Coffee Talk #657: Diversification in the Marvel Universe and You

Marvel Comics Diversity

You’ve been thrilled by the adventures of African-American Captain America. You’ve journeyed into mystery with the mysterious female Thor. In December, you’ll be getting a Korean-American Hulk when Totally Awesome Hulk hits shelves. Ethnic and sexual diversification in Marvel Comics is an ongoing process — one that Marvel seems to be keen on pursuing. It also seems to be a process that some readers are against. How do you feel about diversification in the Marvel Universe? Is it necessary? Is it being forced? Let’s examine the issue and discuss (please).

There are many longtime Marvel Comics readers that don’t like their icons being altered. They want Steve Rogers as Captain America, not Sam Wilson. They want the son of Odin to be Thor, not a women with a secret identity (for seven issues, anyway). Lastly, they want Bruce Banner as the Hulk, not Amadeus Cho. These readers are traditionalists that prefer stories about characters they’ve known and loved for decades. Changing the identity, ethnicity, or sex of an iconic character is jarring to these readers. Staying true to years of material is more important than diversification to these guys and gals, which is completely understandable since this is entertainment.

There’s a subsection of the readers mentioned in the last paragraph that claim they want to see a more diverse Marvel Universe, but would prefer diversification through new characters. They want their icons to stay as they are, but wouldn’t mind if they were joined by all-new, all-different characters that represent various ethnicities, genders, religions, sexual orientations, etc.

For reasons that escape me, there are some readers that are fine with the majority of superheroes in the Marvel Universe being white males. For my part, I feel that diversity is overdue, but shouldn’t be forced. That said, diversity in the Marvel Universe has been silly for decades. Most of the action takes place in Manhattan, arguably the most diverse city in the world. Similar to how Friends — a show about six white people that only have white friends — was a ridiculous representation of New York life, Marvel has done a poor job depicting the diversity of New York through its heroes.

At the end of the day, I don’t care that Sam Wilson is Captain America. I care that his costume sucks and his stories have been boring. I don’t care that the new Thor is a woman. I care that she’s being written by Jason Aaron, one of my favorite comics writers of the last ten years. I’m not particularly enthused that the Hulk will be Korean-American. I’m terribly excited that Greg Pak will be writing the stories and that they’ll feature Amadeus Cho, a character that I love.

Would I like to see more diversity in the Marvel Universe? Of course I would, but I understand that it’s a process and things are moving in the right direction. For the most part, I enjoy comics that entertain me with writing. It doesn’t matter if they’re about Filipino-American heroines with cosmic powers or homosexual ice mutants that have arrived from the past. If the writing is great, make mine Marvel.

Naturally, I want to hear your thoughts on the matter. How do you feel about diversification in the Marvel Universe? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).

  • It doesn’t bother me that Marvel is introducing diversity. I am however one of those people who would prefer that diversity be achieved through new IP and or characters. I feel that, i’m a white guy if this matters, the people who want diversity maybe do not consider that a majority if not all of these IPs were created by other white guys. It’s only natural for them to create a fictional character that shares similarities with them. I don’t think they did it to be a distant supporter of the Lost Cause or to put their spin on the Civil Rights movement.

    I mean when I was in school and asked to create a story, I didn’t create a character that was from the Asia or Central America.

    Not related or referenced in this article but if people want more diversity perhaps they should create IP instead of whining to have IP changed? I wouldn’t fault any writer for having their main character personified in their image. I’d think this is common.

    • Fine points, as always, Sir! In one of the cases (Amadeus Cho), it’s a relatively new character stepping into a much larger role. If you take Cho’s arc — starting as a genius Hulk fanboy, become a “hero of the mind” with Hercules and Athena, etc. — winding up as the Hulk seems like a logical step. The challenge with new characters is that most of them fail. Every now and then, a Punisher comes along, but there are more Sleepwalkers and Darkhawks out there. It’s arguably easier to work within the confines of an existing icon than to make a new character, whether you’re trying to diversify or not.

  • iceman
  • 1ceman

    I’m done with X-men.
    Time to catch up on Justice League, Teen Titans and whatever-color-of-the-rainbow
    Lantern(s) corps. This is such bullshit. These assholes don’t seem
    to think that people like continuity. Seeing characters grow and develop
    throughout the decades is a glorious sight to behold. But this?
    This is just bullshit. It’s being politically correct for the sake
    of being politically correct. They want to show that they are on the
    right side of all the hot-button issues. Never mind that X-Men was
    already (symbolically) a stand in for blacks during the segregation era and
    later, gays during the modern era. What good is a franchise when you can
    just arbitrarily change the nature of anything? Imagine if tomorrow, they
    decided that Ironman will now have “superman-like” mutant powers,
    Captain America turns into a cat and Cyclops is really Charles Xavier in
    disguise? It gets to a point where you say “This is just dumb.”
    More so than normal, anyway. I’ll be the first to admit that
    comics, in general, are dumb, but they are based on a nuanced suspension of
    disbelief while being entertaining.
    Continuity is the glue that holds it all together, but at some point,
    these assholes decided that they don’t need any stinkin’ glue. These jerkwads want to take all the good will
    that this franchise has built up over the past 50 years and just squander it.

    I know it seems like I’m
    being petty about this one little decision for a minor character in the
    franchise, but at the rate we are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if, in the
    future, Jean has gender reassignment surgery and marries gay Cyclops, Angel and
    Banshee turn into chicks (for some reason) and Wolverine becomes Mexican. This is all a step too far. These aren’t the beloved characters I grew up
    with. They use the names and the likenesses,
    but they are completely different people.
    It’s not growth or development, it’s a writer checking off some boxes on
    his politically-correct and all-inclusive clipboard. It’s lazy, stupid and incredibly narcissistic. It’s almost as if these writers were saying
    to themselves: “It doesn’t matter if we do that or change this, these rubes
    will buy anything!” Mark my words, one
    day, we will have a Batman (Bruce Wayne) that is fighting crime as a vigilante
    alongside his parents.

    A better way to handle
    diversity in this medium would be to introduce new characters or, better yet,
    have an “alternate universe” of the characters as a spinoff series. This would allow writers to explore an
    infinitely limitless number of possibilities of what to do with the basis of
    characters already established in the … well, “our” universe. But, no, these dipsticks decided to
    completely re-write the character by hijacking his “past self,” conveniently
    ignoring all continuity over the past 50 years.
    It’s lazy because instead of building a new character and marketing that
    guy, they decided to create the new character anyway, but superimpose him onto
    an existing character (with an existing history) because, hey, he’s already
    known and they won’t have to do the hard work of marketing a new guy to a new
    generation. Screw it, they’ll just
    change all the existing characters to fit their new vision, continuity be
    damned.

    I also blame escalation. Why does everything have to be “bigger” and “more
    shocking” than what has happened in the past?
    Escalation is what rendered death meaningless in comics. Diversity for the sake of diversity is
    insulting. It’s putting demographics
    before the narrative, or worse, to cover up for the lack of a good
    narrative. These people have run out of
    ideas so they figure they’d go for the lowest common denominator and just
    repurpose existing (popular) characters as another color or gender to get more
    people interested instead of going through the hassle of creating new
    characters or new universes.

    Although it pains me to say
    it, I hope my son never gets into comic books.
    I so detest the politicization of everything.

    • Funnily enough, the current Iceman is the most popular the character has been in decades. Many like this version of the character best. I think he’s written very well. His sexuality isn’t at the forefront for me. Young Iceman is frickin’ hilarious.

      Also, Captain AmeriCAT already happened.