Race in Comics Revisited
In a previous article by one of our own here at CMG our writer shared his thoughts about racial representation, or lack thereof, in our beloved form of entertainment. Today I would like to present another view on this issue. As my colleague divulged his groupings, I too shall let mine be known; I am a straight Filipino male. I’ve seen any and all forms of discrimination that you could possibly think of. I’ve been followed around a store because I looked like I didn’t belong or that I would steal; I’ve been called dark for a c***k; I’ve been asked if I was Chinese or Japanese simply because people saw I was Asian and thought those were the only two options.
Now all those are just everyday micro-aggressions that I’ve come to try to teach people about when I face that sort of ignorance. In the realm of comics and fantasy I thought I found myself an escape. There were these great characters like James Logan Howlett, Bruce Wayne, Steve Rogers, and the list of legends can go on. One thing I eventually did notice was that how come none of these heroes look like me? As trivial as it may seem, racial representation definitely matters for a child growing up. In every book, TV show, comic, movies, etc. that I would watch I’d start noticing a trend; it’s the same 20-40 year old white men coming in to save the day. Then if there was a chance for an Asian, Black, Hispanic, or any other minority to have a shot at being a main character, we’d be relegated to just another sidekick or other minor role for comic relief. Then if we did get a character to identify with, it was always the samurai, or ninja, or martial artist, or any combination of stereotypical roles; and the same can be said for any minority. With all that, I still tried to look past it as a big screw you and become Batman, Wolverine, Captain America or any other hero; though there was still that little bit in me that felt like these characters weren’t really me. Yet what followed as I dressed up as these characters was what finally broke me down as a child. I heard the mutterings, the whispers, and the stares of confusion from predominantly white people questioning why an Asian kid was dressing up as these characters. That’s what drove me away for a long while. Yes, I would still watch and read and I’d still follow the stories of these characters; but I knew none of these characters were mine because of those nagging outsiders who whispered in my ear I couldn’t be them. Growing up I’ve obviously grown past all those naysayers but it’s still a long way to go before children don’t feel segregated in that way.
Would I love to see new original ethnic characters? Without a doubt. I agree with my colleague on that part, but time is not on our side; specifically, it isn’t on the side of the children who don’t see themselves on comic pages. Those younger years are vital in the development of their mental state. The industry could create new ethnic characters and that’d be perfect; but kids are still going to flock to Batman, Captain America, and the major established heroes. Having the Blue Beetle is great, but is it so wrong to want to see Johnny Storm be Black also? Now it’s in our hands to make them relatable to everyone on all fronts no matter how small the changes may seem to the majority. After all, we read about humans that can fly, shoot lasers, shoot spider-webs, and other out of this world abilities, yet we as a people can’t handle if their skin goes from pale to dark? In recent issues, Sam Wilson finally took up the mantle of Captain America because Steve Rogers aged out. