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Mad Ones 12-09-2012 01:02 AM

Representation in Marvel
 
Is the representation of women, racial minorities, or the LGBT community in Marvel comics an issue anyone is interested in? Comics have a history of reflecting the white male demographic that they have traditionally been marketed to. But things are a little different now, and there are more female, racial minority, and LGBT fans than ever. I just always wonder whether Marvel reflects the growing diversity of its fan base.

Women in comics have always had a somewhat contentious relationship with the medium, usually regarding sexualization and objectification, and violence (women in refrigerators). But now there is an increase in prominent female characters. Captain Marvel, Red She-Hulk, Journey into the Mystery (Lady Sif), Uncanny X-force (Marvel Now), Fearless Defenders, and others are all titles that have (or will in Marvel Now) focus on women. The X-franchise has a history of strong female characters, the new Avengers lineup includes more women than ever, and two of the four new FF are women. Are these initiatives signalling a growing equality between the genders in comics?

Women are still relatively marginal in comics. The main characters that drive the stories are still men. Civil war was about Iron Man verses Captain America, Schism was between Cyclops and Wolverine, and AvX was between Cyclops and Captain America. Women are often portrayed as insane (Scarlet Witch), passive in their own lives (Hope), and strong women are often killed off to further the development of male characters (Jean Grey). It's still not uncommon for teams to consist of mostly male or exclusively male characters.

This year was a big year for LGBT characters in comics. Scott Alan is now gay, Northstar is married, and Kevin Keller is a new role model for kids. In Marvel Wiccan and Hulkling kissed for the first time on panel and will be major players in an ongoing. Daken has been given a push and is an intriguing bixexual(?) villain. Minor gay characters are appearing everywhere, including Anole, Striker, Julie Power, Max Modell, etc. This shows an increasing acceptance of the LGBT community into a medium that sexual minorities have always related to.

But there still isn't an influential and prominent gay character in the MU. Northstar is the closest there is, and he's in the margins in Astonishing X-men. There isn't a gay character making decisions along with the big players like Captain America, Ironman, or Cyclops. A gay character doesn't have a single solo in the Marvel line. Like women in comics, gay characters are growing in number but are still largely marginal. There are even less trans characters in the MU. I want to see a likeable, strong, and confident LGBT character become a major player.

Racial minorities have been making progress perhaps even longer than women and the gay community have. Strom, Black Panther, Luke Cage, Psylock and others are major characters that shape what the MU looks like. Their numbers are smaller than that of white characters, but they are actually included in the decision making process in the MU. The new Avengers roster reflects this growing inclusive nature of comics. However white, blond, and blue eyed characters are in abundance. Captain American is the face of the MU, and has made Havok the face of mutant-human relations. There are fewer hispanic heroes, and even fewer East Asian and South West Asian characters.

So how do you guys feel? Is Marvel making genuine progress? Are they better in some areas than others? Is there even an issue to make progress on? Is it fine to alter or change story lines and teams for the sake of representation? Is Marvel giving its fan base what it wants, and fans want characters like Captain America, Ironman, Wolverine, and Cyclops (etc).

Hawkingbird 12-09-2012 03:02 AM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
I feel women are still drawn provocatively in Marvel, however I think they are given some backbone, and aren't potrayed as weak. I agree there needs to be more gay/bi lead characters, however it would be silly to make a leading character suddenly gay (which might happen due to the fanfics). I also think there needs to be more omega-level ethnic characters...because I don't think there are actually any.

JewishHobbit 12-09-2012 08:14 AM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
I honestly don't care whether a character is male, female, lesbian, black, hispanic, or what have you. Just tell a good story.

When it comes to women in comics, I hate how sexualized they can be. Marvel's come strides since the 90s but you still see it at times. I was very happy to see Carol Danver's and Wanda's new looks.

