What Comic Characters Would Benefit From Changing Their Ethnicity?

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Greetings, mail minions! Let's just get right into it, because today I'm tackling the tough questions and big topics! Race! The Ant-Man trailer! 3) Star Wars minutia! And Spider-Woman's boobs! (As opposed to her butt, thank goodness.) It's something for everybody!


The awesome art above, by the way, is by Bill Mund. Check out the full pic here!

Race Relations

Fabien F.:

Dear Postman of the apocalypse,

The infamous Sony email leak and the subsequent discussion whether Idris Elba would or wouldn't make a good Bond, inspired a pal and me to discuss what character would actually become more interesting if his or her ethnicity was changed. Our verdict: Harvey Dent/Two Face! (I am aware that technically, we had that before in Batman (1989)). To have Gotham's white knight not only go through corruption but also race politics in Americas greatest fictional city before turning into the two-faced foe/anti-hero we all know, would be a compelling update for the character. It would also add an interesting layer to the Bruce Wayne Harvey Dent relationship: One from an old money WASPy background who's been handed life on a silver platter, the other one from a less affluent family that had to fight to get where he is.

I know this is not really a question, but I just wanted to get it out there.

Okay, this is a tricky question, one rife with the possibility of misunderstanding, as well as assholes being assholes. So let me clarify: We're not talking about whether diversity in comics is a good thing (because it is), whether major comic publishers should work harder to include more characters of different genders, races and sexual orientation (they should), or if perhaps they should change existing white male characters into something more diverse (which can seem awkward at best, insane at worst, and opportunistic much too of the time, but I'm still for it because the result is a more diverse superhero landscape).

We're specifically talking about what character would benefit from having another ethnicity, which is to say what characters would be more interesting and/or effective if they were no longer white. We're examining this and nothing about the larger moral issues, okay? No one's saying every white dude superhero should be changed, because for many character it would merely be a change, nothing more. For instance, I can't imagine Hawkeye being black or Filipino would improve his character, and that's the point here.

I like your idea of Harvey Dent, but more in terms of him enacting harsh justice, having to deal with a system that was unfairly stacked against minorities. I think there's something for something to be said there. And since the Riddler is often a character who feels his genius and talents have been overlooked by the world at large, I think there's a connection to be made there with real-world discrimination.

For my money, Spider-Man could absolutely benefit from not being white. When he was first conceived, he was a huge nerd, an outsider, persecuted by all the "normal" popular kids because he loved science. And what made him a hero was that he still put on the mask and fought for all those same people who refused to accept him. Spider-Man has lost this aspect of his character over the years, especially as he's married hot redheaded super-models and such. Spider-Man should be instantly relatable to anyone that feels isolated, and having him be non-white could be an effective method of exploring those issues in new and interesting ways. Miles Morales > Peter Parker, people.

I would also love if Supergirl appeared to be a different ethnicity from Superman, but it turns out Krypton was a post-racial society. I really don't think Supergirl has much death to her — especially with that New 52 Red Lantern nonsense — but for Kara to leave a home where she never even conceived of racism, and coming to Earth… and to deal with discrimination despite being related to the greatest hero on the planet... well, I think that's a much more powerful, compelling story than she currently has going on.


Really, any character that is supposed to feel alienated from society, including pretty much all of Marvel's mutants, could have their status as outsiders exemplified by making them minorities in some form or another. Unfortunately, most of DC's main heroes are so mythic and disconnected from the real world that changing them in that manner wouldn't really make much of a difference to their characters (although still, yay for more diversity in comics).

I'd love to hear more ideas in the comment, and I'd equally love to ban the crap out of anyone who turns this ugly.


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Poster Boy

Tobey the Scavenger Monk:

Mr. Postman,

I purchased Cowboy Bebop on blu-ray (you may refer to them as "coasters" in your time) over the holidays, and I am a completist to a fault so I also ordered Cowboy Bebop: The Movie as well. It came in the mail today, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a blurb on the cover by one Robert Bricken of Anime Insider calling the film "Today's hottest kind of cool".

