December 30, 2010

It's comics, after all

Stumbled across an interesting site last evening titled Boycott Thor by Marvel Studios. Their primary beef? In the upcoming "Thor" film, one of the Norse gods is played by a black guy.

Say it with me: "OH NO!!!"

Look, the obvious reason Marvel did this (as someone thankfully pointed out in the comments) is that, given the insane popularity of their other "Avengers"-based films ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2," "The Incredible Hulk"), they're appealing to a mass, worldwide audience. The color Marvel is most concerned about is green. Besides, over the years, how often have white actors portrayed folks of other ethnicities?

Methinks somebody has too much time on his/her hands.

Also noted at the site is a bit about a "Black Panther" cartoon that never made its way to TV. I was totally unaware of this 'toon, which, as you may surmise, should be shocking! ;-) Nevertheless, one needs to take Reginald Hudlin's scripts into some context: Yes, the premise is somewhat anti-white and especially anti-West, but ... this is comics/cartoons. Some of the complaints noted are that it is ludicrous to believe that there's an incredibly scientifically advanced nation in the heart of the African continent. (One of the items noted to have been created there is a cure for cancer.) Again, this is comics! It's all about suspension of disbelief! Why is it silly to conceive of such a nation (named "Wakanda," by the way) yet no one whines that the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards creates all sorts of wildly advanced gadgets that we're not even likely to have prototypes for in less than half a millennium! Know what I mean? Other complaints included the silliness of having an overtly racist American general represented in the Joint Chiefs of Staff (a valid gripe), and the Panther decisively defeating Captain America on one of his first missions during World War II (not a valid beef as it's clearly stated in the dialogue that Cap at the time was "inexperienced" and, again, it was one of his first missions).

Hey, at least this is comics. Unfortunately, some of this like-minded fantasy has actually been disseminated in some of our schools. One noteworthy example is the Portland Baseline Essays which, among other things, teaches that the Egyptians were [exclusively] black Africans and that the Greeks, among others, stole their ideas from the Egyptians. The Science Baseline Essay claims that the Egyptians could fly, discovered the Theory of Evolution, and had psychokinetic powers. In higher ed, there were professors like Leonard Jeffries who postulated similarly nutty "facts."

But back to the point. Yes, Marvel has become ridiculously P.C. and left-leaning over the last 10-15 years. And, yes, this has affected titles like the Black Panther. But one needs to consider, especially, where characters like the Panther came from initially. Yes, Stan Lee and crew were ahead of the curve, so to speak, in intro'ing black characters into their stories in the 1960s and 70s. But the Panther (who debuted in the pages of the Fantastic Four) despite being shown to lead a highly advanced nation, became a "second fiddle" character when he decided to leave Wakanda and travel to the US to join the Avengers. He was shown to be a "protege" of, ironically, Captain America, who vouched for him to be his replacement in Earth's Mightiest. And remember this? What more perfect example of the state of black America in comicbooks some 30 years ago or so. Pretty sad, eh?

So maybe this is why Hudlin's T'Chaka, father of modern-day Black Panther T'Challa, dresses down that Western businessman in episode 3 for using his first name without permission. Someone needs to address that [unfortunately still too prevalent] unspoken assumption of presumed inferiority.

Posted by Hube at December 30, 2010 11:04 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I agree with the bitching over Heimdall being made black. For one thing, it just simply makes no sense, even if he was turned black in the comics when Asgard was put in Oklahoma or whatever, which is also stupid. If they had to do that, why not Minnesota, or North Dakota? All of a sudden, you get your answer. Marvel is ashamed of the idea that one of their most popular heroes is highly regarded by Neo-Nazis, and other racial purists. As such, what better way to prove to your African American fan base that you don't approve of such things than by making one of your clearly Germanic heroes-a black man? Come on, admit it. It's stupid beyond belief.

Damn, I feel the making of a bitching blog post here.

Posted by: ThePaganTemple at December 30, 2010 02:40 PM

Well hell, they've dabbled with so many characters' origins I ain't even sure there isn't a black guy (etc.) in "Asgard" anymore. Didn't the Ultimate Universe Thor come from "just" an advanced race of aliens?

Posted by: Hube at December 30, 2010 03:36 PM

It isn't like they are trying to get Brad Pitt to play Nelson Mandella, or Halle Berry to play Joan of Arc. The Asgardians are fictional mythological characters, for pete's sake!

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at December 30, 2010 08:30 PM

You're right that the whining that site makes over Heimdall's being turned black is ridiculous. Especially since this is a movie, and not the comics. I've realized for a long time now that it would be wrong to complain about any changes made in a movie adaptation. Of course it's impossible to be fully faithful to the source material, and differences are to be expected.

Interestingly enough, there's also an unreleased movie based on the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman anime series that changed the team's mentor, Dr. Kozaboru Nambu, to a guy of African descent (here's some info about that: ), but since it's only a movie, and the characters are fictional, any complaints that might arise from that are also very silly.

Posted by: Avi Green at December 31, 2010 01:56 AM

Normally I'm not a fan of a character's race being changed just to make the cast more "diverse," but in this case it was very much a "so what" deal. It didn't affect the movie's quality by any means, and a lot of the complaints about them changing Heimdall's race were really, really stupid.

Posted by: Carl at May 4, 2012 01:28 AM