I'll say this though... there are more black, hispanic, gay, and lesbian characters at Marvel than decently portrayed Protestant Christian characters. I've always wanted to see a character with strong Christian values that I could relate to and there isn't a prominate one to be found. Nightcrawler was the best example, as a Catholic, but he's been dead and gone for a while. Wolfesbane is likely next, also Catholic, but I don't feel like her faith is handled well most times. If there is a religious character with decent portrayal they're usually Catholic or Jewish, neither of which I relate to. If there's a Christian character or story, they're oftentimes portrayed as the bad guy, which is enfuriating.

Mad Ones 12-09-2012 10:38 AM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
I never thought about that before. I guess I always assumed that the majority of the characters are WASPs, but the P part is never emphasized. I guess it's probably more of an assumed and implied thing, because that's the majority and "standard" of the population. I mean, I can't see someone like Captain America not being protestant... but that's just me.

Chewy 12-09-2012 12:01 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
The problem is that the majority of the long-running, popular characters are white dudes. Most of Marvel's biggest characters are products of the 60s. And nobody wants to replace those characters - the fans like em, their books sell, they've been fixtures of the comics for 50 years. It's harder to take newer, minority characters and give them that push.

When Hickman sits down to plan out his Avengers roster, he has to use the movie 6, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. I think the other 10 characters he chose are a pretty good, diverse group. But you'll still get people complaining that it's not a diverse group, and there's a bit of truth in that - he started with 7 white dudes.

Marvel's been doing a good job at pushing characters like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and soon Falcon, both in the comics and other media. They had to start with their big 4, those are their icons, but it'll be nice to see their movies expand to represent some of that diversity, too.

It'd be nice to see an LGBT character get that push but they still haven't really found/made one that works and can attract that kind of audience. They just need to get a writer who works with an LGBT character that clicks, and it'll come. Hopefully. But it needs to kind of come about naturally, I don't think forcing it will work on any front.

The Question 12-09-2012 12:13 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JewishHobbit (Post 24815735)
I honestly don't care whether a character is male, female, lesbian, black, hispanic, or what have you. Just tell a good story.

When it comes to women in comics, I hate how sexualized they can be. Marvel's come strides since the 90s but you still see it at times. I was very happy to see Carol Danver's and Wanda's new looks.

I'll say this though... there are more black, hispanic, gay, and lesbian characters at Marvel than decently portrayed Protestant Christian characters. I've always wanted to see a character with strong Christian values that I could relate to and there isn't a prominate one to be found. Nightcrawler was the best example, as a Catholic, but he's been dead and gone for a while. Wolfesbane is likely next, also Catholic, but I don't feel like her faith is handled well most times. If there is a religious character with decent portrayal they're usually Catholic or Jewish, neither of which I relate to. If there's a Christian character or story, they're oftentimes portrayed as the bad guy, which is enfuriating.

I think the assumption for most characters who don't outright state that they're something specific is that they're theists who identify as Christian, usually some denomination of protestant. That's how the majority of Americans are.

As for the issue of Christian characters often being portrayed as bad guys: It seems to me that there's this sense that most Christian folks keep their faith as a relatively private matter, and the ones who advertise it are usually close minded fire and brimstone evangelists. It's not a totally unreasonable view, the fundamentalist types tend to be the loudest and best advertised. Plus, unlike other minority religions like Judaism or Islam, which have traditionally faced bigotry and intolerance to some degree or another in this country, there's never been a demand on Christianity from our society to justify it's existence. There's never been a need within the community to galvanize itself and show solidarity and conviction with overt displays of cultural pride. So while it might be expected of a proud Jewish person to declare that they are a proud Jewish person to oppose a culture that sometimes takes issue with that notion, it's generally expected that a proud Christian person wouldn't make a big deal about it because there's no real need to, as the culture is much more on their side in this regard. Thus overt displays of Christian religiosity are more associated with the much louder and more visible types who are trying to force their beliefs on others, which is inarguably a bad thing.

Also, as someone who's from a very strongly Episcopalian family, I have to ask, why do you find yourself unable to relate to Catholic characters?

