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.

Avengers Now (New Superheroes)
Avengers Now (New Superheroes)

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.

Sam Wilson (Then and Now)
Sam Wilson (Then and Now)

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).

Sam Wilson as Captain American: Fear Him (Issue 3)
Sam Wilson as Captain American: Fear Him (Issue 3)

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

Miles Morales (Spider-Man)
Miles Morales (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?

A-Force (All Female Avengers Cast)
A-Force (All Female Avengers Cast)

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.

Works Cited

  1. “All-New Captain America: Fear Him (2015 – Present).” All-New Captain America: Fear Him (2015. Marvel, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Opam, Kwame. “Marvel Is Replacing Steve Rogers with the New, Black Captain America.” The Verge. The Verge, 16 July 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
  5. 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.

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  1. I find it refreshing to have a black Captain America, a female Thor and a Latino/Black Spider-man.

  2. Jeromy Lauer

    It’s still all about money, so they don’t want to take any risks. New superheroes, whether white, male, black, female, orange, transgender or any combination of any point of contention you can think of, have a pretty high failure rate anymore.

  3. Making the Falcon the new Captain America rather than Steve Rogers is a prime example as is making Alan Scott younger and gay as the Green Lantern.

  4. Most of us that have collected and read comics since the silver age or before have long been tired of the lack of creativity of the comics in recent years.

  5. Munjeera

    An example of an unusual casting in terms of ethnicity is Arnold. He was not the first choice to play Terminator due to his lack of English skills. Yet his iconic one-liners have become part of our language. Ironic isn’t it?

    If the storylines are compelling, the characters complex and the dialogue true to the role and witty, then I am all for it. One day may all roles be race and gender neutral.

  6. I think the chief reason for these phenomenons is the fear of failure; while Marvel knows that more diverse characters can draw more readers, they are afraid that creating completely new characters may not interest them. So the safest way (in their mind, I imagine) to create “diversity” in their comics is to replace pre-existing superheroes with characters with different gender/ethnicity.

  7. The only issue I had with the female Thor announcement was simply in calling her “Thor.” Thor isn’t a mantle like Captain America or Spider-Man but literally the character’s name, so it’s odd for someone else, male or female, to just take his name. I have no problems with allowing her to wield Mjolnir and “possess the power of Thor,” as the inscription says. (Yes, it also says “if HE be worthy,” but that’s just semantics.)

    • Actually it kinda is. We’ve just been retconning it not to be. Donald Blake had to have been Thor all along etc. But we’ve had them separated since then and even now I feel like Marvel was too chicken to make Jane be Thor’s legit alternate identity because that would have been a pretty interesting story but then there would be all this backlash about Thor changing sex.

    • Dovahkiin

      I agree with you, it’s weird if “Thor” became mantle like that, also Thor is deity from norse and he is male. Not only change his gender marvel also make Thor unworthy and that sucks, if they made woman version of thor at least don’t make thor unworthy and lost his name, woman version of Thor really disgust me…

  8. Good actors in well written roles is all that matters to me.

  9. Leopoldo

    We need to stop clinging to things like this and mentalities such as this.

  10. A well written article, much better than some of the others that have been up recently on this topic on other sites.

  11. I’m not going to lie, it is annoying when the alterations affect heroes you’ve read for a while, but I either continue reading that same hero and become intrigued with their new twist or addition.

  12. I love to read comics, and so when Marvel and/or DC decide to alter characters or heroes, I just go with it.

  13. Making new heroes, regardless of their race or gender is very difficult. Marvel and DC have tried to introduce new characters over the years and it’s very hit or miss (mostly miss). Many of these characters were relegated to cameo’s in popular comics. There are lots of heroes just sitting around in limbo waiting for the next team comic/crossover/miniseries.

  14. It’s entirely possible to like Steve Rogers as a character, and to recognize that not just anybody can be Captain America. Many have tried, very few have come close to doing as well as Steve. If you had to give the role to someone else in the name of diversity, Sam WIlson is about the best option out there (or possibly Lemar Hoskins a.k.a. Battlestar), but I’m still not buying it. Between the powers (such as they are, it’s a matter of debate, but I figure Steve is at peak non-superhuman potential), the training and experience, and the sheer history in the role, Sam Wilson is no Steve Rogers.

