Fear of a Minority Superhero: Marvel’s Obsession with White Guys Saving the World

Marlow Stern, Daily Beast, August 7, 2014

It was, all things considered, a very shrewd publicity stunt. Last month, Marvel Comics, the print shingle of the absurdly profitable superhero factory behind blockbuster film franchises The AvengersSpider-ManIron Man, and X-Men, made waves when they announced that the Falcon, the longtime sidekick to Captain America, would be stepping into the shoes of the uber-patriotic superhero. This was news because Falcon, of course, is black. The move came one day after the comic book company introduced a female Thor.

“It’s about time,” Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort said of the change. “In 2014, this should be a thing that we shrug off, it shouldn’t be seen as revolutionary, but it still feels exciting.”

And the media, in turn, patted the company on the back for their “groundbreaking” progressivism. Marvel, it seems, no longer thought of diversity in Burgundyian terms–namely, as an old, wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era. But these are comics. They appeal to a small group of like-minded, liberal nerds who relate on a cellular level to the plight of the cultural outsider (see: the proprietor of The Android’s Dungeon on The Simpsons). Just ask the geek-God himself, Neil deGrasse Tyson. “Right now Comic-Con is going on in San Diego,” the science genius said recently on Real Time with Bill Maher. “Just go there and take a show of hands. How many vote Republican or Democrat? It will be overwhelmingly liberal Democrat.”

Marvel Studios, on the other hand, is a money-printing movie studio that churns out billion dollar-grossing populist entertainments designed to appeal to the biggest audience possible (they are owned by The Walt Disney Company, after all). And as such, they’re loath to take the same risks as their pint-sized nephew, which brings us to the cultural impasse at hand: Marvel has, with the exception of a few titles, announced their superhero film slate through 2019 and it is entirely devoid of lead superheroes of color, or women–with the exception of maybe one female superhero, although this has yet to be confirmed.

{snip}

So why, in 2014, is the superhero standard-bearer so minority-averse? There are, it seems, a variety of factors at play here–from the financially motivated (international box office) to the cultural (inequality) to the practical (source material).

The media’s counterpoint to this argument is the recent Marvel superhero flick Guardians of the Galaxy, which opened to a stellar $160.4 million worldwide, and boasts a multi-ethnic cast, including Zoe Saldana (Hispanic), Dave Bautista (Filipino), Djimon Hounsou (West African), and Benicio Del Toro (Puerto Rican).

“It was very important to me to have a diverse cast of different people,” said the film’s director, James Gunn, adding, “Let’s face it: there’s still a certain amount of racism in human beings, so that shows up in Hollywood.”

But Guardians isn’t that diverse, really. Saldana and Bautista play space aliens who are colored different shades of green, while Del Toro and Hounsou serve very minor roles. The film’s hero, Star-Lord, is played by Chris Pratt, a corn-fed blond, white guy from Minnesota–and the third major Marvel superhero played by a white guy named Chris, joining the broad-shouldered ranks of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (Captain America).

{snip}

And there was a time, prior to the one-two punch of Catwoman and Elektra, when superhero films were championed minority heroes. In fact, two of the earliest contemporary Marvel superhero films did just that–1998’s Blade, starring Wesley Snipes as a vampire-samurai, and 2000’s X-Men, which featured Halle Berry’s Storm as the female lead. As the years progressed, however, Berry’s Storm played a smaller and smaller role in the X-Men films, and the Blade movies attracted less and less eyeballs.

{snip}

One of the reasons minority superheroes are getting short shrift could be the international box office, which in 2013 was up 33 percent over five years prior, and nowadays trumps domestic sales. In 2013, the North American box office accounted for $10.9 billion, while the international box office raked in $25 billion–led by increased growth in markets like China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and Mexico, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Some actors feel the studios are unwilling to take chances with these huge global revenues by taking risks in casting. Many films featuring minority casts–in particular blacks–have been given very limited international releases. Take the 2012 comedy hit Think Like A Man. The film, which featured a predominately black cast, grossed a surprising $91.5 million stateside, compared to a meager $4.5 million abroad. And last year’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler raked in $116 million in North America versus just $59 million internationally.

{snip}

Still, there are plenty of properties in the Marvel Universe featuring superheroes of color (or women), from the aforementioned Luke Cage to Black Panther, Deathlok, War Machine, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, the list goes on.

