(PCM) Should existing super heroes be replaced by alternate races, colors or sexualities for the sake of appeasing false outrage? Some call relate this issue to comicgate.
Most people don’t read comic books. Ask a friend about comic book superheroes and they will base their knowledge from a superhero film such as Winter Soldier or The Dark Knight Returns, not original source material in print. Few know of Batman: The Long Halloween or Hush.
Unless you are Harlequin (Harley Quinn’s first appearance was in animation), the origins and character traits of comic book characters are borne from comic books. The fanbase of superheroes are comic book readers. Comic book fans love their characters as they are.
Yet more and more new fans demand for a gay character, or more representation of women – the list goes on. Legacy readers feel hijacked by the political correctness new fans bring. Legacy readers feel even more angst due to drastic and undue changes to characters that often retcon a character needlessly.
Most calls for politically correct changes are made by entities such as media organizations acting as the mouthpiece for a single blogger, not large organized groups which have a true vested interest in evolving characters. The blogger or agenda oriented media writer doesn’t ask for change, they demand it.
There are still legitimate requests in changes to the inhabitants of comic books – to a point. And while the case of “to a point” is being made, let’s not bog down in that statement alone. The argument here is that as a rule we shouldn’t change superheroes main characteristics. Long time comic book readers accept politically correct additions and resist politically correct changes. Some could argue it’s a generational issue, but it goes beyond your age.
You see, if we are changing comic book characters’ genders, interests, or anything that originally defined their ‘character’ they no longer remain that character. If Marvel can change Thor to a female, then DC’s Wonder Woman could be played by a man. Do you see the meaning here?
Comic book characters have a history of behaviors and interests. Superman is a boy scout, Batman is grim, Spider-Man is Peter Parker and Peter Parker is eternally young.
Sure the publishers of these comics have the right to alter the course of a character, and in many cases they are justified in doing so. Yet the defining elements of a character should rarely if ever be changed once canon is established. While times change and the characteristics of a character should mirror the times, superheroes should remain true to their roots. Superheroes such as Superman have changed much over their long existence. Superman didn’t always fly, but the canon of Superman is he has always been a moral model. There are exceptions, perhaps a character is totally unknown and disposable or about to be abandoned. Plausible evolutionary arcs work too.
Canon to a faithful comic book reader is the undisputed history of a character. Examples:
- Death of Superman.
- Uncle Ben’s legacy of power & responsibility.
- Bane breaks Batman’s back with aftermath of Azrael.
- The death of Gwen Stacy.
The caretakers (contemporary editors and publishers) of canon have made more bad decisions than good. In fact you could argue that canon has been the reason for success in film. When films are based on or follow canon they succeed. That is why Sony continues to fail with Spider-Man and Marvel Studios is on a winning streak. It’s why Fox’s reboot of the Fantastic Four is guaranteed to fail. Fox’s only success in the superhero genre was Days of Future Past. Why? Days of Future Past integrated canon – specifically the story sharing the same title written by Chris Claremont in 1981 in Uncanny X-Men. While blaming film studios for bad films is easy, we still have the actual publishers DC and Marvel dead in our sights. They hold the most responsibility for taking good characters and destroying them.
For this rule there are exceptions.
- Catwoman is now bi-sexual – plausible arc.
Some feminists may argue against this article any support in keeping Catwoman heterosexual is sexist, however this change to Catwoman is borderline. Sure it’s plausible she can be bisexual but frankly turning her from a chaotic neutral cat burgler to the head of a crime ring is more of a sin.
- A gay Green Lantern – long forgotten character.
Announcing characters as gay may be contrived but can be an acceptable change to canon. Writing a Green Lantern as gay does not violate his canon but at the time it was announced it appeared contrived in an effort to increase sales. It was almost as if the publishers wanted bigoted opinions for the sake of controversy. The upside here is the most well known Green Lantern Hal Jordan wasn’t changed, it was a Green Lantern (original Golden Age Alan Scott) not the Green Lantern (New 52 Hal Jordan) of modern canon. It’s worth noting that DC retconned Alan Scott into Earth 2, an alternate DC universe.
- Spider-Man is black/hispanic – plausible arc.
