I'm not excited for Sam Wilson as Captain America, and I'm not excited for a female Thor.
Now, I don't think these are totally wrongheaded things to do. I admire the impulse behind these changes, and I believe they come from a good place. In the abstract sense, I love the idea of Marvel featuring, in big, bold style, the adventures of a black man and a woman against the hordes of iniquity. I believe at least part of the motivation behind these changes is genuine in its altruism, and that it is not entirely invalidated by profit-seeking impulses. I want to believe in this initiative. I want to be excited. I do not want to be the curmudgeon in the corner, needlessly nitpicking everyone else's good time to pieces.
But it feels like a gimmick, and functions like a gimmick, and that’s because it is a gimmick. I give it perhaps two years — two years that only the most hard-core aficionados will end up able to recall, alongside their recollections of the foil covers era and that one time Doc Ock was Spider-Man.
In late August, writer Gene Luen Yang posed a challenge to his peers in the world of comics: Write characters who are different from you, racially and culturally, even if it's scary. That can be tough to do without being insulting, or tone-deaf, or resorting to stereotypes. What can really help for writers is input from people of the races and cultures that they hope to depict; people who can gauge whether a work has the right level of sensitivity and understanding.
Luckily, a whole bunch of cartoonists have come together to offer up advice in a post on Midnight Breakfast titled "Writing People of Color (if you happen to be a person of another color)." It's chock full of insight.
In an interview with The Telegraph's Radhika Sanghani, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso offered some insights into how he regards the superhero comic industry's treatment of female characters -- and his own intentions towards diversity.
The interview is chiefly noteworthy for confirming what already seems apparent from recent changes in Marvel's line-up, namely that Marvel understands and is responding to demographic changes in the marketplace. "We believe there's an audience of women out there who are hungry for this [product] and we want to make sure they get it," said Alonso. "This is affirmative action. This is capitalism.”
The CW has announced that Australian actor and former rugby player Matthew Nable, who American audiences may know best as Boss Johns from the movie Riddick, will play Ra's al Ghul in the upcoming third season of Arrow, starting with the fourth episode, "The Magician."
In a speech at the National Book Festival at the Library of Congress last weekend, The Shadow Hero writer Gene Luen Yang threw down the gauntlet.
Yang challenged comics creators to overcome their fears of bring criticized for inaccurately portraying characters who are different from them -- in terms of race, gender, or other identifying factors. In brief, he told writers to do some research and get it right, but first and foremost to step outside themselves.
The Cartoonists of Color Database is a new project by cartoonist MariNaomi that aims to collect information on people of color working in comics. The FAQ succinctly outlines the need for such a database with four statements: "For visibility. For academia. For inspiration. For community building."
The database formally launched this week with over 700 creator listings, and MariNaomi has made a public call for people to add more information, refine the information that's currently there, and correct any mistakes.
On Tuesday morning Whoopi Goldberg and the hosts of The View announced that Marvel will relaunch Thor this October with a 'worthy' woman brandishing the hammer. Marvel followed that announcement with two more high profile switcheroos on Wednesday night as Entertainment Weekly revealed a new-ish and possibly superior Iron Man, and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada joined comedian Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report to announce that a new guy will take up Captain America's shield.
That in itself isn't much of a surprise -- original Cap Steve Rogers has passed on his mantle a few times, before eventually yanking it back. After spending some time in Dimension Z and fighting the Iron Nail and whatnot, he's now too old to Avenge from the front lines. The big reveal is that the new Captain America will be Sam Wilson, the African-American superhero currently known as Falcon.
Changing the racial identity of characters has become a contentious issue amongst fans of superhero comics and their adaptations in other media. The awful practices of casting white actors to play people of color, or of turning previously non-white characters into white characters, is all too common in movie adaptations of books, cartoons, TV shows, or even real life stories -- but rather surprisingly, superhero comics and their adaptations have mostly avoided this problem.
In comics, the controversy takes a different direction. Several white characters have become non-white, mostly in movies, and sometimes in reboots. Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four; Helena Bertinelli aka the Huntress in the New 52; Nick Fury in the Ultimate Comics line and on screen. These are changes that agitate some readers -- but realistically, the changes don't go far enough. Superhero comics have a cultural bias towards white characters that has everything to do with their institutional history and nothing to do with what makes sense to the stories.
Windblade, a recent addition to Transformers universe, is not like all the other bots that came before her. She's the first Transformer created entirely by fans, through a series of polls on toy manufactuer Hasbro's website.
The Windblade toy debuts later this year, but to learn more about the character fans should pick up the new Transformers: Windblade four-issue series from IDW Publishing, debuting later this month from writer Mairghread Scott and artist Sarah Stone. The comic is also a little different from those that came before it, in that it's the first Transformers comic by a female writer/artist team.
All Hail The King is a short movie -- a "one shot," as Marvel calls them -- about what happened to Iron Man 3 character the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) after he went to prison, written and directed by Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce. It's light, it's funny, there are some good lines and a neat twist. For the most part, I liked it.
One thing left a bad taste in my mouth.
If you haven't watched the Marvel one-shot/short movie All Hail The King, released a supplemental feature with Thor: The Dark World on Blu-ray/DVD, and you haven't watched Iron Man 3, and you want to see either of them unspoiled, skip the rest of this post. That's your spoiler warning.
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