JewishHobbit 12-09-2012 01:03 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by The Question (Post 24816681)
I think the assumption for most characters who don't outright state that they're something specific is that they're theists who identify as Christian, usually some denomination of protestant. That's how the majority of Americans are.

As for the issue of Christian characters often being portrayed as bad guys: It seems to me that there's this sense that most Christian folks keep their faith as a relatively private matter, and the ones who advertise it are usually close minded fire and brimstone evangelists. It's not a totally unreasonable view, the fundamentalist types tend to be the loudest and best advertised. Plus, unlike other minority religions like Judaism or Islam, which have traditionally faced bigotry and intolerance to some degree or another in this country, there's never been a demand on Christianity from our society to justify it's existence. There's never been a need within the community to galvanize itself and show solidarity and conviction with overt displays of cultural pride. So while it might be expected of a proud Jewish person to declare that they are a proud Jewish person to oppose a culture that sometimes takes issue with that notion, it's generally expected that a proud Christian person wouldn't make a big deal about it because there's no real need to, as the culture is much more on their side in this regard. Thus overt displays of Christian religiosity are more associated with the much louder and more visible types who are trying to force their beliefs on others, which is inarguably a bad thing.

I can agree with all that.

Quote:

Also, as someone who's from a very strongly Episcopalian family, I have to ask, why do you find yourself unable to relate to Catholic characters?
I can relate but there is a pretty strong difference in practice. If I "needed" someone to relate to then a Catholic character would be fine, but it'd be nice to see a Penticostal or Baptist character who aren't all about the hellfire and brimstone... or killing mutants.

The Question 12-09-2012 02:07 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JewishHobbit (Post 24816957)
I can relate but there is a pretty strong difference in practice. If I "needed" someone to relate to then a Catholic character would be fine, but it'd be nice to see a Penticostal or Baptist character who aren't all about the hellfire and brimstone... or killing mutants.

I get you.

Although, in the case of the Baptist church, the church that's probably most closely associated with The South in people's minds, it might be less of a religious thing and more because of media portraying most Southern people as racist *******s. I mean, maybe. It's definitely a factor.

Thwip! 12-09-2012 03:35 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chewy (Post 24816641)
The problem is that the majority of the long-running, popular characters are white dudes. Most of Marvel's biggest characters are products of the 60s. And nobody wants to replace those characters - the fans like em, their books sell, they've been fixtures of the comics for 50 years. It's harder to take newer, minority characters and give them that push.

When Hickman sits down to plan out his Avengers roster, he has to use the movie 6, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. I think the other 10 characters he chose are a pretty good, diverse group. But you'll still get people complaining that it's not a diverse group, and there's a bit of truth in that - he started with 7 white dudes.

Marvel's been doing a good job at pushing characters like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and soon Falcon, both in the comics and other media. They had to start with their big 4, those are their icons, but it'll be nice to see their movies expand to represent some of that diversity, too.

It'd be nice to see an LGBT character get that push but they still haven't really found/made one that works and can attract that kind of audience. They just need to get a writer who works with an LGBT character that clicks, and it'll come. Hopefully. But it needs to kind of come about naturally, I don't think forcing it will work on any front.

This. Forcing a character to be gay or creating an all new gay or ethnic character out of a desire just to have one for the novelty and not as a result of an organic storytelling will come off as trite and like a marketing scam to grab readers. We need it to be naturally occurring. Miles in USM who initially was felt by many to be a marketing move has, through not forcing his story, become the highest selling ( i believe ) Ultimate Universe book.


With regards to the religious aspect I've never felt the need to have to identify with the religious beliefs of the character in order to get more from it. Granted i'm atheist, but whether Captain Britain has a longer Lord's prayer than a Roman Catholic is a matter of in-consequence to me. Though are there any atheist superheroes or villains out of a matter of interest? None spring to mind really.


