What Marvel Hopes to Achieve with the Changing of Race/Gender in Pre-Existing Characters
When Marvel announced that the new Captain America was going to be African-American, there were two sides; one side that said “Okay, we will see how it pans out and then judge it” and the other that said “No.” There wasn’t really an in-between and it was not for the reasons one would expect. It could have been because it was sudden, but it also seemed like an attention-grabbing ploy from Marvel. With that being said, there was an African American Cap before named Isaiah Bradley, this is true. The effect on that was different because he was not replacing anyone, he was his own character and he wasn’t filling in shoes for anyone. The new Cap is Sam Wilson, who was originally Falcon for a long long time. Then you have Miles Morales, who is the new Spider-Man and African-American, but also mixed with Puerto Rican from Brooklyn.
Ethnicity swaps were one thing that Marvel announced to the world. It was also shortly after that Marvel announced characters that were originally male were going to be female. In one instance, Thor. That caused some outrage, there were the same two blurred lines that said, “Okay, we will see” and the other that said, “No.” What Marvel does is they re-create the same lines of superheroes, but make them slightly different. That is what they are doing in this instance. They have an all-new Avengers team with an all female cast lead called A-Force. The thing about gender is this is not the first time Marvel created female characters in attachment to the male characters. Take She-Hulk and Spider-Woman for example. The difference with these characters are they were not following previous footsteps. They were created with their own personality in mind, their own story and their own faults. They were not compared to their father or the family member they derived from.
These two topics in the world of comics are important to be aware of; gender and ethnicity are vastly significant topics in this day and age. As a generation, the millennials are less likely to just accept things that do not make sense, they were not brought up that way. They question what they do not understand and if they do not see fit to where these gender and ethnicity swaps take place they will question it. That is not to say just millennials, but everyone as well has a questionable factor about things that don’t make sense.
Ethnicity Swaps in Pre-Existing Marvel Characters
We have Captain America a pre-existing Caucasian character (and has been for a while now) being swapped for Sam Wilson who is an African-American character previously Falcon. On one hand, you do see what Marvel is attempting to do here. You see that they are trying to relate to not only one demographic but all of them. That is understandable and fans can understand that it’s a season for comics and the audience is getting bigger and bigger by the second. At the same time, though, you get the vibe that they are trying to make a publicity stunt, to relate to the 21-century and that is fine; but, there has to be a proper way to do it. People complain about African-American actors/actresses being cast instead of Caucasian ones in Marvel films; so, of course, this was going to be an issue for some. When Idris Elba was cast in the Thor movies, the world–well half of it, certainly erupted into a rage:
“Repeating what happened a few years ago when Marvel Comics’ film franchise cast a black man (Idris Elba) in the role of the Viking demigod Heimdahl, white nationalists have erupted in grumbling and outrage over the iconic comic hero’s change in race – perhaps somewhat predictably” (Neiwert).
Who is Samuel Wilson?
Sam Wilson was born in Harlem, both of his parents met their demise. His father was a minister, he died trying to do the right thing and his mother was mugged two short years after that. Sam was torn and got into some criminal trouble because he was in such grief and pain from his parents passing. Red Skull, in a nutshell, was using Sam as a pawn against Captain America and thus Falcon was born because Red Skull made it possible for Sam to communicate with birds using the cosmic cube. After that, Sam changed his ways and became a crime-fighting weapon in Harlem. When he was not Falcon he was a social worker helping out with the community. Black Panther gave him the means to truly fly, and that’s when he truly became at the peak of his crime-fighting abilities. Later, he joined the Avengers and ran for the congressional seat, in which his criminal past caught up to him and he had no choice but to accept that past and move on. He was Captain America once when it was believed that Cap had passed.
Sam Wilson: the ‘New’ Cap
Personally, I would like to see a new Cap; not one that was already someone else before. Throughout Cap’s stardom, Steve did let people borrow his suit to try it out or maybe to take the reins for a minute and then he comes back. Most of the time, it was because it was believed that Cap died and someone had to take over for the time being until he came back. With Sam Wilson being the new Cap, in one instance, they are attempting to do something but in the wrong context. There is one reason I say that and that is because of the shoes he has to fill, people are going to compare him to Steve because those are the shoes he is currently filling now. As opposed to if whoever replaced Cap was his own new character he would not have any shoes to fill because he would be starting fresh and making his own decisions. It would, in another sense, give them the ability to change up Cap if they made a fresh and new character. Sam Wilson is now tied to a Caucasian identity that was before him and that is not always a good thing in many cases because people can use it in different ways that are not always good ones. There’s a good portion that will make it a good thing in their own way, but majority of the portion is not going to.
