Racebending

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Thad
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Racebending

Postby Thad » Fri Feb 21, 2014 1:30 am

Black guy cast as Human Torch; Internet gets very very angry. Same old song. Anybody who thinks the Marvel Universe is worse for having Idris Elba and Samuel L Jackson in it is someone I'm never going to have a productive conversation with.

Of course, my question isn't "Why'd they cast a black guy as Johnny Storm," it's "Why'd the cast a black guy as Johnny Storm and a white lady as Sue? What, you can only cast a minority as Sue if she bleaches her hair and pretends she's Anglo?"

Hopefully they have the good sense to keep them brother and sister. Because of course you don't actually have to be the same race to be family. My favorite cousin is a black man. We're not related by blood. I will show you my list of how many fucks I give about whether we're related by blood or not; I keep it over there next to his signature on the "Witness" line on my marriage certificate.

Half-siblings, step-siblings, it doesn't matter to me as long as they're still brother and sister. That's the important thing. But if I were to pick a favorite scenario? I hope they're both adopted and were raised together.

I mentioned awhile back that my wife and I are looking to adopt. It's entirely possible we'll end up with kids of a different race -- from us, maybe from each other. And it'd be cool to see more representation of families like that.

Adoption's been part of the superhero genre almost from the beginning (and the only reason that's "almost" is because Action Comics #1 says Clark Kent was raised in an orphanage; his being adopted by a kindly couple was a retcon introduced a few months later). Two of the three most famous and recognizable superheroes in the damn world are adopted, and the other one becomes an adoptive father. But you don't see so many stories about characters who were adopted through an actual adoption agency.

So there are plenty of solutions. And I'm fine with any of them, so long as they're still brother and sister. Not like I'll be seeing the damn thing anyway.

So no, I don't get bent out of shape about white characters being changed to racial minorities. I think there probably ARE a few who should stay white because white privilege is an important part of their character -- Bruce Wayne, Oliver Queen, 1970's-era Hal Jordan, post-1980's Lex Luthor, J Jonah Jameson, to name a few. But just because I think Bruce and Ollie (and, to a lesser extent, Hal) should stay white guys doesn't mean I think Batman, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern have to be -- we've seen minority characters in all those roles at one time or another (Damian Wayne, Connor Hawke, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Simon Baz).

My biggest disappointment about the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon isn't that it's for kids or it's ADD-addled or that it's disjointed and episodic -- it's that the main character is Peter Parker and not Miles Morales. (Which, in fairness, the show's creators can hardly be blamed for -- it must have gone into development well before Miles was created.)

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Re: Racebending

Postby zaratustra » Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:58 am

"The only black actress we know is Halle Berry and she already plays a Storm."

Lex Luthor was an orphan self-made man between Crisis and Crisis, though. Nothing keeping him from being of an ethnic group less known for silver spoons.

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Re: Racebending

Postby Disposable Ninja » Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:13 am

Couldn't really care about Johnny Storm. Mostly because I don't really care about the Fantastic Four.

It depends on the character, really. Like Thad said, there are privileged characters like Bruce Wayne. Then there are characters like Clark Kent -- a big part of his character is usually coming to terms with, in part, the fact that he was adopted, which makes it somewhat important that he would have to pass as not only human, but as the same race as Ma and Pa Kent.

The you've got characters like Wonder Woman. I've heard the argument that she should be Greek because of her backstory... but... The Amazons in mythology weren't Greek. They were "others", a different, topsy-turvy, Planet of the Apes-esque culture where women ruled men and mutilated their sexy bodies to sexily kill more effectively. In which case, it doesn't really matter what Diana looks like.

What's important about Peter Parker is that he's just some kid in New York being raised by his Aunt. In fact, that pretty well sums up what's important about a lot of the Marvel super heroes.

Then there's matters of culture. As a person living in the center of the Universe, 'Murika, it doesn't really bother me that Heimdall is played by a black man. Hell, the fact that he's a magical alien god is pretty well all the justification you need to get around whatever mental gymnastics to make it work. That said, if it were the other way around, and it were a white guy playing a traditionally black character, it probably wouldn't sit as well.
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Re: Racebending

Postby Mongrel » Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:13 am

Wait... Kyle Rayner was a minority? :confused:
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Re: Racebending

Postby ocksi » Fri Feb 21, 2014 12:14 pm

He's latino.

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Re: Racebending

Postby Mongrel » Fri Feb 21, 2014 12:33 pm

Huh, the last time I was reading mainstream Marvel/DC stuff was around when he was introduced. I had a couple of the first issues of him as GL and I totally don't remember that being mentioned at all.
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Brentai
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Re: Racebending

Postby Brentai » Fri Feb 21, 2014 2:57 pm

Superman and Wonder Woman are both undocumented immigrants. Wonder Woman actually bought another woman's identity so she could live in the US illegally. They don't need to be a different color.

