Updated: Apr 29, 2019
From a Muslim Captain Marvel to a Korean-American Hulk, the comic publishing house is trying to join the diversity parade. But are they doing it right?
Mention “diversity in Marvel” and Black Panther sprung to mind. The film went viral as the first Marvel-made black superhero film broke the box office records worldwide last year, then scored three Oscars awards in February this year.
But if you think about it – it is shocking to see that Marvel only put its African superhero to the big screen while the character was actually created decades ago – way back in the early ‘60s by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.
The character never really took off due to poor comic book sales.
This may have something to do with the questionable writing of the books.
In fact, in Black Panther's first appearance in Fantastic Four #52, the entire issue revolves around the casual racism of the Fantastic Four.
While this comes across as shocking for modern audiences, we need to take into account that the books were released in a time when these stories were written by white men, in which racism was used as a teaching tool for the white characters in the comic.
It was not until Marvel decided to bring in established authors Tanehisi Coates and Roxane Gay that finally brought the character to reader’s attention.
However, quite a contrary to the record-breaking sales at the cinema, the comic series was actually cancelled after six issues.
In recent years, Marvel’s efforts in promoting diversity is evident in its creation of characters who are not just white straight men – think a black Captain America, a Muslim Captain Marvel, a female Thor and a Korean-American Hulk.
Kamala Khan, Ms Marvel; source: submarinechannel.com
However, some challenge whether these “unique heroes” will stick around – We had a black Captain America for little more than a year before Marvel reverted back to the original blond-haired, blue-eyed Steve Rogers.
In fact, most of the Marvel characters were created 40 to 70 years ago – when the word “diversity” probably conjours an image of a white man grabbing fried rice in China Town, or a native American promoting its indigenous culture at a tourist hotspot.
Simply put – many of these characters are out of date as they were created in a time where people were not willing to actively embrace differences.
Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget the public outrage as Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, David Gabriel blamed the declining comic sales on diversity.
Despite the clarifying note was released following the swift blacklash, the comment reflects that unconscious bias continues to impact the company’s employees and even its senior management.
Let’s take a look at Gabriel’s initial comment on the company’s sliding sales:
“I don’t know if that’s a question for me. I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers. What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.”
Next time, grab some pencils and papers and try to stretch a Marvel character of your own – and see how hard it is to fight back the unconscious bias injected by the media and productions that we grew up with. Good luck! Source: syfy.com