When the topic is being brought up, not many people realize that Falcon was one of the first African-American Marvel superheroes; with knowing that, you see what Marvel is trying to attempt to do. Thus, Falcon being one of the first African-American superheroes, Marvel probably sees this as a great thing to make him Cap, because it shows how far he has come as a character. It shows as well, the relationship that Cap and Sam had, similar to when Winter Solider became Cap for a while. Sam and Cap were fairly close, so I can see where he would be a perfect candidate for this. In an interview, Marvel stated:
“Marvel series editor Tom Brevoort says, ‘While Sam shares many of Steve’s beliefs in a general sense, he’s also a very different person with a very different background. He didn’t grow up in the 1930s, he’s a modern-day man in touch with the problems of the 21st Century.'” (Opam)
The quote above is something I can stand behind, Marvel is attempting to draw attention to diversity and as a reader and a Marvel lover you can really see that; but, if it’s in the right instance is where you start to see the blurred lines. The background of Sam Wilson is entirely different from Steve Rogers’, but you have to understand replacing a Caucasian character with an African-American one does not necessarily show that diversity or struggle in the way you want it to. As Falcon, because he was his own character and made for Sam Wilson, you saw that. You adhered to that. There is just something that makes a good thing in this situation, not seem so good. Keeping Falcon as Falcon would have sufficed, especially for the readers. It makes it even more confusing when you change that and realize that there’s no longer going to be a Falcon unless he switches from Cap to Falcon. That itself is going to take a lot of work and be unnecessary, so would they essentially find another character to replace Falcon and the tornado continues to whirl?
Sam Wilson as the “New” Cap
All-New Captain America is created by Dennis Hopeless and Szymon Kudranski.
The series has started and it’s called the “All-New Captain America: Fear Him,” it currently has four issues so far (2015-present). The title itself for the series is something to look at, why are we fearing Captain America all of sudden? And, why is it titled All-New Captain America? Even Spider-Man got “The Amazing Spider-Man” spin-off title when Peter Parker switched. I can understand the “All-New Captain America” title, but the “Fear Him?” That’s where I’m lost. Cap has always been feared, he has a shield and kicks people’s butt with it, why does that need to be noted? “Fear Him” could also pertain to what the series’ first issue was about and what has some readers in an uproar:
“It is the use of border militiamen as the first villains confronted by the new “Cap” that has mainstream conservative pundits in an uproar. They appear to continue to believe that armed border-militia “minutemen” who sometimes patrol the U.S.-Mexico border are just ordinary conservatives.” (Neiwert).
The series, of course, would cause controversy. That is half of the intent of it, to bring to light things that are not necessarily agreed upon in the world or the society; which, I think can be a very good cause for the series. That being said, talking about the fact that this new Cap could bring in some very good causes to look at and talk about as a comic community is a good thing. Even if you do not agree with the fact of how they did it and went about it, you still have to admit that this is a start of a good thing. Gradually with time, Marvel will get better because even the readers are left stumped and confused about the switch:
“Acehigh79 / Feb 25, 2015
I do not like it when they switch up who the character is. There is only one Capt America and that is/was Steve Rodgers. Sam Wilson is the falcon. This confuses me as to why they do this?” (Marvel)
There are also fans that appreciate this switch, they appreciate what it’s attempting to convey to the diversity of readers:
“marveljeh / Feb 15, 2015
“Marvel continues to break down racial barriers via the comic world… some folk won’t ever change though. Thanks marvel too for your acknowledgment of ‘black history month.’ It’s one of many reasons I remain here as a fan and collector.” (Marvel)
There is always going to be two sides to something and seeing where this will go, will be something to keep a lookout on. It does not stop here, there is either going to be more switches, or more African-American characters being created, not just from Marvel; but, Image Comics have a few series’ that have African-American characters in them and they are great comics. Even if you check out Young Avengers, the diversity in that comic, not only with ethnicity is very outstanding. Diversity is not something we as comic readers are afraid of, we just want it to be done right and done in a way that it will make an impact rather than the opposite. Comic readers want to talk about these topics and if comics do them right, it will cause for an even better topic of conversation throughout the community.
Who is Miles Morales?
Miles Morales is created by Brian Bendis and drawn by Sara Pichelli.
Miles Morales has an African-American father and Puerto Rican mother. He is from Brooklyn and has a knack for science, like the past Peter Parker’s have, or the one that was before him. The story begins the same as the past Peter Parker comics, but in a different setting. The spider bites the potential Spider-Man‘s somewhere and they proceed to feel the results suddenly. Miles story happens like this, he believes he isn’t cut out to be a superhero, so he uses his powers once and then vows to never use them again. He ends up watching Peter Parker die and then proceeds to go to his funeral. There he meets Gwen Stacy, who he asks why Peter wanted to be a superhero and Gwen tells him that “with great power, comes great responsibility” and Miles makes his decision to become the new Spider-Man.