And there have, in recent years, been some advances–albeit in the form of minority or female superhero sidekicks or villains. There’s Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique in the X-Men reboots, Jamie Foxx’s supervillain Electro in last year’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and the aforementioned Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie, to name a few. All of these characters, with the exception of Foxx’s, could front their own superhero film.

And next year will bring us Josh Trank’s The Fantastic Four, which has cast the black actor Michael B. Jordan in the role of The Human Torch–a far cry from the original Fantastic films, which transformed the Hispanic Jessica Alba into a blond-haired, blue-eyed white woman.

{snip}

So it’s up to Marvel to buck the trend. They can, after all, afford it. On Tuesday, The Walt Disney Company (which owns Marvel) announced that “its quarterly profit totaled $2.25 billion, a 22 percent increase from the year-ago period, helped in large part by the success of its Marvel franchise,” reported The New York Times.

And last May, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Marvel has a number of scripts for superhero films featuring minority or female heroes that could fit into the company’s future plans.

“Marvel has a writing program it uses as a concept generator and has scripts forBlade and Ms. Marvel features, for example,” they said. “Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Black Panther and The Runaways are other projects on the horizon.”

Marvel: The ball is in your court.

 

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  • D.B. Cooper

    Let’s see, white guys invented nearly all of the well known super heroes. Stan Lee for pretty much anything major in Marvel Comics. White guys even invented the Black Panther, the Falcon, War Machine, and Storm. Here’s my challenge to black people: take a pencil and some paper. Start drawing, and start writing.

    • IBWHITE

      But D.B. it’s sooo much easier to snivel and whine about evil Whitey and get things handed to you.

    • Nancy

      “What?!?! You mean that on toppa all da OTHER white oppression you lay on us, you espect us to DRAW and WRITE, too??? Man, WHEN dis ever gonna END?

      Let my people go!!!”

    • TruthBeTold

      Where are the great black myths, sagas, and legends of heroic, selfless warriors? Where is the African Beowulf?

      Any black man or woman of any color is free to come up with their own line of superheroes. But they don’t. Why do it yourself when you can whine about racism instead?

      • Oil Can Harry

        There actually was a black-run comic company that lasted from ’93 to ’97 called Milestone Comics.

        Even though they had financial backing and distribution from DC Comics they still flopped. Just goes to show that only white and Jewish males know how to script comics.

      • Emblematic

        I think those funny Brer-rabbit stories come from traditional African folklore.
        I’m not being sarcastic, I think that’s true.
        But epic type heroes come from a different level of human society.

        Modern crypsis-type comic book heroes seem to be a uniquely American response to living in large modern polyglot cities.

        There’s no reason (except they’re dumb) why blacks can’t invent some modern representation of a black hero, or anti-hero.

        Tarantino created a fake period black hero in Django.

        A modern black hero, to be interesting, would probably have to be an blown-up, archetypal rendering of a thug-life scumbag.

        • TruthBeTold

          What’s funny about the Br’er Rabbit, Uncle Remus stories is that Uncle Remus is a fictional character who tells slave folk stories but are now considered ‘racist’ because the man who complied the stories wrote them in the Negro dialect of the slave which is now considered a racist stereotype.

          But my point was there appear to be no great heroic myths that came out of Africa. If there were, we would have heard them by now. The only people they have are Chacka Zulu and Mandela.

          White people and Asians have grand myths and sagas about their people. That’s something else that seems to be lacking in Africans.

    • http://www.amren.com/ Michael Christopher Scott

      Night Stalker wasn’t even human, but nobody minded. Whites and Asians and almost everyone else are sick of being force-fed “n-word saves the day” garbage by the entertainment industry.

      I ordered the DVD movie “The Rocketeer”, precisely because it doesn’t involve a rape-ape saving everyone.

  • MekongDelta69

    Will the next minority ‘super-hero be Olivia Cole?!! [I mean, c'mon - she IS a 'Marvel'!]

  • http://countenance.wordpress.com/ Question Diversity

    Clickbait.

  • LHathaway

    The article got me to do one thing, look up the word ‘Burgundyian’.

    The Daily Beast is certainly well-named.

    • IstvanIN

      If you didn’t know what Burgundyian meant can you imagine how racist it was to their African, African-American and Somalian-American readers?

  • Evette Coutier

    I’m going to be the only supportive voice for blacks, but I am all for black super heroes. Pimps, thugs, and gangster rapers role models for black kids should be replaced with well dressed, law abiding folks, with morals and a desire to uphold the law. It can’t hurt and it might help.