That all being said I always thought Peter Parker was some manner of Protestant whilst Bendis recently joked that he must be jewish because of the guilt :whatever:

Mad Ones 12-09-2012 05:06 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
I feel like Northstar's character sometimes suffers from being forced. Like his wedding felt a little rushed and forced. Kyle has had barely any development, and it just felt like Marvel was competing with Archie and DC. Don't get me wrong, I love that there is a married gay hero in the MU, I've just always had issues with how Northstar has been handled. It doesn't help that he is completely boring outside his sexuality (though I like him being a French Canadian because I'm from Canada). He just feels token-y sometimes.

But I guess some characters do need to take on that token role in order to pave the way for others. It's a slow process.

JewishHobbit 12-09-2012 06:43 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Northstar could be a cool character but he's sorta just become "the gay mutant" of late. I only read the first 5 or 6 issues of Liu's Astonishing X-Men but it even came accross that way there. It's almost like it was a team book to draw people in but it was really the Northstar dealing with his sexualty title. I'm not against that but it didn't feel very organic to me.

I think they've done a fine job with Wiccan and Hulkling, so there's that.

Quote:

Originally Posted by The Question
I get you.

Although, in the case of the Baptist church, the church that's probably most closely associated with The South in people's minds, it might be less of a religious thing and more because of media portraying most Southern people as racist *******s. I mean, maybe. It's definitely a factor.

That's part of what bothers me. I've never been Baptist but I've known some wonderful people of that denomination, and yet only the "nutjobs" are portrayed... well... pretty much everywhere. I was a Penticostal Christian for years and knew some wonderful christian people. Not a one of us were snake handlers or long haired holiness, or child-beating people. Some were a bit more extreme in their opinions of what's good and what's bad, but they had reason at least. They weren't hatred spewers.

hippie_hunter 12-09-2012 07:19 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Meh, I really thought that this year was kind of a bad year for LGBT characters in comics. The Northstar wedding was treated as a stupid spectacle and was given the promotion as if he's a character that people give a crap about as opposed to treating it like a natural event. And IMO, DC found a way to be insulting to red and blue state citizens with their Alan Scott bullcrap. Also Daken is dead now.

Women also have it pretty bad because expect almost all of those Marvel titles starring women to get canned pretty quickly. Can't blame them for trying though.

Hawkingbird 12-10-2012 12:54 AM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
They need more women writers :(

Czar Colossus 12-10-2012 12:16 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hippie_hunter (Post 24818533)
Meh, I really thought that this year was kind of a bad year for LGBT characters in comics. The Northstar wedding was treated as a stupid spectacle and was given the promotion as if he's a character that people give a crap about as opposed to treating it like a natural event. And IMO, DC found a way to be insulting to red and blue state citizens with their Alan Scott bullcrap. Also Daken is dead now.

Women also have it pretty bad because expect almost all of those Marvel titles starring women to get canned pretty quickly. Can't blame them for trying though.

Yup .... and personally as a whole I've always felt DC has a better stable of female characters.

hippie_hunter 12-10-2012 04:25 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Hawkingbird (Post 24819835)
They need more women writers :(

That's the biggest problem for minority, female, and LGBT characters. The comic book industry is nothing but one big white boys club and thus really don't have the experiences to translate into well developed characters that aren't white men.

Quasimod0 12-10-2012 05:08 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JewishHobbit (Post 24818387)
Northstar could be a cool character but he's sorta just become "the gay mutant" of late. I only read the first 5 or 6 issues of Liu's Astonishing X-Men but it even came accross that way there. It's almost like it was a team book to draw people in but it was really the Northstar dealing with his sexualty title. I'm not against that but it didn't feel very organic to me.

I think they've done a fine job with Wiccan and Hulkling, so there's that.



That's part of what bothers me. I've never been Baptist but I've known some wonderful people of that denomination, and yet only the "nutjobs" are portrayed... well... pretty much everywhere. I was a Penticostal Christian for years and knew some wonderful christian people. Not a one of us were snake handlers or long haired holiness, or child-beating people. Some were a bit more extreme in their opinions of what's good and what's bad, but they had reason at least. They weren't hatred spewers.