What is important about Miles as a character is the diversity he was born into, but Brooklyn is a place that has diversity and different social standards than the past Peter Parker’s have had to deal with. You really get a sense of that diversity just from hearing about Miles, if you haven’t read a comic yet. Miles himself is diverse, he is a mixed character, so the clashing of the social standards with that itself is something that has not been portrayed in comics much, if at all. You get an interracial relationship with Katie Bishop that is important as well, especially for the generation coming up.
Miles Morales as Spider-Man
Okay, Sam Wilson is one example; but, we also have Miles Morales who is the new African-American Spider-Man; but, not only that, he is in (was) an interracial relationship with Kaite Bishop. That itself shows a little more diversity as well with Miles. The difference we see here is that although he is essentially replacing the past Spider-Man who was Caucasian, it’s not necessarily mentioned or you don’t necessarily think about it too much. What is important about Spider-Man is that each one has distinct personality traits, they do not attempt to make every single one the same. With Sam Wilson, I somehow think they want to make him old Cap, no matter how hard they deny it. Cap has one single personality and to change it would be to change the entire Captain America character. His name is what he does, what he stands for and what he lives for. With Spider-Man, there is more leeway to do what you want with new characters:
“Miles made big waves when he took over the lead as the Ultimate Universe’s Spider-Man after that Earth’s Peter Parker died in the line of duty. Since that time, he quickly built a following of fans from all backgrounds in making the role his own and reinforcing the notion that anyone can be a super hero.” (Helvie).
What I feel like Miles does for the comic community is since it’s rated T, it’s meant to be revolutionary because kids are going to read it and they are going to relate:
“Many kids of color who when they were playing superheroes with their friends, their friends wouldn’t let them be Batman or Superman because they do not look like those heroes, but they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be under that mask,” says writer and co-creator Brian Bendis. “But now it’s true. It’s meant a great deal to a great many people.” (Sacks).
Miles replaced Peter and it’s the same instance as Cap, but there is a different spectrum of the audience it appeals to. Miles was around since 2011, his series was created in 2014, he was not another superhero before; but, he was just a normal kid. Like in the quote above, it’s a regular kid with that notion that anyone can be a superhero.
In hopes of what Marvel wants to achieve with this–not only with this; but, with gender swaps as well, we will have to keep a lookout for. They may start a new generation with superheroes and achieve more that way, or they may just continue to change characters and continue to do it their way. I guess as a comic book reader we will have to keep a lookout on what’s in store for the universe and deal with it when it comes.
Gender Swaps in the Marvel Universe
When ethnicity swaps came to the light, gender swaps did as well. The world went insane when the news broke that Thor was going to be a female now. A lot of people did not quite like the Avengers turning into an all-female group either. It’s on the different spectrum than ethnicity, but it is on a spectrum nonetheless. More so because these females characters are being swapped from men, now feminists would argue why do they have to come after men. Why can’t they have their own characters? I know you’re trying to diversify gender roles through adaptation, but why not let them be their own character? On one hand, that is true. Thor was created from a historical context, Thor was meant to be male. What is the effect of changing Thor to a female character, or the effect of a female Captain America?
There is a new generation coming up and a lot of kids wants to see more female superheroes, that is a fact. And that is what Marvel is conveying here. They did this one in a way that they did not necessarily get rid of the Avengers as a whole, there is a series or two still left out there; but, they did it in a way that they made it rated T. Kids are going to enjoy reading it because little girls will see themselves in it. It’s easier to adapt to changing gender than ethnicity, for many reasons. Contrasting the two is non-existent, but it goes to show that Marvel should have started with one and then gradually went into another. They attempted to come out with everything diversity at one time and it was a lot to handle as a comic book reader. One minute the Avengers was there and the next it was all females, but still the Avengers despite that. Gradually is the keyword here for Marvel and it would’ve been better if we were handed each one of these at a time, as opposed to being bombarded with a bunch at once, which caused a bigger outcry. It was unexpected for some.
- “All-New Captain America: Fear Him (2015 – Present).” All-New Captain America: Fear Him (2015. Marvel, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
- Helvie, Forrest C. “Miles Morales Moves to the Marvel Universe in Spider-Man.” Miles Morales Moves to the Marvel Universe in Spider-Man. Marvel, 17 Aug. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
- Neiwert, David. “Conservatives Freak Out When Black ‘Captain America’ Takes On Extremist Border Vigilantes.” RSS. Crooks and Liars, 21 Oct. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
- Opam, Kwame. “Marvel Is Replacing Steve Rogers with the New, Black Captain America.” The Verge. The Verge, 16 July 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
- Sacks, Ethan. “Spider-Man Miles Morales — popular biracial version of the hero — joins main Marvel comics universe this fall.” Daily News. 21 June 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
What do you think? Leave a comment.