    • Luca

      Such black role models would be hard to find in the real world, so I guess we may as well fabricate them for the comic world.

      • Nancy

        Um…why is she here, again?

        • Evette Coutier

          Um…I’m hear to speak honestly and objectively about race. The thing is I don’t hate any minority. Blacks by all objective measures, with the exception of athleticism, are genetically and culturally inferior to whites. I support the preservation of white genetics, white people, and white culture. I see blacks are being genetically disposed to violence. As such I avoid them. But the reality is we do live among them and I would rather see more positive and productive influences in the black community. I believe we as race realists need to be objective about our situation and not allow our judgement to be clouded. This is precisely what differentiates us from blacks. Even bright blacks seem incapable of not being ruled by wanton emotions that pervert their world view. They see everything through the optics of emotions detached from fact. We need not make the same mistake.

      • Evette Coutier

        They do exist. Walter Williams, Thomas Sewell, and Neil Degrasse Tyson are good examples. Even though I think his politics are rubbish, Colon Powel is a good role model. In fact, if blacks are more violent by nature, and the have higher rated of the warrior gene, then military role models are idea for their societal role.

        • M.

          Being a good warrior in the 20th and 21st centuries requires decisiveness, fast decision-making, good judgement, good aiming, self-assurance, composure, and fearlessness. Most blacks lack most of those qualities, even the violent ones.

          Aggressiveness and propensity to violence made good warriors in the pre-modern era of history.

          • Evette Coutier

            This is true. Can you think of a better place to put blacks in society?

          • M.

            Yes, entertainment. Blacks are good at entertaining people, whether in music, comedy, sports, etc. They’re not necessarily the best, but they’re overall good in those fields.

            They’re also good at most blue-collar jobs.

          • Evette Coutier

            I agree with entertainment and sports. No so much with blue collar jobs. It depends on the job. But there are not enough entertainment and sports jobs. There’s just not that many. And with all the Hispanic, and highly skilled blue collar whites competing for few and few jobs, now what?

          • M.

            Yes, definitely not all blue-collar jobs.

            Now… nothing. They will just underachieve, be poor, and whine about it. They’ll remain underrepresented in academia, running businesses, and most well-paid jobs.

            The fact of the matter is, 13% is just too much of them in a society. At least in one that prohibits slavery. No well-functioning society needs 13% blacks, so there bound to be a useless surplus of them that will just create problems.

          • Evette Coutier

            The right solution is to send them back to Africa.

          • M.

            Either that or find some way to curb their birthrates.

        • Luca

          Agreed. But how many black kids are following these guys? The liberal propaganda mill has vilified them, as has most of the black community. BTW.. you forgot to mention Condi Rice.

          Even when they have positive role models they are written off and ridiculed as being too White. I shouldn’t have to explain that to an obviously intelligent person as yourself.

          I served with them in the military back in the early 70’s, they are not warriors, they self -segregate, do not follow instructions, are prone to cowardice and rebellion. They usually ask why they are fighting a “White mans’ war”.

          • Evette Coutier

            Everything you say is true. I still believe a positive role model is better than a negative role model.

    • http://tmasierrahills.blogspot.com/ tma_sierrahills

      There are tons of positive role models for blacks in films. Blacks are almost always shown to be morally superior to Whites in films. If this has done any good in the real world, I would hate to think what Detroit and other inner-cities would look like today.

      • Evette Coutier

        The problem is that blacks tend to sink to the lowest denominator not raise to the highest.

        • http://tmasierrahills.blogspot.com/ tma_sierrahills

          Yes, by our standards. That is why the races will eventually need to separate. Blacks can have their very own film industry and just superhero away!

          • Evette Coutier

            Yes, the only workable long term solution is separation.

    • Spikeygrrl

      “Gangster rapers” — what a great Freudian misspelling!

      • Evette Coutier

        Lol.

    • KevinPhillipsBong

      It’s might hurt in that it might confuse and mislead the altruistic whites who will cheer for Captain Melanin in his battles against the evil Dr. YT.

      • Evette Coutier

        You may be onto something.

  • Luca

    Coming to a theater near you soon, the new super hero: a Bisexual, muslim, socialist, biracial, uber-liberal who is disguised as a mild mannered community organizer.

    What the hell, we already have one in the White house.