    • skinner

      Definitely agree. Here’s what I would propose to Marvel instead. Steve Rogers knows he can’t be Captain America forever — he’s not immortal — so he wants to train others to carry on after him. Not just one successor, multiple, of many diverse backgrounds. That approach even carries a meta-message about comics themselves.

  15. Nice read.

  16. Marvel can change their comic characters as they like.

    • ComicsMaster

      But they made their characters sucking the process. There was nothing wrong with the original characters. I see it this way if we are all supposed to be equal then why change it. They are basically saying the originals aren’t good because they are either white or they’re men

    • As long as it’s not making female characters male, or minority characters white…

  17. I haven’t read comics since the era of Mr Natural and Fat Freddy’s cat, having been thru an earlier phase involving Superboy, Batman and some now-banned horror pages. So this recent/current parade of characters and the transformations of them are curiosities. Just a couple of quick thoughts.

  18. I would never agree with a gender or sex swap for a character.

  19. Tatijana

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it on this article too. I really think we need new characters with different genders and ethnicity. I don’t think we need to throw out one identity and force someone else into it. I also understand why they are doing it, which is to have a fanbase carried over, but I think it can be done in a different way. For example, the female versions could be daughters of the male characters so they can still have a role and a structure to follow but be their own people. And they don’t necessarily need to have the same names as the old characters. And I think we could see some “passing the torch stories.” Like the spiderman one you mentioned. Or even old age forcing a hero to retire and train someone new, but again… they can have their own names and identities, but could retain some teachings/morals/ideas from whatever character they are replacing. And honestly, I think coexisting with another big shot character really aids in giving street cred for a while, sooo.. make use of some awesome teamups with some new characters!

  20. Fictional characters. Fictional origins. Created in a very different time for a very different population and demographic.

  21. Pok Snell

    Great job covering all the different angles of this topic.

  22. Lon Dunbar

    Personally, I think I’ll launch a comic that depicts Jesus as an Asian woman, returning to preach her gospel. She’ll be sexually promiscuous and lesbian.

  23. What makes the difference for me is whether or not the change adds something to the story. I couldn’t give a monkeys what gender or race characters are, but like a lot of people I just plain don’t like things changing, unless it seems like a good idea.

    In the Battlestar Galactica reboot, they took Starbuck and Boomer – both male in the original -and turned them into female characters. It wasn’t just a flip to add a little bit more gender diversity though (they actually left out many of the two-dimensional female characters from the original), they actually did interesting things with the characters that wouldn’t have been possible (or at least, wouldn’t have been as easy) if the characters had stayed as they were. The Apollo/Starbuck/Adama dynamic works because Kara is a surrogate daughter/sister – if a male Starbuck had been engaged to Apollo’s sister, they probably wouldn’t have absorbed him into the family in quite the same way. The Boomer/Athena/Helo/Tyrol storyline wouldn’t have worked if Boomer was male, and Helo and Tyrol need to be the male archetypes that they are. They also reversed diversity at times as well – they made Colonel Tigh white (he’s black in the original), which works better, because it taps into the audience’s expectations/assumptions about angry drunk white guys.

    With a black Peter Parker on the other hand, changing the race doesn’t (seem to) add all that much to the story. Sure, it’s a check mark in the diversity box, but if he’s exactly the same (just black), all you’re doing is correcting the errors of the past, not taking a step forward. Marvel has a black Spider-Man, and Miles Morales is a character whose ethnicity is integral to his character. If you want to make Spider-Man more relatable to minorities, use the character who the comics designed for that purpose. A black Peter Parker might be a little bit more diverse, but having two versions of Spider-Man side by side, so that you can actually see the differences that their ethnicities and backgrounds make, is buttloads better.

    The race changes in Supergirl look interesting. Their version of Hank Henshaw seems to differ somewhat from the comics, and David Harewood has experience playing that sort of character before, and there are different stereotypes for “gruff black commanding officer” than “gruff white commanding officer”, so that seems like a smart move. Having an “effortlessly cool” James Olsen seems to be playing into stereotypes/expectations as well – stereotypes aren’t always bad, they make it easier for the audience to grasp what the character is about, so you don’t have to spend as much time explaining things. Having a black Iris West instead of a white Iris West on The Flash gave them the opportunity to cast Jesse L Martin as her father: that whole family dynamic is interesting and new, and is also potentially a little similar to Fantastic Four as well – white kid adopted into a black family with one “sibling” and an authoritative father figure – and so if FF manages to echo that in any way, it could all work out great.

