only real color that matters is green. (No, not Martian Manhunter)
How do you feel about this issue? Do you have any characters that you feel have been marginalized or you would like to see get their own titles, television series, or even a movie? Hit me up in the comments.