UK Telegraph joins the anti-white superhero bandwagon
Somewhere, a white, middle-aged man is writing an angry blog post about how his childhood has been ruined by the decision of Marvel Comics to reinvent Spider-Man as a mixed-race teenager.No, we're just disappointed that they've decided to depose of Peter Parker as the main Spidey, all for the sake of diversity at all costs, without genuinely good writing to accompany the new direction.
Marvel is in the middle of one of its periodic spring cleans, and has decided all these different universes are too confusing. Through a cross-title summer event called Secret Wars they are folding these parallel worlds into each other to create one crisp, clean Marvel Universe, in which there will only be one Spidey - and the job goes to Miles Morales."Conservative"? Anybody who uses a microscope knows that even long before this time, comic book readers could be anything but conservative. There have been plenty of liberals throughout the ages, both in writing staffs and audience alike.
Now, comics readers can sometimes be a conservative lot, and they often don't like change... especially when they perceive it is in the pursuit of political correctness. And retiring Peter Parker after 53 (real-life years) of web-slinging service might just be the last straw after a slew of reboots aimed at bringing comics more up to date.
The part about Secret Wars reminds me of the defenses for discarding the parallel worlds of DC before Crisis on Infinite Earths. The writer misses the fact that originally in 2000, the Ultimate line was planned to be separate from the flagship Marvel world, and only after a decade did they decide to drop even that much and start doing a few projects where some of the doppelgangers from both universes would start to meet up. The real reason they're canning the Ultimate line isn't because its existence in itself is confusing. It's because nobody cares anymore, thanks to lack of talented scripting, yet Marvel's decided to take what's left and shove it down people's throats anyway. Predictably, the Telegraph ignores those deeper issues and only cares about the diversity side. They also parrot what Salon wrote about Thor when they say:
Last July, Marvel outraged the fanboys by announcing that the hairy old hammer-wielding Norse god Thor was to be rebooted as a woman (the female version now outsells the old male version by 30 per cent). The steam had barely stopped coming out of ears when a couple of days later they said that the mantle of Captain America was going to be taken by black Sam Wilson, who had previously put in service as the Falcon.Man, they sure like to take easy paths, don't they, rather than do some in depth research of their own. That 30 percent doesn't mean anything if they don't give actual sales figures, which, last time I looked, only had about 86,000 copies sold, and since this is usually only sales going as far as the store, there's every chance some are gathering dust as we speak.
Marvel's main rival DC has also been doing its best to wind up the faithful fans, rebooting Batwoman as lesbian, introducing their first transgender character in the Batgirl series, and this summer launching a new comic starring Midnighter, who is gay and wears black leather.Yes, because that too is all they seem to care about, just LGBT, and not different ethnicities or nationalities. Their whole idea of diversity is very selective at worst.
Each fresh announcement comes with predictable bleating from mainly white, heterosexual men who claim that the new directions the characters are being taken in ride roughshod over decades of comic history, and inevitably someone will metaphorically fall to their knees, shake their fists at an uncaring politically correct universe and rage: "They're ruining my childhood!"And to the Telegraph's writer, the best response is, get a clue; it's all just publicity stunts with no enjoyable writing to accompany them. As for ruining childhoods, here's something they might want to ponder: back in 2004, DC and Marvel both published abominable miniseries and event books rife with sexism and just plain bad fanfiction writing (Identity Crisis, Avengers: Disassembled and even Spider-Man's Sins Past story) that summed up what mainstream superhero comicdom's become in the span of a decade. Those are even worse than changing a character's race, sexual orientation, gender, and goodness knows what else they've been going out of their way to do. But I guess that's all fine and dandy with the Telegraph writers, because ruining childhoods in those contexts is perfectly acceptable too. Including the elimination of the Spider-marriage, which predictably has long fallen off their list of topics for discussion, and which they never opposed to start with. Say, I wonder why they don't mention any white women, who might lament how their own childhoods could be ruined? Because if you look closely, you'll find examples, including some I mentioned, that soil even a fangirl's own childhood memories, no matter what race they belong to. If you know where to look, there's blacks and Latinos out there who think their own childhoods were destroyed too, but naturally, that means nothing to the knee-jerk buffoons at the Telegraph.
To which there is only one real response: get with the programme, because the times they are most certainly a-changing.
