The comic book Gods have been doing some serious redecorating this year. After colouring an entirely alabaster comic book canvas with a mixed race Spiderman and Muslim Ms. Marvel, they took it to new heights, administering makeovers even Gok Wan would gawp at. With a strike of lightning, roar of thunder and heaps of derision from brooding fans, out from the bellowing froth of character creation stormed a new Thor; a new Thor with a very new vagina.
And they didn’t stop there. Out of the same comic primordial goop sprung the formerly known Falcon as a black Captain America.
The Internet trolls cracked their fingers.
“Why mess with already established characters?” Red-faced pseudo fans huffed.
But surely even the most oblivious of comic book enthusiasts must know that aside from a penchant for wearing undies outside of outfits, superheroes love a good ol’ switcheroo. The Turk to the Captain’s JD, Falcon was the most logical choice for the next wielder of the star spangled shield, so why have these alleged superhero super-fans taken such offense?
“Well, because what’s next?” They cried in droves, “A transgender, Muslim, wheelchair-bound Hulk?”
Well, why not? If Hulk’s going to be that angry, I can’t see anything better to rile him up than the everyday microaggresions Muslims, transgender and disabled people face on a daily basis.
As someone who is black, a woman and a long time fan of comics, I warmly welcomed the changes. Sure, they could have created another anthropomorphic insect thing with a pair of (no doubt gigantic and unnecessarily exposed) breasts or a levitating black guy who controlled the winds (Is there a ‘Wind Whisperer’ already?) but I saw the move as both innovative and inclusionary. Superheroes are swapped all the time; a regeneration with a bit more melanin or estrogen should hardly shake up the forums anymore than any other.
Unsurprisingly they did, and for all the wrong reasons; there were many who anything but welcomed the switches.
“These changes alienate comics’ core fan base” the masses sulked.
Here’s some food for thought for the diversity-hating; perhaps this so–called ‘core fan base’ is so homogenous and easily alienated because they’re who comics have solely represented for far too long? As the world continues to integrate, does it really make sense that superheroes continue to reincarnate as blonde, white, men for the rest of eternity?
People of colour have managed to connect with characters that haven’t physically represented them for years; why are ‘fans’ dry-heaving at the sacrifice of two out of their trillions of white guys in capes? It’s as if they expect female Thor to spend her panels fretting over what brand of Tampon to buy rather than pummel adversaries into a fine paste.
More importantly, Marvel has always sided with diversity, as the naysayers should know. The X Men series drew very clear and intentional parallels with the civil rights movement and there’s even been a gay wedding. In trying to preserve what they believe to be Marvel’s ‘purity’ they actually go against everything the brand has ever stood for. As current Marvel editor Axel Alsono so succinctly summarised it:
“Simple fact is Marvel comics reflect the world in all its shapes, sizes and colours.”
They haven’t turned Captain America into a phone booth. Thor hasn’t transformed into a gerbil (though the idea of a superhero gerbil, helmet fastened and look of steely determination affixed, is hilarious). What Marvel comics still seek to represent (and now, more accurately will) is humankind.
And with mainstream media quite passive over a very white Christian Bale playing a very Israeli Moses, why all the hubbub over a chocolate-covered Captain and a Thor with an incredible rack?
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Yomi Adegoke is a recent law graduate and writer of Nigerian descent. She is founder and editor of Birthday Magazine, a publication aimed at providing representation for black teenage girls and writes about race, popular culture and intersectional feminism. You can find and follow her on Twitter: @sittingwitty.
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