    • I agree with your assessment, in that if the change contributes significantly to the story, then it is worth making the change. Otherwise, in my opinion, altering archetypal symbols seems artificial and fabricated. Not sure if my point is clear, but it almost seems like a well established figure becomes stamped into our psyche and changing it ‘willy nilly’ creates some cognitive dissonance. Therefore making a change should be done with care and well thought out reasoning.

  24. Creating new heroes is very much a hit or miss with misses being far more prevalent than hits. So changing existing heroes in a more or less logical way is easier and more likely to success.

  25. I am pro-changes. They can explore storylines beyond those typical of the white males who dominate the industry. Besides, it’s not like changing characters is new.

  26. I’m against changing current character’s race/gender. I’m all for race/gender diversity (being an Asian American myself). I understand in these modern times that people of ethnicity want representation in…well, everything. What I don’t like is that these companies are taking the easy road and simply changing characters that they think aren’t as popular.

  27. Bergstrom

    I bet the only reason they have minority legacy characters of popular superheroes is because introducing new minority superheroes by themselves is very risky because of low popularity readership wise, and they need a more popular superhero (hence the legacy schtick) to use as a crutch to survive and make a profit.

  28. To me, Marvel “jumped the shark” a bit by casting Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. He’s a pop culture icon/movie star rather than an actor…his acting is atrocious in everything he’s ever done.

    • Lulu Shanks

      You clearly haven’t seen much of Samuel L. Jackson’s work.

    • Patrick Bateman

      In the comics a version of Nick Fury Based off Samuel Jackson was created in 2001 so it made a huge amount of sense to cast him in the movies. As far as his acting you seam to be even less informed. He’s not amazing but he’s far from atrocious. A Time To Kill is just one example of his acting abilities.

  29. A well said piece.

    We need to remember that comic book stories, and thus films, are similar to the science fiction genre: they require a suspension of reality. Things that do not exist do exist; natural laws, e.g., gravity, may not be universally true in all instances, in all places. Having said this, to exclaim that a “mutant” human who can control the weather, control electricity, become a flaming torch, iceman, etc., *ought* be a poster-character for diversity is, bluntly, making a socio-political issue out of what at least originally was simply good adventure/action stories. Sometimes the issue of race, ethnicity, gender, etc., only becomes an “issue” when someone makes it so. I understand some disagree, but if one carries out the premise (generally, that it’s a white, male world) out to its logical conclusion, then everything, everyone, is “discriminatory.” Of course, to rectify the discrimination (imagine reversing, as it were, everyones gender and race) would result in….the very same thing with all roles reversed. White, males would be the minority living in the racist world.

    So, it is rather pointless to reinvent the past. Perhaps a focus upon the future makes more sense. Certainly, there are good reasons to re-explore some Marvel characters from a different ethnic perspective if – and this is rather important, I believe – if the intent is to view the character’s development and storyline from that different perspective. Ultimately, the result would be an entirely different character. Or maybe not? That would be the exciting thing to see. What I believe would be a mistake, though, is to re-explore characters simply for the sake of “being diverse”. That’s just like making Thor a female and saying Odin had a girl instead of boy but otherwise, all things were equal. Honestly, what would be the point? Better to bring in Fjörgyn (Fjǭrgynn) as a new character, Thor’s kick-butt mother. Win for grrls, motherhood, and requiring no change to the Norse pantheon.

    Put another way, if Marvel or the public wishes for non-white, non-male characters, then, respectively, create them and demand them. Why reinvent characters who already exist? It seems lazy, at least, and perhaps a bit unfair to the original writers (and characters) too, if not disingenuous to the issue of diversity itself (actually creating conflict, in my opinion).

    After all, it seems a black character, an Asian, etc., should be able to become a superhero, mutant, evil villain, etc., all in his/her/its own right and by his/her/its own birth, upbringing, etc. Certainly there is room in the Marvel Universe for brand new characters.

    [As an aside, a “Caucasian” is one from the Caucasus region; it has been used erroneously for many years to designate “White” which is the proper identifier. No need to perpetuate mistaken word usage 🙂 ]

  30. I find it refreshing to have a black Captain America, a female Thor and a Latino/Black Spider-man.

  31. Jacque Venus Tobias

    It is wonderful to see the progression of transition in this community. The subculture of comic readers who merge their identity into their favorite superhero has been longstanding. Now this subculture is emerging, exploring and expanding its reaches. Our world looks brighter when we have openness and acceptance in this subculture which can be a platform for how the mainstream can alter its perceptions in the various versions of superheroes.

