By Yomi Adegoke
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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11 thoughts on ““That’s how we troll” The Great Marvel Diversity Backlash”
I’ve been reading Marvel comics before I could read (okay looked at the pictures and guessed what was happening). Been a fan for 30+ years. I’m not liking the changes. I feel like Marvel just slapped me in the face and still expects my money. I’ve been cutting back on the titles I normally would buy due to lack of interest and the poor writing. I used to get between 15 to 20 Marvel comics a month and now I’m probably cutting it down to 3 or less. They could have made another alternate universe similar to the Ultimate Universe to cater to the older fans. I’m not digging Hulk’s new Fohawk, it makes him look like a pissed off Ed Grimley. If some of you guys are in the same boat as me, just influence Marvel with your wallet. Stop buying the titles you don’t care for anymore and maybe they might take note and make more appealing changes. I think I’m going to start looking at other comic companies for the stories I want to read. This might just be a phase like the late 90s when the writing was horrible when the 90s ‘tude was at it’s peak. Maybe we will get lucky and Franklin Richards will reset everything again. That is unless Marvel kills him off. Maybe Bruce Banner might become the Grey Hulk again. I really want to love Marvel again, but they are not making it easy.
Good luck doing that, Jesse; only two companies publish superhero titles, with the rest doing mostly adaptations of other material and original characters, not all superhero (IDW, Dark Horse, Dynamite) or not doing superheroes at all. Nobody asked you to read these if you’re going to be such a bigoted asshole, and you can read older titles if all you want is an all-white world.
I love how diversity is fine unless your a straight white male. Most of these characters were created by straight white men, now you are telling us it is evil to be white, a male, straight!. It is pure double standards on Marvels part. Equal opportunities is mean to be for ALL! If Marvel actually cared they would not be fucking over the core fan base for 50 plus years. Make new characters that are gay or black or Chinese. I have noticed that the already female or black characters have not changed at all! Where is the Chinese Luke Cage? Where is the male Mockingbird? Why is the Black Panther still male? he should be transsexual right? Why isn’t War Machine gay?. Your not going to see that because Marvel are following the leftist agenda that hate white straight men, you know the men that built the west they love so much. Marvel have sold out and by pissing all over their main characters will get love form the leftists, for us life long fans, you have lost us for good. Wait until this happens in the movies and see the movies start to fail!
I saw Aamer Rahman at the Soho Theatre (I think… I get around the town a fair bit and my memory is poor) and one of the funniest bits was when he talked about white fanfolk claiming that characters being played by people of colour was ‘not believeable’. He was like really? you believed in everything in this superhero fantasy EXCEPT that somebody was brown? um……..
Both changes make perfect sense in the context of the universe. Whoever holds Mjolnir, if they are worthy, will have the power of Thor. Captain America and the Falcon have been allies for decades, and this isn’t even the first time Sam Wilson has taken over for Steve Rogers as Captain America.
The “core fan base” is alienating ME at this point.
To me it’s lazy, unimaginative, and boring….it’s like throwing us a bone instead of taking the time to develop new characters or hire black/female – artists/writers for new ideas and perspective…..they would rather just keep the same people make characters black or female for a limited time and gloat about how diverse Marvel has become….it’s just some corporate sh**, a purely corporate move to reach new demographics without putting in any effort whatsoever.
I agree with you in principle, but in practice a new character will never get the attention that changing up an existing one does. Besides, it’s not like new, diverse characters aren’t being created – Kamala Khan, for example.
As I said to Jesse above, brotherman, you don’t have to read these titles if you don’t want to; nobody’s forcing you to do so.
Don’t worry…..I won’t.