Diversity Now: An Ultimate Spider-Man Addendum

I really want to see some Asian/Indian/Middle Eastern heroes. People have a tendency to complain about how there are so many of these people, and yet they don’t appear in comics aside from taxi drivers and store owners. I’m not going to count Shang-Chi due to his irrelevance and him being the requisite Asian Kung-Fu Master who occasionally teaches white people martial arts. There’s also Amadeus Cho, who was probably my favourite part of the Marvel’s Hercules comics. Right, and tentacle monster Kenji who showed up in Generation Hope counts as well. (He’s awesome by the way. Read Generation Hope) But that’s three guys at most, and two of them are hardly being used anymore.

Thankfully DC is starting to do something positive with the Middle East. Thank you Superman for teaming up with an Arabic hero and Batman picking an Algerian to protect France in Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. As for Marvel, I was not remotely happy with Dust, a woman who constantly wears a abaya and a niqab. She represents a very very small minority of Muslims who choose to wear the full outfit by choice. Not to mention her power is the ability to turn into sand which gives men full view of her so long as she’s using her power and makes the traditional dress rather pointless. Yeah, she’s not really human at the time, but if you’re going for the consistency of the belief that you should hide your body from men, then that sand is part of your body. If you want to introduce a female who is Muslim and proud, the head scarf and some less revealing clothing are fine, although even those aren’t necessary.

As for Indians, I don’t know any Indian heroes. But here guys, I can create one off the top of my head. Amit DaSilva moves from Goa to the Silicon Valley, where his mother works for a secretive robotics company that is being contracted by the government. On the day Amit comes to visit his mother at work, there’s a break in by a militia of a radical right-wing group, Humans-Only. They wants to stop whatever secret experiments are going on. To stop the employees from doing anything sneaky, Humans-Only turns off the power. Amit wants to help, so he runs out to find the power core against his mother’s advice. Amit is a fast sprinter, so he gets there first and manages to sneak by the militia. He turns on the power, but also the sets off the top secret experiment. The experiment is a robotic body that can house a human consciousness, and Amit’s mind begins to transfer over. The militia stop the process before it completes, but it’s too late, Amit passes out and the high tech robot becomes active. Defeating Humans-Only, the robot returns to the robotics facility only to find his mother in fear that her son is dead and now has a robot body. Don’t worry mom, because since the process was interrupted and occured during a freak accident, Amit can now transfer his mind between his weak human body and the hulking robotic form that is Sentient Steel!

There. It took me fifteen minutes at most to come up with that. Notice how his power has nothing to do with his background? Just because he’s Indian doesn’t predispose him to shoot tea out of his hands or have the magic ability to control hundreds of telephones to call the populace. The ethnicity adds to his background and possible complications for character drama. Maybe his father is a Buddhist and a pacifist who believes that Amit’s crime fighting is wrong. Maybe Amit’s far off relatives are more hostile to his immediate family’s recent move due to the distant family’s relative impoverishment. Again these are things I thought of in fifteen minutes. I am going to give professional comic writers the benefit of the doubt and say that they can come up with something better.

Here’s another thing I hope we’ve moved past. If you name a character after their ethnicity then you are ignoring deeper and more important character traits. There is a lot you can do without naming the character Captain India, Major Mapleleaf, or even Captain Britain for that matter. It’s not terrible to include characters who are avatars of their nation, but if that’s the only way we’re representing foreigners, then clearly we misunderstand how superheros work in our own nation. Superheroes are meant to be avatars of the underdog, the inner ubermensch or some repressed nature of society, who are ready to fight to protect the innocent. They are never pure icons, which is what we resort to when we show a character as vague as Captain (Country).

To prove that isn’t even a racial thing, but just a laziness on the part of writers, let’s look at the character Sasquatch. He is one of several Captain Canadas on the team Alpha Flight. He’s a scientist who turns into a Sasquatch, because the Sasquatch is a Canadian thing, and I guess they wanted to do the Hulk but Canadian. The major difference is that Sasquatch retains his intelligence, and he’s powered by magic, like the aboriginals. Because those are Canadian too. Again, I don’t want there to be no superhero icons, but when they’re limited to just icons it is a very limited representation and the iconism of the nation adds nothing to the story. To be fair, Sasquatch has been given a lot of development since his inception and is a much stronger character.

It just bugs me that he transformed from average Canadian into super Canadian. The same thing happens when you make Captain India. It’s an Indian man or woman who turns into a Super Indian, who fights for Indian Ideals of Insert, ThreeWords, Here. The differences in ideals and backgrounds should be evident from their attitudes and beliefs as human beings, as characters, not based on their superpower or their name.

Ultimate Spider-Man’s Miles Morales has given us a lot to think about. I am looking forward to seeing more ethnic diversity in comics, to better represent North America’s multicultural society. We are all immigrants here, it’s about time we start paying attention to ones who have a different tone of skin. We’re just starting to see some fruit when it comes to the Africans and Hispanics. However, can Marvel and DC please remember that there are millions of people who live in North America and haven’t been involved in civil rights campaigns? Different backgrounds provide not only better representation, but more interesting characters, and a window into another culture. These are all elements that add to a story rather than complicate it. And boy, in a world of cliché, overdone plotlines, and stories that are meant to explode off the page, I am totally ready for more interesting characters.

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Posted on August 7, 2011, in Comics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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