    Thank you SCOLE for this article and all the lovely comments that are flowing your way.

  32. I can’t speak for the ladies and female Thor but there is a contingent of black people who are upset about the changes because it’s marvel taking traditionally black heroes and erasing them. They’ve essentially killed off Falcon by making him Captain America. Personally I’m not interested in black spider-man what I’m interested in is Marvel investing in the black characters they DO have. Like rather than making Thor a woman I’d personally rather than make a woman character and just give her the hammer and let her stand on her own name.

    If they can pull nobodies like Iron Man who was C-List before the films or randos like Guardians of the Galaxy and make them household names. Rather than trying to make their headline white dude heroes not white dudes. How about they bring up some of their actually black characters like say making Luke Cage pop (and I’m eagerly anticipating his Netflix debut). Same with DC.

    For all the Spider-Man movies we have.. THREE reboots. Why can’t we get Static Shock to the screen. I’m tired of Spider-Man and honestly New York in general. I would kill to see Static back on the air. He’s basically the same hero but black. Rather than making Spider-Man black I’d like to see the comic book industry push for more Static.

  33. This article attempts to cover a lot of ground. Scole uses the new Captain America as a starting point for a broader conversation about gender and ethnicity in Marvel comic books, and that would make a better topic for a thesis than for an article. The author understands the Marvel universe, but a nuanced discourse about gender and ethnicity simply isn’t here.

    Scole’s posting would benefit a lot from a narrower focus, and more substantive research on gender and ethnicity – Marvel’s move to incorporate super heroes of differing race into their main canon certainly addresses longstanding ideas like double consciousness. Also, more diverse word choice would strengthen this piece and make the writing more precise.

    Furthermore, Scole needs to back up his claims. For instance, when he talks about the opinions and desires of millennial readers, “As a generation, the millennials are less likely to just accept things that do not make sense, they were not brought up that way,” he needs to prove his generalization. Otherwise, he wrongfully assumes the reading experience is universal.

  34. I feel like people get quite anal over such changes and argue that Marvel is doing it solely to be more PC, but I think it’ll be a refreshing adaptation. It should be no different from switching an actor to play the new Batman or Superman. Every actor/actress that assumes these iconic roles bring something new to the table. So I fail to see how ethnicity and gender are a problem?

  35. Kevin Mohammed

    Regardless of how different the film may be from the comic, I still plan on going to see this film. I don’t plan to go and see a film adaptation of a comic, I go to see a new original story and what the production has in store for me! ^_^

  36. I must admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Marvel’s swapping of heroes with new secret identities that are more racially/ethnically/gender diverse. The one thing that screams at me, however, is that it almost seems like a backhanded compliment. By creating an African-American Cap, a female Thor, or a half-African-American/half-Hispanic-American Spider-Man, isn’t the underlying message: “Well, you groups have no big-name heroes of your own, so, here, we’ll give you these white guy heroes to take their place.”? There really hasn’t been a popular, mainstream superhero introduced in nearly forty years. I’d like to see some new, original heroes emerge from these various groups; preferably ones whose powers and back-stories have some direct connection to the issues being faced by these respective groups. I realize that after 75 years of superheroes, new ideas are difficult; but there is some amazing talent right now at both Marvel and DC. I have faith they can do it.

  37. Here are my issues with people changing characters to adhere and adjust to our “diversified” world:

    It is forced, unnatural, incongruent, pointless, and lazy.

    However, my main “beef” with it, above all creative context, facets, and thought, is that as a reader, a kid, teenager,an adult, I developed a relationship, I grew up with Thor, with the Avengers, with Spidey and Cap.

    To change their race or gender is offensive and the offense isn’t about race or gender; it’s about character. These people attacked my friend. They changed him or her into someone very different from the person I grew up with.

    They changed MY relationship.

    I have no problem with any race or gender and I’d gladly read or watch a character with whichever ones you chose so long as the character as a whole is compelling or entertaining. The problem lately, with these characters (or changes to them), is that their race or gender IS their identity. Race and gender IS their overall most prominent and important character trait.

    I am half Mexican and half European mutt but if you ask me who I am, I would not say “Mexican” or “white.” I would say “creative, sarcastic, passionate, historical, naive, witty, romantic, oblivious, hungry and tired.” I happen to be half Latino and am proud to be such but my race is not who I am. Too often today have the minds behind entertainment and art made the shortcut to character development and intrigue by slapping a race or gender to one and calling it “diversity.”