  • D.B. Cooper

    Comics with a black protagonist might sell if they were more realistic.

    • CourtneyfromAlabama

      Gross!

      • D.B. Cooper

        I believe the first issue was also the final issue.

        • M.

          Unfortunately, it wasn’t. But yes, the whole thing didn’t last long.

          Here’s the saddest part of all: this series was made by two white men (Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg).

          CourtneyfromAlabama, prepare yourself to throw up some more.

          • Fighting_Northern_Spirit

            A poster of Nipsey Russell? LOL!

          • CourtneyfromAlabama

            I almost did.

          • http://www.amren.com/ Michael Christopher Scott

            Throwing up into your mouth and catching it doesn’t count.

    • M.

      Hahahaha, that’s hilarious! And kind of sexy, I must admit.

      Oh boy, if some negro came to my neighborhood with that black supremacist attitude, I might just snap into an altered state of consciousness, grab a gun, and start shooting the monkey while smiling.

    • M.

      But here’s what I don’t understand (apart from the fact that the guy has only 4 abs): why would a comic name its series “Aweful Comic Books”?

    • http://www.amren.com/ Michael Christopher Scott

      I need some of Bon’s eye-bleach again.

  • none of your business

    Blade was a good movie. There actually were 2 heroes of equal weight. The White one was Chris Kristhoffersen. He was the wise mentor and organizer. Snipes was the baby the White man rescued and raised to carry on his heroic work of fighting vampires.
    Don’t you just love it when the media tells a multi billion dollar industry what it should do, especially when the advice would swiftly turn the multi billion dollar industry into a million dollar one.

  • JackKrak

    Only in the fantasy world of comics to blacks “save” us or do anything that benefits everyone.

    • Tim_in_Indiana

      In the fantasy world of comics and all other modern media.

      • JackKrak

        Actually, yeah, you’re right. I’ll take a mulligan and rephrase it – So now we can add comics to long list of outlets where Magical Negroes “save” us idiot whites.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    “It was very important to me to have a diverse cast of different people,” said the film’s director, James Gunn, adding, “Let’s face it: there’s still a certain amount of racism in human beings, so that shows up in Hollywood.”

    Racism: A made-up “crisis” that now has to be expunged by any means possible.

  • dd121

    Blacks serving other’s instead of themselves. It just doesn’t make any sense. Do you know of any black country that sends black aid workers to save whites somewhere in the world? I don’t either.

  • David

    The writer is correct!

    White children have been the minority in the USA since 2011, and more whites are dying out every year than are born. Therefore, it is inaccurate to show a bunch of young studly dudes in the USA as nearly all white.

    When whites are informed of their own demographic displacement, they become more racially defensive. Therefore, always agree and amplify with these responses, and point ou that white children are the minority in the USA, and that more whites are dying every year than are born.

  • http://saboteur365.wordpress.com/ bigone4u

    When something goes black, I don’t go back. That includes movies and comics, as well as TV. The Internet is my refuge from this, as youtube has older white movies I can watch.

    • Spikeygrrl

      Also Amazon Prime. A lot of the older White movies are free!

    • http://www.amren.com/ Michael Christopher Scott

      YouTube has other great things. There’s an Englishman named Paul Adams who does tutorials on making fishing lures. I’m rather creative in this respect, but Mr. Adams is flat-out amazing. There’s also Pat Condell’s anti-Islam political rant. I highly recommend Mr. Condell to regulars here.

  • connorhus

    I wouldn’t be so sure about how accepting the young White boy geeks are to Black and Brown superheroes. My son is one of them Geeks and while he put up with a lot of dieversity brainwashing as long as the cartoon chicks were drawn hawt, a little inter racial dating and White boy bashing in a few cases sure made him sing a different tune. All his friends as well are showing signs of negro fatigue. The diversity brainwashing worked kinda until they started invading the geeks hallowed ground so to speak.

  • CourtneyfromAlabama

    What can I say? White men are the most amazing, attractive, intelligent, etc…etc..etc… But my personal favorite has always been Spiderman (before they made him nonwhite of course).

    • http://www.amren.com/ Michael Christopher Scott

      My favorite was Batman, because he didn’t have any special powers.

  • IstvanIN

    A superhero has to have two traits: he has to be super smart in addition to super powers or he is just a big lug. He also has to have empathy, a good moral compass, or a very good notion of right and wrong, and always side with what is right, and good and decent. Blacks in general have neither smarts nor a working moral compass, therefore there can be no black superheros.

