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Monday, April 27, 2015 

Being minor in lore does NOT make it okay to change a character's race

A case just turned up of a writer for Reaxxion falling into the trap of using rank status as justification for political correctness. He argues against comic creators changing characters' races:
DC Comics is one of the biggest offenders. The new 52, which is mostly awful sans a few exceptions like Aquaman, shows that DC is trying to be hip and appeal to the young’uns. This strategy would work if it weren’t for the fact that the younger crowd doesn’t read DC Comics, because they’re too caught up in the “Disney-fied” cartoon Avengers to care. It also doesn’t help to alienate your loyal fan base with gimmick-filled promotions and character arcs.
Yes, DC's a pretty big offender, though changing races of superheroes and co-stars is just the iceberg's tip. But it's foolish to say Aquaman's any good now, especially after all the terrible ideas Geoff Johns stuffed in.

And more unfortunate still, the writer succumbs to PC in the following:
So when is race-bending acceptable? When does it work?

I think one good example of race-bending working is with the CW’s recent show The Flash. Iris West was originally a white woman, but was changed into a black woman in the finished show, with the comics following suit. Now, as a lover of white women this should upset me, but it doesn’t. Why? Because Iris West simply isn’t that big of a character in superhero lore. This isn’t Lois Lane, Black Widow or Wonder Woman, it’s the woman that most of you forgot was the wife of the Flash until I just mentioned her.
No...no...no. This is exactly the kind of mentality that led to Identity Crisis. Because a character happens to sport a minor status and is presumably white, this somehow makes it okay to kill, maim, or worse yet, to rape them? That's wrong, and it's no justification whatsoever for wiping out Jane Foster, Karen Page, Stevie Hunter, Lynn-Stewart Pierce and Carol Ferris either. Sure, I'll admit race alteration is nowhere nearly as bad as enacting violence against an otherwise innocent, law-abiding co-star character. But it's still ridiculous to suggest minor characters are automatically sacrificial lambs, and what if Flash were far more popular that what the Reaxxion writer's suggesting? I think he'd be singing a way different tune. He fell into the trap of basing judgement on recognizability rather than quality of scriptwriting and how the cast are used this way.

It's funny he's citing Black Widow, because, despite her role in the Avengers films, she's a pretty minor superheroine herself, and could just as easily had her own race changed in the comics proper if Marvel wanted to.

But how interesting to learn Iris West's been altered back in the comics as much as on TV. I don't think even Perry White's race has been changed like in this situation after the Man of Steel movie...yet. For now, turning Iris black has only further rendered the Flash comics all the more unrecognizable from how it began, and compounds DC's own artistic bankruptcy.

And I say all this from the viewpoint of somebody who's come to appreciate third-tier characters in superhero books far more in the past decade than ever before, ditto the notable writers and artists who went to such pains to craft them in the first place. The Reaxxion writer's only done a disfavor to the many hard-working creators of yore who deserve much more gratitude than what he gave them with his op-ed.

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Yet another case of stumbling just before the goal line.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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