As a pentacostal christian man i agree with you. Personally i dont even know any snake handlers or anything like that. I'm friends with some people who dont cut their hair or wear pants or whatever but I'm not in that denomination. I agree that there are not enough Christian characters out there. There may be a couple of catholic characters, but thats not the same as a protestant character. Religious people of any kind are rarely portrayed well in comics it seems
But one thing you have to think of is; in a world filled with all of the crazy stuff that goes on, like superhuman people, aliens, different dimension, reality altering people, all of that. Where does God fit into that fictional world?

The Question 12-10-2012 09:03 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
What are people's thoughts on changing the race of established characters? Like making Spider-Man black, for example? Not creating a new Spider-Man who is black like Miles Morales. Keeping everything else about the character the same, the mythology completely unchanged, but now Peter Parker is a black dude. What do folks think about that as a way of dealing with representation in comics? And, of course, not just for Spider-Man, but all characters in general.

hippie_hunter 12-10-2012 09:45 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by The Question (Post 24825237)
What are people's thoughts on changing the race of established characters? Like making Spider-Man black, for example? Not creating a new Spider-Man who is black like Miles Morales. Keeping everything else about the character the same, the mythology completely unchanged, but now Peter Parker is a black dude. What do folks think about that as a way of dealing with representation in comics? And, of course, not just for Spider-Man, but all characters in general.

If you're talking about an alternate universe.....no biggie. If you're talking about the mainstream universe....it would be as dumb as Nick Fury Jr.

shiva666 12-11-2012 05:39 AM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
I think the question is wrong. :yay:

In a universe where heroes are green, red, orange color is meaningless.
In a universe where heroes go and come to the next galaxy, dimension, reality, nation is meaningless.
In a universe where heroes are immortal, omnipotent, create human level consciences, most human religions are meaningless.

MU earth is a pit stop for all kinds of diversity from all places.
This would need to be further represented by having some super hero tech change everyday life, see regular people wearing costume inspired if not totally costume designs, a bunch of new religions, cults and way of interpreting all this latest alien facts.

For aimed audience issues?
I think Marvel should expand their variety of styles, both graphically and story wise. Non athlete superheroes should have a different body-type, have different ages in look too, something big not happening in new york, outside cultures having actual different culture (food, fashion, laws, beliefs out of this world).

Czar Colossus 12-11-2012 09:02 AM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hippie_hunter (Post 24825597)
If you're talking about an alternate universe.....no biggie. If you're talking about the mainstream universe....it would be as dumb as Nick Fury Jr.

Absolutely.......guess that's why I look at New 52 as a completely alternate universe .....like Marvel's Ultimate.

The Question 12-11-2012 09:59 AM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hippie_hunter (Post 24825597)
If you're talking about an alternate universe.....no biggie. If you're talking about the mainstream universe....it would be as dumb as Nick Fury Jr.

Well, Nick Fury Jr. is a new character. He might be kind of replacing the old one, but he's a new guy. I'm talking about taking an established character, changing their race, and leaving everything else about that character exactly the same. Maybe in an alternate universe, sure. Movie and TV adaptations wee really what I was thinking about the most. But why would it be dumb to do it in the mainstream universe? Just retcon Peter Parker into a black guy and leave everything else the same? Honestly, I wouldn't have an issue if they went that far.

Czar Colossus 12-11-2012 11:22 AM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
It's pandering if they do that. So the comic book superhero genre was created mainly by a bunch of little white Jewish guys (Shmucks as they call themselves) who had fantasies of being something greater. It is what is is. Does the industry now owe an apology to Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Gays, or any other special group I may not have mentioned? No.
Should they focus on creating new characters that reflect a greater diversity in race, sexual orientation, even religion to reflect the culture of today? Yes; but do not bastardize the classics because you're compelled (for whatever dopey reason) to pander to whomever.

