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Friday, June 27, 2014 

Superheroes and co-stars getting their racial backgrounds changed for sake of diversity

The Guardian Liberty Voice wrote about the current obsession mainstream publishers have with changing the racial backgrounds of long established characters, with DC possibly being more obsessed than Marvel:
There is a new trend in the comic book industry, changing certain character’s races, and it is quite divisive. While some praise these changes as progressive others call them racist. The most current and infamous example of a comic book character’s race being changed is Johnny Storm in Fox’s upcoming reboot of The Fantastic Four. It was recently announced that popular and acclaimed actor Michael B. Jordan, perhaps best known for his role in Chronicle, has been officially cast in the roll of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. There was an immediate outcry, claiming that Fox cast Jordan merely to make an inauthentic attempt at diversity. Others came to Fox’s defense saying that Jordan was a good choice to play the brash and overconfident hero and that if he played the part right, his skin color would be irrelevant.
In fairness, if a movie's doing it, that's one thing. It's only when these changes on the silver screen are forced into the original comics proper that it becomes ridiculous, and this could be what the detractors mean by racist acts: they're insulting whites, acting as though it was wrong to create the heroes in question as white to begin with. Or, they're going the cheapskate route by refusing to create new protagonists instead of changing the racial makeup of already existing ones. There's even cases in the past decade of putting minorities in the costumes of existing characters without even giving the established heroes and co-stars respectable sendoffs, as seen during Identity Crisis, and they act as though we should care more about the costume than the characters who wore them.
Other than his frequent arrogance and happy-go-lucky attitude, Johnny Storm has another defining characteristic, his relationship with his sister Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman. Fans wondered if Jordan’s casting would mean that Fox would cast a black actress to portray Johnny’s sister. After all as long as the two are close siblings on a four piece super hero team, there is nothing in their history or characterization that dictates they must be white. Then Fox confused just about everybody and cast Kate Mara as Sue Storm. The pair could still easily be siblings in the new film, but it will take extra and added exposition to explain whether one of them is adopted or the two are half/step siblings. Many fans see this as unnecessary and also as evidence that Fox was merely meeting some sort of diversity quota.
Maybe there's nothing in their past history dictating they must be white, but is there anything wrong with their being created as such? Were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby wrong to make them white back in the day? That's what modern liberals seem to think.
Some fans and even writers see this as patronizing and racist in and of itself, while others still defend it as necessary progression. Perturbed fans question why change a comic character who has had a certain appearance and race for over half a century. If there is a lack of diversity in comic books then the writers and comic companies should create more characters with diverse ethnic backgrounds. These secondary versions of comic characters with swapped racial backgrounds have been viewed as insulting to minorities, as if they are given the scraps of older characters instead of new and unique characters. DC comics has recently ignited a similar controversy within the fan community with a simple cameo.
Indeed, they have a point: by transforming famous and established heroes into different racial backgrounds, all they're doing is insulting the intellect of minorities by acting as though they think minorities literally have no objections to anything the big two will do with their veteran casts. And yes, that is racist. Now, about that cameo they speak of:
The character of Wally West recently made his first appearance since DC restarted their universe in 2011 with the new 52. In the new DC universe many characters had been updated or changed, some to update origins and back stories to fit modern readers and others allegedly to fit another diversity quota. Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern, is now homosexual, many Batman characters had their back stories condensed, and government official Amanda Waller was slimmed down and sexualized. Among these and many other small changes the New 52 was fairly hit and miss with fans, some changes eventually warmed up to, others still derided. Now with Wally West fans may have released their outrage too soon. The classic Wally West that fans know is the nephew of Barry Allen, The Flash.