The problem is that people have got used to characters in comics remaining unchanged, not being tinkered with. Perhaps editors thought that they were too canonical; perhaps it just never occurred to the companies that they could actually do what they wanted with these properties they own. But in the past couple of years it does seem that someone had the bright idea of making these legions of superheroes a little more diverse.Which completely - and predictably - ignores almost every superhero and co-star who was diverse, and created as their own agency. Note how so far, though they do mention Falcon, they don't seem to consider Sam Wilson's very own role legitimate. Nor do they have any gratitude for the past writers who came up with heroes/co-stars of difference races. "Tinkered" is just the problem, and tampered sums up the situation too; as mentioned, they're doing it all without guarantee of talented writing, let alone artwork, some of which has gotten pretty crummy lately to boot.
To understand why superheroes are generally white male, we have to go back to their origins - not the spider-bites and nuclear accidents, but their real-world beginnings. Superman debuted in 1938, Batman a year later. They spring-boarded off the thrilling adventure tales of pulp fiction, radio serials, film noir. Those heroes were always white, always men, because that's how it was.It's just like them to insult Siegel and Shuster by implying that Superman was created as some kind of a nod to an Aryan ideology. And naturally, they can't be bothered to stress how Will Eisner's Sheena, was a precursor to the superheroines who came along during the 1940s, how Wonder Woman was the first famous lady heroine in DC's output, nor how Hawkgirl was the first female variant on a role originated by a male protagonist.
Even when Marvel brought its relatively progressive take on superheroes to a 1960s public in the throes of social upheaval, the comics were still produced by white men for a readership of largely young white males. Is it surprising that the characters mirrored the creative teams and the target market? Even America's most famous illegal immigrant, Superman, is a muscle-bound, corn-fed, lily-white paean to Nietzschean physical superiority.
But the demographic has shifted considerably since then. The male-dominated locker-room "bullpens" where comics were created have died out - some of the best mainstream comics today are written by women, Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, G Willow Wilson. Characters are more representative - there's an all-female Avengers, Ms Marvel is a young American Muslim woman.This too, besides sensationalizing and whitewashing Islam, is superficial and ignores any and all women who came before. What about Dale Messick, the creator of Brenda Starr? What about Ramona Fradon, Ann Nocenti and Louise Simonson? And more representative? I still don't see any Armenian and Croatian superheroes in the MCU and DCU, nor any co-stars, and if not, then their idea of representation is selective only.
And male-dominated editorials have not withered - we still have men like Quesada, Alonso, DiDio and Harras to contend with. One could argue that mainstream comics have become more male dominated than they were in the past because of the insular mentality that's taken over since the 90s.
Comics have discovered diversity, and that's the way it should be, and the keyboard warriors dripping venom on to the internet are as out of touch as the milk-smelling, bearded Comic Book Guy stereotype from The Simpsons.And the Telegraph's writer is ignorant of past developments I thought he favored. They already discovered diversity long ago, which he largely omits, because only the brand new stuff matters, not the older stuff that was better written no matter what their casts' racial/gender structure was like. Then, when he brings up the movie business as a possible solace for fans of the real deals, he lurches into offensiveness by saying:
But they'll have to enjoy it while it lasts, with movies about Black Panther and (female) Captain Marvel on the slate. Comics are changing, and it's about time. As Peter Parker's Uncle Ben so famously said, with great power comes great responsibility.Well, what have we here? Is he saying none of the whites he speaks of want to see a Black Panther or Ms. Marvel movie if they're well written, and that they're all sexist/racist? This is the same talking point used by the anti-Gamergate crowd. Ahem: I like T'Challa, and I like Carol Danvers, and the only argument I'd have about a movie starring Roy Thomas' creation is that I don't think it helps to make her Captain like Mar-Vell of the Kree who first had the role she's been shoehorned into now, instead of the Miss role title that's decidedly got more appeal. Something tells me the Telegraph writer wouldn't like it if he knew Mar-Vell was originally created as a metaphor for Soviet dissidents.
And for somebody so intent on reminding everybody of Ben Parker's famous belief, he sure doesn't seem so keen on practicing it himself. Otherwise, he'd never imply all superhero fans - liberals included - are sexist/racist. That's not helpful and does nothing to stand an ailing medium back on its feet again.