    For that matter their can be no supervillains. Villains, yes, and plenty of thugs, bit no real supervillains.

    • Emblematic

      Most modern superheroes also have another trait. They are outsiders, freaks, mutants, loners.
      They can’t be a hero as the greatest champion of a particular people or race. That would be too close to Nationalism.

      Even traditional folk heroes like Robin Hood, King Arthur, Hercules et cetera have to be re-done in some way to make them more multicultural.

      And as for explicitly White heroes like Tarzan, forget about it.

      • http://tmasierrahills.blogspot.com/ tma_sierrahills

        A black Tarzan swinging through the jungle would be tricky marketing.

        • http://www.antenna.com Wholly Unconvinced

          Nah, all they’d have to do is keep Jane white and beautiful, and blacks would love it. “Dayuuuuum, tah-zan got hisseff a fiiiine white b**** up in dem trees!”

          • Emblematic

            If done right it would actually be funny.
            If the Left could ever get over itself, racism could again be a wonderful source of entertainment.
            But of course they won’t.

            We racial realists should just ignore the PC drones and start acting like racism is cool and fun again.

          • http://tmasierrahills.blogspot.com/ tma_sierrahills

            A-list White actresses would be lined up around the block to audition for such a part.

  • Augustus3709

    Notice how the equality-hustlers are inherently averse to White Masculinity.

    “Star-Lord, is played by Chris Pratt, a corn-fed blond, white guy from Minnesota” -stern

    That sentence is oozing with racial hostility. And they are so afraid of saying White MAN. They always say “guy” because it sounds weaker.

    • Emblematic

      And the snarking about the name Chris. I didn’t get it at first. What’s the problem? Then the penny dropped. It comes from Christian. Very annoying for Jews.

      • http://www.antenna.com Wholly Unconvinced

        Ahhh, I was wondering about that myself, that makes sense. All I could think was “what’s wrong with Chris? Too white?”

  • Pro_Whitey

    Ebola Man! Kah-Lare-Ah! Knock Out! The Breeder! Yes, I can see plenty of potential black superheroes.

    • http://www.antenna.com Wholly Unconvinced

      Don’t forget L’qua’shonda, the welfare queen from Africa! Super powers can include bringing newly conceived leech children to term in only 7 months, increasing the power of her WIC and welfare checks! Her cover identity is D’uniqua, the disgruntled she-beast at the DMV who can’t speak English!

    • KevinPhillipsBong

      I like it. Knock Out, the black superhero who can vanquish elderly white women with only one punch!

    • http://www.amren.com/ Michael Christopher Scott

      You forgot N’DeShitavious Jackson, who can down a whole 40 in a single gulp, while holding his crotch.

  • Mrfinoni

    Yeah! let’s make a movie costing tens of millions of dollars to have it flop internationally. People around the globe want to watch Whites actors not Blacks. Whites make a lot of money. They can make lots of low budget artsy Black movies but the super hero genre belongs to the Whites. I am confident the White nerds would get tired of Black actors once the novelty wears off.

  • willbest

    Of course we don’t talk about Sam Jackson playing the white Nick Fury, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.

    Making Johnny Storm black while keeping his sister white is overplaying the hand. Then again its the nitwits at Fox doing and not the guys at Disney who so far, seem content to just print money.

  • shawnmer

    They just picked off Thor, who will become a woman, and got themselves s black Captain America’ and admits the cast of the most recent movie is multi-culti, and that STILL isn’t enough! It’s being all dismissed as insincere tokenism.

    Preaching to the choir here, but this is obviously not about “diversity, ” it’s about displacement!

  • KevinPhillipsBong

    “So it’s up to Marvel to buck the trend [by hiring more minorities]. They can, after all, afford it.”
    In other words, Marvel should accept the financial losses in the name of fostering diversity.

  • withcaution

    Instead of fretting Hollywood heroes ethnicity, we should ask why their aren’t more real-life heroes amongst the “diverse”. Take a look at any picture of Greenpeace, Drs. without Borders, world wildlife fund, Sierra Club, UNICEF and you realize some ethnicities simply don’t give a darn about anything but themselves.

  • Larry

    I don’t understand the reason for modifying or hanging existing heroes. They should just create new characters. Go to you tube and check out Rufus Jones in the book trailer “The Tale of Rufus’s Red Shoes.” He’s a new kind of hero for kids.