    The mere fact this article was written highlights how forcibly diversified society is. I am not saying diversification is a bad thing whatsoever, but to force it? that in my mind, raises drama and racist dialogue, demeans character, and cheapens the quality of an entertaining fictional universe that was already rich with a storied history so people can claim they are diverse themselves as opposed to naturally forming progressive conversation and social equality.

    /end rant

  38. Great article though. Very well written. Although, one tiny thing, you spent a long time on race but when you got to gender, it felt like you sped on through and rushed it.

  39. Great article.

  40. It’s a tough pickle. It’s easy to say to create new characters. The problem with this is marvel no longer owns their characters. Production companies do now. Fox, Disney, Sony, etc. so if Marvel were to create any new characters, these companies automatically own their movie rights and can do anything they want with the character. This is the reason why you haven’t seen any new xmen in comics since before the second movie. The writers are told not to create new characters. I read an interesting article about Cris Claremont on this subject. Google it.

  41. Nephanor of Fraal

    Interesting that in talking about Miles Morales, they completely missed the story where part of his suit ripped and someone noticed he wasn’t white. They person made a video online going on raving about diversity and how it’s so great to have a “black spiderman” and all that. Miles was actually peeved off, saying he didn’t want to be known as “black spiderman” but as Spiderman. He wasn’t impressed with the fetishizing of him because of his skin color. This was actually the closest that Marvel has come to the realization of the truth.

    Then we have FemmeThor, where they actually had a villain NOT fight her because she was a woman, and stop their own partner from speaking. This was quite literally cramming the “pro-woman” crap down the throats of the readers. Pissing on your fan base because they don’t like what you have done is not very smart. And in the end, it just turned out to be Jane, AGAIN taking up the hammer. Guess what people cheering Femme Thor, it’s not the first time it’s happened! And it was handled better then that before!

    Then we have The new Cap. Hey, once again, Falcon takes the mantle of Cap. Not a new story.

    People calling this trend revolutionary or progressive are forgetting most of this has been done before, and done better. They are just not versed in the history of the characters. It’s too bad that the past accomplishments of comics have to be erased, JUST so someone can say an old idea is new.

    The truth is, as Miles Morales was trying to say, this fetishization of things we cannot change (race, gender, sexual orientation) has become a terrible thing of modern society. People are more concerned with things that you CAN’T change than things you CAN change. Who cares if Spiderman is black? Who cares if Thor is a woman? Who cares if a character is gay? Is the character good? Is it believable? It is relatable? If not, then all the check marks in the boxes of diversity mean nothing. It’s just a wasted opportunity. If all you care about is skin color of a character, then you are racist. If all you care about is gender of the character then you are sexist. And people running around cheering for these characters because of those features without actually seeing is the character good, is the story good, are the ones who end up ruining comics. If you are sold crap stories and you buy it because you want to support diversity, you are still supporting crap stories. And that just tells the writers that crap stories sell. And if you buy crap, you have NO RIGHT to complain when you don’t get the good stories like others do. You wanted crap, you got it.

  42. Doug Mccomb

    Even this article is slanted. The phrasing gives the viewpoint away. Diversity means less white people, it’s that simple. It’s genocide. Kill all the white male comic book characters you want, but we’re still the majority in this country, but we’re not going anywhere.

  43. Kevin Pecoraro

    I was a huge fan of the comic superheroes in my youth. I loved the good vs. evil. There were so many heroes defined in my generation.
    Although, I do not purchase or read comics today, I have an impenetrable view of my heroes.
    Personally, I think that the new heroes of different gender or background deserve amazing response based on the offering. However
    The new hero’s should be celebrated.
    The hero’s of my childhood were sacrosanct.
    I am actually open the trolls and hatemail.
    I may be old, but love our classic characters.