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Re: Racebending

Postby zaratustra » Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:00 pm

Disposable Ninja wrote:The you've got characters like Wonder Woman. I've heard the argument that she should be Greek because of her backstory... but... The Amazons in mythology weren't Greek. They were "others", a different, topsy-turvy, Planet of the Apes-esque culture where women ruled men and mutilated their sexy bodies to sexily kill more effectively. In which case, it doesn't really matter what Diana looks like.


Is this like how Aladdin was supposed to be Chinese?

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Thad
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Re: Racebending

Postby Thad » Mon Feb 24, 2014 1:31 am

Disposable Ninja wrote:Couldn't really care about Johnny Storm. Mostly because I don't really care about the Fantastic Four.


Pity. They're really the epitome of the Kirby/Lee collaboration (well...it was initially collaboration, at least) that launched the 1960's Marvel revolution that's affected everything that's happened to the superhero genre since. There is some legitimately fucking wonderful stuff in there.

Course, the movies haven't had much luck adapting it yet. Mostly because of this disease Hollywood has where it's embarrassed about all the crazy shit that made those comics great and can't include the Cosmic Cube or the Skrulls without renaming them and can't use Galactus without turning him into a fucking gas cloud.

At any rate, I don't think this movie can possibly have a worse Doctor Doom than the last two.

Disposable Ninja wrote:Then there are characters like Clark Kent -- a big part of his character is usually coming to terms with, in part, the fact that he was adopted, which makes it somewhat important that he would have to pass as not only human, but as the same race as Ma and Pa Kent.


Not necessarily. Traditionally, Clark doesn't know he's an alien until he starts manifesting powers and Ma and Pa tell him the truth and show him the spaceship -- but that doesn't necessarily mean he can't know he's adopted prior to that, just that he can't know he's an alien.

And Ma and Pa don't have to be white, either, come to that.

I think Lex as a minority would be fine if Superman was too -- but if Superman's white and Lex is a minority then we get some problems there, given that Superman represents all the finest, most positive attributes of humanity and Lex represents everything that's petty and vindictive.

I'm certainly not saying white characters can't fight minority villains (Michael Clark Duncan was a way better choice of casting in Daredevil than Ben Affleck was), but I think in Superman's specific case it's problematic.

(Course, Batman's premise is already pretty fundamentally broken -- billionaire beats up poor people and the mentally ill, gets away with it and is generally considered to be a hero for this.)

Disposable Ninja wrote:The you've got characters like Wonder Woman. I've heard the argument that she should be Greek because of her backstory... but... The Amazons in mythology weren't Greek. They were "others", a different, topsy-turvy, Planet of the Apes-esque culture where women ruled men and mutilated their sexy bodies to sexily kill more effectively. In which case, it doesn't really matter what Diana looks like.


Yeah, I'm fine with them casting an Israeli as Wonder Woman. A lot better than...wait, I already made a potshot about Ben Affleck, didn't I?

(Affleck actually wouldn't make a bad Oliver Queen. I've always heard Ollie with a Boston accent in my head. Probably the whole Massachusetts Liberal thing.)

Disposable Ninja wrote:Then there's matters of culture. As a person living in the center of the Universe, 'Murika, it doesn't really bother me that Heimdall is played by a black man. Hell, the fact that he's a magical alien god is pretty well all the justification you need to get around whatever mental gymnastics to make it work. That said, if it were the other way around, and it were a white guy playing a traditionally black character, it probably wouldn't sit as well.


And there's a perfectly good reason for the double-standard: adding diversity is fundamentally, qualitatively different from removing diversity. Any sufficiently large Internet conversation on this subject will eventually include some guy insisting that the two things are exactly the same. Those people are idiots.

Oh, also: on the upcoming Flash TV series, Iris West is African-American. Meaning, presumably, that Wally will be too when he shows up.

DC's recently announced that Wally will be debuting in the New 52 later this year; there's some conjecture that he'll be African-American in the comics, too, to match the TV series.

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Re: Racebending

Postby Lottel » Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:53 am

My friends* and I talk about this sometimes. They even brought up the new Johnny or Samuel L Fury saying they think it's terrible and stupid and the thing that is ruining comics. I'm not sure how that is the case but The Dark Knight Rises is a good Batman story.
All I know is somewhere, it'll be really important to a kid to see a guy who looks like him be a cool superhero and I don't see the problem with that.

That being said, Miles Morales's whole story of becoming who he is is amazing. Ryan Choi is one of my favourite DC characters. And what made those guys good is they where whole new characters. They weren't rehashed "What if X superhero was black?" ideas. They were their own people with their own personalities and histories. Just changing the race of a character could make it seem like he's not the "real" version. Like it's a gimmick. Creating a new character? A new guy with a new name and a new backstory? You can't tell me John Stewart is any less the real Green Lantern than Hal Jordan.** Kill off the old, bring in the new. ***

But I get how that's not an option in some cases and honestly, making the Founding Family a little more diverse is kind of neat. Adding a bit more color to the cast of dudes and lady dudes in longjohns is always welcome.