Last is the race card on Spider-Man. Many mixed instant outrage over the rumor the first Spider-Man in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film may be Miles Morales (black/hispanic). Most felt placing Miles Morales ahead of Peter Parker was a violation of canon in terms of chronological order, while the thought police argued anyone that couldn’t accept Miles Morales was a racist for not accepting a black/hispanic. The fan base in general simply wanted the Spider-Man that has existed in the original Civil War story. Altering Peter Parker’s skin color wasn’t the ultimate concern. The outcry that was drowned out by the loud minority was that Miles Morales came about because of Peter Parker. Changing canon in the Civil War movie is just not authentic. If it were not for so many comic book readers, the rest of the world would not be receiving this gift of great superhero films.
Yes there are many racist, bigots and homophobes on the Internet anonymously insulting the voices who call for more female superheroes, writers, and even video game programmers for that matter. They do not represent the voices of reason that have more specific arguments against changing superheros canon.
Canon is the argument in a nutshell. Let’s not take any beloved character and rewrite them for the sole purpose of political correctness or appeasement. Would J.R.R. Tolkien have wanted modern screenwriters to make Frodo Baggins a female? Perhaps, he would have, but it would have been that single creators’ decision to do so.This brings us to ownership. In the world of publishing comics, if you add a character to the DC or Marvel universe you give up any claim to the character. You may add a wonderful new addition to the DC Universe or the Marvel Universe that can now interact with Superman or Spider-Man but you lose your say so over the future of that character.
To this end we should all question the stewards of our beloved childhood friends Batman, Spider-Man and the likes. If the political wind is blowing conservative, characters may be less controversial, maybe even stuffy or bland. In the current climate a very liberal wind is blowing that seemingly has an agenda of answering to the loud minority who do not even buy comic books at the same rate as typical readers.
Should we have gay characters? Should we have muslim characters? Should we have more female superheroes? Why not? Few would argue against it, but there certainly isn’t a huge demand for them either. Sales prove it.
The answer may be because they’d rather risk not selling a few extra issues of your favorite title and then go back on that change if their half-hearted attempt goes flat. After all, retconning characters is often relied upon by publishers to serve their needs.
And that’s what taking an existing hetrosexual character and turning them gay is, it’s half-hearted. Make a new character that is gay and that’s the way you get everyone on board.
The answer is even more simple. Money. Publishers use controversy to increase sales. They can only speculate – once the decision to make a change is made, they will only know if they were right if sales increase.
At one time publishers mandated these changes against the will of writers that were old-school. Now publishers are more savvy. They hire writers that have an agenda that matches up with the changes being made to a character. Want to change a character to a successful female character? Hire a female writer. Want a writer to support the gay lifestyle of a character? Hire a writer that has those values.This example is not always the case, but it is happening. By no means is this meant to belittle female writers. But to get a true female perspective, don’t you need a female? As a man I’ll never understand fully the experience of giving birth, and while I can write about it, wouldn’t a woman’s understanding be more apt?
Agenda writers have a place but this tack has yet to yield any successful results other than short term and it’s no less thoughtful than killing Superman. Killing Superman had short term success, so far the same can’t even be said of making Thor a female.
What is a good example of restoring popularity to a character to boost sales? The Captain America films from Marvel Studios is an ideal example. That character was as uncool as the Blue Beetle, and now he’s as worthy as Superman. Good story telling saved Captain America, not appeasement to loud minority requests.
It is fair to argue that the fan opinions that should matter to the publishers are from the fans that have long term understanding of characters and are invested in those characters.
The one constant has been that fans are getting what they ask for. For example, fans demanded for years that Spider-Man return from Sony to Marvel. That finally took place with the Amy Pascal/Kevin Feige deal which allows Spider-Man to be a part of the MCU in 2016 Marvel Studios film Civil War. Now rumors run rampant it won’t be Peter Parker that wears the Spider-Man mask.
The message should be clear to the caretakers of our comics. Don’t screw with canon. If you want to give those that want a female superhero what they want, then write better stories around existing female superheros or just create great new female superheros. This isn’t a divide between males and females, it’s about great characters, and great stories. Until then, if you want to change genders, sexuality and such like making Thor a female or suddenly changing a male character to gay, then by all means, make Wonder Woman a man.