  44. I like Falcon, I like Cap, so i don’t see the need to make Falcon Cap. One thing i liked about Falcon was the fact that he was his own character not some half-assed version of Cap. I think its done for the money, people may say its refreshing but is it? Its Falcon as Cap. Its a change of name and the whole ‘living up to your predecessor thing’ Id rather see Falcon get a side kick and see how he reacts to that, see him compare his adventures with Cap and himself to him and now his sidekick

  45. From the perspective of a chicano comic book fan, I think these are welcome changes. It is very gratifying to see such diverse representation in the comic book world.
    Let me reiterate. I’ve loved comic books and the heroes I’d read about since I was a kid. I had no issues with almost all of them being caucasian, but I did always wonder why there were so few heroes of color. I think Marvel is beginning to set up a roster of heroes in comics that a new generation can pick up of the shelf and say, “look, he’s like me. He’s doing great things.”
    I firmly believe that this representation will give countless of POC the opportunity to relate to heroes doing great things; to see that their culture is being represented in what is arguably a timeless medium.
    Whether or not they should be replacing caucasian heroes with heroes of color is debatable. It could be taking away from the story of the character. However, taking into the consideration the popularity of the characters being changed (i.e. Captain America and Spider-Man), it’s understandable that Marvel is seeking to make a bigger impact by changing top-selling characters and appealing to a wider fanbase.

    The theme behind most superheroes is that anyone can wear the mask, do great things, save lives, and make a difference in the world. It’s about being relatable. It’s always been implied that anyone, regardless of gender or ethnicity, can wear the mask, but actually seeing it played out is a beautiful step forward in equality and representation.

  46. Patrick Bateman

    To me super heroes are more than just a costume and a name. They have distinct personalities and backstories. When you kill one and replace them with someone else regardless of race or sex the character that I loved is dead. If every member of a band gets replaced and the music sounds different keeping the old band name doesn’t make me like the new band. When we elect a new president I don’t feel the same way about him/her that I did about previous ones. If my best friend gets replaced by a stranger with the same name and cloths but a different personality and history then my friend is gone. Make new characters instead of killing old ones. I fully support a more diverse group of comic book characters so people of all races can have someone to look up to etc. but the characters I have loved for more than thirty years are slowly being killed. I guess I’m a bigger fan of Peter Parker than Spiderman. I mostly hated the X-Men movies because the characters were so different from the ones I care about that I have a hard time regarding them as X-Men movies. I feel the same way when a caucasian character gets replaced by a different caucasian. Bruce Wayne is Batman because when he was a child he watched his parents killed by a mugger not because he wears a bat costume. His experiences gave him a distinct personality that no one of any race or sex could replace. R.I.P. Peter Parker.

  47. Sabretruthtiger

    This is what Marvel’s masters, the central banking oligarchy hope to achieve.


  48. It’s funny how no one complains when it’s a white male switching out for another white male like with Captain America and Bucky, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, all the different Supermen, and so on…TRUE STORY.

  49. There is this obsession of killing off every white male superhero and making them either a woman, or minority. It’s one thing to do it to one, or 2. But seriously, it’s become 90% of them.

  50. This would be contra Stan Lee, who preferred to have new superheroes to represent non-majority demographics.

  51. Tired of the Bull

    This “Black Washing” is nothing more than a slap in the face to both Black and White people. I agree with the guy who cried for more Static Shock !! I remember watching Static Shock cartoons and though wow this is cool. and @Patrick Bateman is right. you kill off Peter Parker and Spiderman is dead. same with all the superheros. Tony Stark dies in the movie … Iron man is dead. regardless if the OG iron man was black. You kill them and we stop buying the BS thats how TRUE fans are. just look at Freddy… they tried to replace Robert with Jackie … Nope. granted he was darker and had more jump scares but you can not replace Robert… his Spirit Animal is Freddy ! so paint everything I grew up knowing black … I dont mind keeping my money.

  52. I’m still waiting for a Shadowhawk movie. I mean he’s a great Image comics character created in the early 90s that hits a lot of the diversity buttons. He’s basically Batman, Wolverine, and Black Panther tossed into one character. He’s an HIV positive black man (infected with HIV from tainted blood after being brutalized in a crime). It was one of my favorite comics growing up, but most people have never heard of him.

    This is why Marvel’s constant gender and ethnicity swaps piss me (and a good portion of their fandom) off so much. There are so many fantastic characters out there of all genders and ethnicities, but they insist on changing certain core characters because corporate executives lack imagination and feel the need to be political. I love having diverse casts of characters, but it just feels insulting and forced the way they do it. A good example of feeling forced is the whole female superhero power pose during the battle in End Game. I think it’s insulting to women and viewers. It’s as if they can’t be strong characters without making it some big political statement, and viewers can’t get the point of normalizing diversity without having it overly exaggerated. It’s annoying.

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