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**Hell, before the Ryan Reynolds flop, everyone I knew said "Green Lantern? Isn't that the black guy from the Justice League?"
*** ACTUALLY kill them off. Creating a side character is a whole other issue
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Re: Racebending

Postby Brentai » Mon Feb 24, 2014 12:41 pm

Thing is the transition from Salt-and-Pepper Nick Fury to Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury was seamless, but Johnny Storm is, like, one of the most whitebread characters in Marvel. The idea sort of makes my head hurt. Not that it can't or shouldn't be done, but execution is going to be a very important factor here.

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Re: Racebending

Postby Niku » Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:09 pm

We're getting a lot more race-bent characters these days, but why couldn't they have just made Johnny a gay dude?

There are literally no possible complications that could have arisen from that!
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Re: Racebending

Postby zaratustra » Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:24 pm

Niku wrote:We're getting a lot more race-bent characters these days, but why couldn't they have just made Johnny a gay dude?

There are literally no possible complications that could have arisen from that!


Who said he's not gay?

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Re: Racebending

Postby Mongrel » Mon Feb 24, 2014 3:01 pm

Brentai wrote:Thing is the transition from Salt-and-Pepper Nick Fury to Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury was seamless, but Johnny Storm is, like, one of the most whitebread characters in Marvel. The idea sort of makes my head hurt. Not that it can't or shouldn't be done, but execution is going to be a very important factor here.

Kind of agree. His being a white frat-boy type has always been a big of a part of that character, and while he's no Bruce Wayne, there's certainly more than a whiff of privilege in his life.

So yeah, it could be done, but it would really have to be handled right.
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Re: Racebending

Postby Smiler » Mon Feb 24, 2014 4:27 pm

Maybe they could add some character to Johnny while they're at it. He got replaced by a boring robot that didn't do anything in the 70s cartoon. He's that bad.

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Re: Racebending

Postby Büge » Mon Feb 24, 2014 5:10 pm

I thought he was replaced by a boring robot that didn't do anything so that kids wouldn't try to imitate him by setting themselves on fire.

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Re: Racebending

Postby Smiler » Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:04 pm

That was a debunked rumor. It was actually because the rights for the character were tied up for a movie that never happened (because the human torch sucks)

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Re: Racebending

Postby Thad » Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:21 am

Lottel wrote:All I know is somewhere, it'll be really important to a kid to see a guy who looks like him be a cool superhero and I don't see the problem with that.


I forget who it was who commented that the great thing about John Stewart is that he wears the same costume as Hal Jordan, and all a black kid has to do is put on a Green Lantern costume and he's John Stewart.

I tend to think entirely new characters are inherently better than taking an existing uniform and putting somebody with a different background in it. But that point about John is a pretty fucking difficult one to argue with.

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Re: Racebending

Postby Bongo Bill » Tue Feb 25, 2014 3:37 am

There is a problem with casting Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, but it is not the problem you think: if you're going to make exactly one member of the Fantastic Four black, it should be Reed.

Think about it. Here we have a person who calls himself Mister Fantastic because he realizes that if his friends do not become celebrities, they are going to become pariahs. What kind of person, even a super-genius, figures that out immediately? The only possible answer is: someone who's been there.

Because modeling superheroes after real celebrities is a time-honored tradition, the obvious inspiration here is Neil DeGrasse Tyson. A famous story about him is that he was asked by a local news studio to answer some questions about an upcoming astronomical phenomenon and whether or not it would result in a catastrophe, and, watching that segment as it was broadcast later that day, it dawned on him that it was the first time he'd seen a black man on the news not being asked about black issues. If you render that concept in four bold colors and cybernetically augment it with Kirbytech, it becomes a wonderful match for a character who knew he could find liberation in superheroism because he had already found it in science.

Of course, I also think Reed Richards should be a good guy and not an asshole, so maybe I don't understand the character after all.
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Re: Racebending

Postby Thad » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:39 am

Interesting perspective; I hadn't thought about it.

Well, except the Reed-as-asshole thing, which I've thought about quite a bit.

On the one hand, he's always been kind of an asshole in that insensitive 1950's scientist who's too caught up in his work to express his emotions way. But they've really taken it to manipulative-sociopath levels in recent years.

I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to dial that back in the new movie, make him friendly and likeable again.

Remember what Iron Man was like in the couple of years right before the movie came out? Well, presumably you do since Reed was right there beside him for all of that. (One of my favorite job interview stories: I did a phone interview for a Sega offshoot that was making a licensed Iron Man game to tie in with the movie; I mentioned that I'm a longtime Iron Man fan "even though he's been kind of a jerk lately.")

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