Wally becomes Kid Flash and eventually The Flash himself. Wally spent several decades as an affable, goofy red-head, but in his premiere New 52 appearance he is shown as a teenager being released from police custody with a smirk on his face who also happens to be black. Many fans had been awaiting Wally’s return to comics after the reboot and were disappointed to see Wally’s first panel be completely out of character. However Wally has only appeared in this first panel so far, so there is no assurance that anything other than his skin color has changed. Still fans say that if DC wanted a black teen character with a criminal record they could have created a new character instead of changing the race of an existing one and left Wally to exist alongside the new potential comic book hero or villain.
I'm not sure if they were clear enough here, but if comic buffs critical of the Fantastic Four movie reboot lodged their complaints about movies like that, they should've saved them for what's going on back in the comics. Yes, Wally being turned into a minority all for the sake of it is incredibly contrived, though any Flash fans who were hoping (begging?) for Wally to be reinstated shouldn't have waited around with Dan DiDio still lurking in the background. If this new take on Wally West really does make him into a juvenile delinquent, that too can count as another mistake: forcible character flaws that could ultimately turn out to be superfluous, and make it harder to buy him as somebody fit to be a hero. Unfortunately, they screw up with the following:
It is true that comics are largely populated by white heroes, and many of those heroes who are not of the Caucasian persuasion are aliens. however it is also true that new non-white characters have been created to great success in recent years. Marvel recently began the newest Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American girl who deals with many modern issues that Muslims in America really face.
Sigh. I'm afraid the Ms. Marvel issue is a flaw of an entirely different type. Let us be clear: this isn't a matter of race here, but rather, of ideology, with the editors bent on promoting one that's harmful to women and acting as though the problem isn't there. They also depicted white Americans very loathsomely, leaving one to wonder if the newspaper thinks anti-Americanism or anti-white discrimination is legitimate despite all they've said.
The former Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, had recently assumed the name Captain Marvel so she is still a large part of the Marvel universe. Kamala particularly looked up to Carol and when she discovers her unique set of powers she decides to adopt Danvers’ old moniker. DC comics has had success creating a new Green Lantern in the Arab American Simon Baz who sports a unique look from the other Green Lanterns and adds to their ranks rather than replacing one of them. Comic books are a place where anything can happen and anything can be changed back even with in one issue. Many characters have existed for over half a century necessitating change from time to time. Whether or not changing the race of a comic book character is acceptable as one of those updates is still up for debate. Many of the most controversial changes are very recent or not even fully realized yet. Comic books and comic book movies are famous for inciting knee jerk reactions to what eventually ends up being an accepted and well-loved product, so fans will just have to wait and see the results of any changes to their favorite characters.
Wow, what "success" has DC had, seriously? Sales have been dismal, and the GL story went for some of the easiest conclusions. If they'd refrained from getting into religious issues and not acted as though it were impossible to do without them, they could've had something going there. Instead, those involved acted very cynically, forcing their political/religious beliefs down the throats of the public. They're correct that both comics and movies are famous notorious for infuriarating people by taking insulting steps that could've been avoided. They're wrong that all these "products" end up accepted. Has Spider-Man been accepted and well-loved since One More Day? Nope. So why should they assume each and every alteration instantly becomes accepted?

As for "change", it has to be consistent with what's come before, and that's not what today's editors and writers are doing. Possibly worse than the pointless changes in a character's race is the changes made to their personalities - if they have any at all - turning established characters into people who could care more about villains than innocents. And that's not how you appeal to an audience that appreciates coherency and intelligence.

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Race-lifting has become a horrible trend in comics and other media today. And what they did to Nick Fury just goes to show you that the current people who run the comics will bend over backwards for the sake of matching the movie or TV show or "diversity." (They recently gave Nick Fury a long lost black son, gouged his eye out, had him shave his head, and "revealed his name is Nick Fury Jr who just so happens to look exactly like Samuel L. Jackson. Brevoort then said it was for diversity and the old Nick Fury wasn't going anywhere. As of then he has been hardly used and the new one is everywhere. Worse, recently they even depowered old Fury and aged him into an old man.).

What ever happened to diversity of thought? Wally West used to be a CONSERVATIVE mechanic from the Midwest. Now they changed his race, which spits on the Carmine Infantino's contribution as cocreator of the character. Comics are a visual medium and changing classic characters like this is unbelievably moronic.

Part of what made Wally interesting was that he was a conservative midwestern boy. In the Titans they did a story that demonized conservatives a bit. But in the end it was Hawk who got dumped on as a token conservative and became a tooth-gnashing savage. Turning Wally into what they've turned him into actually detracts from the diversity of the DC Universe, because there weren't that many Normal Rockwell type characters left at DC. Twisting him to suit an artificial diversity experiment does not show tolerance - it shows how little cultural identity means to DC.

Remember back when putting characters in blackface was considered a bad thing?

This, too, shall pass, and in a few decades, this will be looked at much like the blaxsploitation of the 70s is today.

And, frankly, the New 52 was irredeemable long before they decided to put Wally West in blackface.

In the Silver and Bronze Ages, when DC and Marvel wanted to promote diversity, they created new characters: Falcon, Black Panther, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, John Stewart. Today's "creators" are parasites who can't come up with any original characters or concepts. Their stories are just minor variations on Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths, and they make arbitrary changes in existing characters instead of creating new ones.

Instead of changing characters that people love why not make new characters? It seems like a cheap way to drum attention to the product while slapping true fans in the face. Writers also have characters they can work with for example look at the growth of Luke Cage over the past few years.

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