The Question 12-11-2012 12:10 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
Is it pandering, though? If you change the race and nothing else? I don't think so. It would be if it somehow hurt or diminished the character, but I don't see how changing the race and nothing else would do that.

I guess my point is that it would add visible diversity to the comics, and I really don't see what the harm or any downside would be.

You say it would be a bastardization? How so?

chamber-music 12-11-2012 02:07 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
I'm not really a huge fan of making a ethnic minority version of an already popular character. I prefer if they create an orginal superhero identity for them but I understand why they do it.

From a marketing point of view its alot easier to sell a black, asian, hispanic, ect version of a superhero who is well known than to create a brand new character and hope it becomes popular.

I'm all for diversity but I don't think they should force it or do it for shock vaule or as a publicity stunt. It should be natural.

Turning random long established charcters gay without zero mention of it feels a little forced for me.

When your doing it for the wrong reasons you end up creating chracters that are just walking issues with no real identity.

You want characters that happen to be gay, muslim, disabled, ect but that shouldn't only define them as characters. You don't want to be reading a comic in which say Dusk only shows up when a writer wants someone to comment on islam or Northstar only shows up if the storyline involves something gay.

I don't get the Miles Morales hate but then again I don't care about the ultimate universe.

Nick Fury Jr doesn't bother me either. As long as Nick Fury Snr is still running around Marvel 616 I'm happy. Nick Fury Snr hasn't been boss of SHEILD in a while and his son is only a SHEILD field agent so its not like he has replaced him just yet.

There is room for both characters just like there is room for both Wolverine and Daken or Hulk and Skaar
Quote:

Originally Posted by JewishHobbit (Post 24815735)
I'll say this though... there are more black, hispanic, gay, and lesbian characters at Marvel than decently portrayed Protestant Christian characters. I've always wanted to see a character with strong Christian values that I could relate to and there isn't a prominate one to be found. Nightcrawler was the best example, as a Catholic, but he's been dead and gone for a while. Wolfesbane is likely next, also Catholic, but I don't feel like her faith is handled well most times. If there is a religious character with decent portrayal they're usually Catholic or Jewish, neither of which I relate to. If there's a Christian character or story, they're oftentimes portrayed as the bad guy, which is enfuriating.

Wolfsbane is actually a Presbyterian not a Catholic but I think some writers have written her as Catholic because they were not paying attention to the characters history or don't know the difference.

The give away is she was raised by Reverend Craig if she was raised by a Catholic clegyman he would be a priest and thus Father Craig.

TheCorpulent1 12-11-2012 04:03 PM

Re: Representation in Marvel
 
The only issue I have with representation in Marvel's comics is the same I have with representation in all forms of media: the double-standard that it's okay to objectify women. I think cheesecake artists like Frank Cho and Adam Hughes, however talented they are, should knock all the butt shots and freaky-proportioned figures off, and I think artists in general need to quit trying to contort women to show their boobs and butts simultaneously in most panels. It's not even like I'm a hardcore feminist or anything, I just think it always comes off as kind of sleazy because there's only one form of entertainment that's actually about ogling hot chicks: porn. Every other form of entertainment doesn't really need to pick up that torch or anything.

Other than that, I couldn't care less about race or minority representations or LGBT characters. If people want to create new ones and add them in, great; the comic world should be reflective of the real world, to some extent. Just don't define characters entirely by their minority status. As far as being able to relate to characters, I think if you need a character to be the exact same race as you to relate, you're pretty small-minded and sad. As a guy with a cornucopia of ethnicities in my background, I know for a fact that there's never gonna be a character who lines up with me perfectly, and it doesn't matter. I relate to characters of all kinds of different races and religions and sexual orientations for all kinds of different reasons, usually not at all to do with those races or religions or sexual orientations. I mean, I'm an atheist yet I still love Nightcrawler for the irony of his devout religiosity in spite of his demonic appearance. I'm not really one to stick my neck out for others, yet I love Captain America for his earnest desire to help others. I grew up Catholic but my favorite character is a pagan god. Et cetera, et cetera.


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