Comic Books are a unique form of art. They are the best of sequential storytelling. In novels a writer paints a picture, in comics artists fill in the blanks. They show you what this character or that looks like. Those depictions matter. In novels you have more wiggle room.
In recent years there has been an effort to create more character diversity in the world of comics. In years past that was not always the case. Diversity got a token response from the industry. Now there is a concentrated effort to do better. With varying success.
The upcoming Iron Fist TV series has opened another can of worms in this conversation. There are those who have complained about the actor who was chosen to portray Danny Rand/the Iron Fist. Let us ignore the fact that he seems to fit nicely in the way that Iron Fist has been portrayed since his arrival in May of 1974. For over forty years Danny Rand has been the Iron Fist, in those years he has always been portrayed as a blond-haired, Caucasian man. Apparently that is not good enough for some. These individuals feel he should be portrayed by an actor of Asian decent(ignoring the simple fact that this would go against the entire premise of the character). I am sure those that feel this way have rational reasoning for this and frankly…I do not care.
This column is not about Iron Fist. This is about the thought that you create diversity by changing the race or gender or sexual preference of characters that have been around forty, fifty years.
It does not work that way. Anyone who thinks it does has the horse around backwards.
‘Who Speaks For The Gingers?’
Gingers? I know…what the hell is he talking about now? I mention Gingers because several characters that have had their race changed have been Gingers-Wally West and Jimmy Olsen(at least the TV version of Olsen) also it seems sad that one of the greatest minorities(Gingers may not be around a century from now-red hair is a recessive gene) may soon be eliminated from our comic books. Soon we may be down to only Guy Gardner. So whenever the issue of race-bending comes up I ask: Who speaks for the Gingers?
In my mind’s eye changing long-standing characters races does not create diversity. It steals the memory from fans of these characters. It changes history. And frankly in my opinion some of these characters you are changing do more for diversity than their pale shadows ever will. Wally West certainly did. Under the pen of Mark Waid, Wally as the Flash had one of the most ethnically and progressive casts in comics. Wally was middle America and his friends and family were anything but.
Diversity is important but diversity for the sake of diversity is not the way to go. There is a better way. Create new characters. Simple. New. Characters.
Write what you know and who you know. Expand the horizons of our comics by expanding the cast, not by changing those we have. It can be done. Look at Ms Marvel, look at Miles Morales.
I have heard the arguments before. It is difficult to create lasting new characters. Some creators do not want to give their best to Marvel and DC if they cannot keep some ownership.
Both are valid. Wanting to keep your own characters is understandable. Someday perhaps DC and Marvel will do a better job compensating creators for their work…we are not there yet.
As far as it being hard. That is weak sauce. Anything worthwhile is hard. Do the work. Put your heart and soul into it. Do not cower and hide because it is difficult.
And if it is important to you it will be good and people will respond.