"Hey, he wrote 'The Most Important Scenes From Man of Steel (As I Remember Them)'. I still laugh about that sometimes." I thought to myself, and then my train of thought went on to dwell for awhile on the nature of blurbs. A few questions:

1. Is it kind of cool to know that a portion of your opinion about something is a part of thousands of movie collections?

2. Did someone contact you and say, "Hey, can we put this on our box?" or do they just do it and you find out as a pleasant surprise?

3. I had a pretty strict "If Gene Wolfe or Neil Gaiman writes you a positive blurb then I'll buy your book." policy going for awhile, but then I read a book with a positive Neil Gaiman blurb and I found the book derivative, boring, and poorly written, losing some of my blurb-faith. How much weight do you personally give to blurbs, and I'm talking about all media here?


1) It is kind of cool, but it's also kind of horrifying. It's awesome to still have my name on the Cowboy Bebop movie packaging since 2002. It's less awesome to have such a goofy-ass quote used.

2) No one at Sony asked me for a quote, because if they had I would have given them a much less goofy one. Generally, big companies like movie studios rely on actual articles for they blurbs, while smaller companies (like U.S. anime licensors) ask for quotes, especially if they have a good relationship together. In my day, I never gave a quote I didn't mean, but I probably gave way more quotes than I should have.


3) I don't actually pay attention to blurbs at all. Generally, you can find anybody to like anything, including professional reviewers. You can trust artists who work you love, but there's no guarantee that they have the same taste as you, and all reviews are essentially subjective. Maybe you'll agree and maybe you won't. Much better to read actual reviews, get the details, and make a decision yourself.

Bonus fun fact: I didn't find out I'd made the Cowboy Bebop movie poster until Sony sent a few of them to the Anime Insider office. I was stunned… and then I saw the second quote on the poster, which misspelled the word "DEFINITLEY" and annoyed not just me, but every single person who has ever seen the poster. To be fair, though, given my incredible propensity for typos, this is kind of what I deserve.


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Breast Practices

Jason H.:

Welcome back, postman, hope your holidays involved you eating the roast beast and not the other way around!

As you know, Spider Woman's costume is changing. Which I have no issues with- costumes change, no biggie. But, I did notice (and many commented on) that Spider Woman's –ahem- assets seem to lose several cup sizes. Now, yes, she seems to drift between DD's and HH's depending on who draws her, but she's always been endowed. Taking them from her seems to be… wrong. Because it changes the "look" of a character. Spiderman is thin, Cap is built, Logan is short, etc. It doesn't change. And if you look, you can pretty much see a general consistency on woman's shapes and endowments across the decades.

Why it bothers me: it smacks of political correctness. Of reacting to gamergate and ESPECIALLY that horrid Milo cover- and I'm saying that as a longtime fan of his. This smells of going the other way, deliberately changing the look of at least this one character so Marvel can trumpet- "See? She/they're not as sexy before!"

Am I reading too much into this? Just artistic license and not a huge shift character portrayals?



I kid, I kid. It's just funny to me that after all the furor concerning Spider-Woman's ass, now somebody is worried about her chest.


Spider-Woman having large breasts is no more an intrinsic part of her character than Bruce Wayne having big, soulful blue eyes, which is current Bat-artist Greg Capullo's style. They're both choices by the artist, resulting partially from their preferences and style. You can see this in… oh… pretty much every female superhero and villain ever drawn; their breasts ebb and flow like the tide as different artists do the job. There is only one superhero I know of where her big breasts have been acknowledged and thus made canon, of a sort — Power Girl, of course (and amazingly this wasn't creepy, thanks to Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's great run).

Over the years female characters have gotten sexier to continue attracting their target audience — boys — as they grew up, which often translated into "draw bigger boobs." Plus, it hasn't helped that Spider-Woman has been one of the last characters to ditch the traditional spandex costume for more sensible clothes, which many artists used as an opportunity to basically draw a nude woman covered in body paint.


I won't pretend that Spider-WomansAssgate wasn't on Marvel's mind when they made Jessica Drew's (incredibly welcome) new outfit, or when they adjusted her curves. But I think it's less about "political correctness" and trying not to offend people and Marvel finally realizing, "Jesus, we need to modernize the look of this character because it's 2015 and this is terrible." But whatever their intentions, it doesn't change Spider-Woman's character at all. They're boobs. They don't define her.

