By Eddie deAngelini
Last week Marvel Comics announced the addition of a new character to their comic book universe, a 15-year-old black girl who will be standing in as the new Iron Man while Tony Stark steps down. Predictably, I watched the internet explode with fanboy outrage. This is not the first time a comic title has garnered controversy over making a character more diverse and the arguments went exactly as I expected.
“Why are they changing the character? Tony Stark has been Iron Man since the sixties!” Except for that time when Tony stepped down before and his friend Rhodes, a black man, became Iron Man for a while. But to address this argument, Stark has been Iron Man for over five decades. Isn’t time for some change? Characters evolve and comic books are all about characters that readers love to follow and grow with. When people stop reading a series, their reason almost always is that nothing ever changes and they’re tired of reading the same boring stories over and over. So why not embrace something new and fresh? If it turns out to be poorly done, we will critique it on those issues rather than judging and convicting something sight unseen.
“It’s Disney’s fault. Since they bought Marvel, they’re trying to turn all the characters into Disney princesses.” Here’s a newsflash for you. Disney doesn’t care about the publishing side of Marvel. Comic books are chump change to our rodent overlord and he only cares about cashing in on all that sweet blockbuster movie money. So relax, the Avengers won’t be sporting pink tutus and singing to woodland creatures anytime soon.
“It’s a liberal plot to shove diversity down our throats!” This is an actual online comment made by more than one person. How is being a woman, or black, or a black woman, seen as a political agenda? Do these people get equally upset when they watch a movie or TV show with a cast that’s not all white males? Our country is diverse, our planet is diverse, life is diverse. Truth in art will always naturally reflect this diversity.
“Fair is fair. If they make my favorite character black, then they should make The Black Panther white.” Except for the fact that The Black Panther is a black king of a black nation and his color is inherent to who he is. There’s no reason why Tony Stark couldn’t have been created as a black man, unless these people want to insinuate that a black man can’t be a rich genius entrepreneur.
As misguided as the thinking of the naysayers might be, there is still an ulterior motive behind this push toward diversity in comics. It is a hideous conspiracy to get more people to read comic books! Image a world where people of all genders or color could find a comic character to relate to and that looks like they do! Soon the minds of every man, woman and child will be infected with art, imagination and entertainment! They’ll flood to the comic shops and the industry will be booming from all sides!
In all seriousness, comics are for everyone. It’s not meant to be an exclusive club that only a few can enjoy. I leave you with the following story to prove my point:
I manage Hi De Ho Comics with my wife Kristen and she knows her stuff when it comes to introducing all kinds of people to comic books. Recently, a man came in the shop with his young daughter. Kristen struck up a conversation with her and told her that she looks just like the young girl in Marvel’s new series Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. The series is a reboot of a 1970s series about a prehistoric boy and his pet dinosaur. This new version takes place in present day and Moon Girl is a smart young black girl with a knack for science. Kristen gave a copy of the comic to the young girl, who was excited to see the star of the book did indeed look just like her right down to the big bushy pig tails. Kristen gave her the mission to read it and report back what she thought and the young girl couldn’t wait to tackle this challenge. At that moment, I know I saw the birth of a new reader who just might grow up to love comics and all that the art form can achieve. Because comics are for everyone and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Eddie deAngelini runs Hi De Ho Comics, 1431 Lincoln Blvd., in Santa Monica.