Look Who's Talking

Mel W.:

On Star Wars Rebels this week Yoda started talking to Kana and Ezra. Can Jedi just telepathically talk to each other now? Don't you have to be a dead Jedi to do this? And if you could, why didn't Yoda ever talk to Luke before he came to Dagobah? It seems like that would have been helpful.


I saw this, and instantly my Star Wars-obsessed brain started figuring out explanations, none of which are of course supported in the movies in any ways. Perhaps the Jedi Temple is powerful enough with the Force — it has one of those Force cave that contains incredible evil that the Jedi like to throw kids into — that it makes a telepathic communication across the galaxy, Jedi-to-Jedi, possible. Maybe Luke wasn't attuned enough with the Force to hear Yoda, a Jedi he'd never met and thus had no connection to. Or it could be that like all the Jedi of the prequels, Yoda was an asshole who cared more about being a "proper Jedi" than a "good Jedi."

It's the reason why Yoda bitched about Luke being too old to train in empire when he was literally one of two candidates who could save the universe (and the other was just as old!). It's why Yoda tried to talk Luke out of saving his friends, despite the fact that it was the Jedi's lack of compassion — e.g., leaving Anakin's mom on Tatooine as a slave — that got them into their current predicament in the first place.


It seems like Yoda talking to Kanan and Ezra is the outlier here. Maybe he felt he had to give them a pep talk. Maybe Yoda trusted Obi-Wan to take care of Luke and felt Kanan and Ezra needed a bit more direct guidance. Maybe Yoda was drunk and feeling chatty. Maybe he pulled one of those crazy martial arts moves where you stop your own heart and die for a little bit so he could join the living Force and call people long-distance. I don't know.

Illustration for article titled What Comic Characters Would Benefit From Changing Their Ethnicity?

Stand By Your (Ant-)Man


Am I the only person who was a bit underwhelmed by the Ant-Man trailer? It looks fine. But given how good most Marvel movies are fine is kind of a dissappointment, isn't it?


I think it's way too early to be disappointed, although I had essentially the same problem with the trailer. I see what Marvel was going for with the big heroic speech and Paul Rudd's "huh" at the end, but really, my main problem is that I believe Ant-Man is supposed to be an action-comedy, and the trailer just wasn't that funny. Now, this would probably have been fine if it the trailer has some really jaw-dropping moments, but about the only thing that was memorably cool was seeing Rudd on the flying ant, but I think that has as much to do with me being a classic Avengers comics fan as anything. I'm not sure if non-nerds were as thrilled to see the superhero equivalent of Honey I Shrunk The Kids.

That said, it's only the first trailer, and I seem to recall the first Guardians of the Galaxy trailer also focused on its action, not its humor. Its entirely possible the second trailer will be hilarious. We shall see.


Illustration for article titled What Comic Characters Would Benefit From Changing Their Ethnicity?

Secret Wars

Joseph C.:

I thought it was refreshing getting an insight to behind the scenes of Sony. Granted "illegaly" done so. Politely ask or point this group who claimed to have done the hack (GOP), to maybe do the same thing to WB/dc and see what the hell is going on. We all know how bad they are. My question to you is what would you expect to find in the files upon files that could be so much worse than over at Sony?


Honestly, I don't think you'd find anything too damning. It's not like WB executives are sitting around and asking each other, "How do turn these DC superheroes into movies that make a ton of money that no one likes?" I imagine that what a hack would reveal is that DC executives don't have any problem announcing projects but can't agree on how any aspect of them should be implemented, which is why so many of their movies seem to go through so many changes, delays and complete fuck-ups that prevent them from getting made at all.

So basically, the same thing going on in most comic site forums, just with more cocaine. I'd read 'em.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!


Changing a character's ethnicity (or sex) has no clear formula for success. Ultimately it's about changing things up and making you think about that character in a different light. And bringing a wealth of experience that otherwise wouldn't have come through.

A clear example of that would be Nick Fury in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

This one simple line speaks volumes about what it's like to be the top law enforcer and protector of a country that still sort of looks at you like a criminal just for having brown skin. It adds a layer of heroism and duty in the face of ignorance that classic Fury couldn't.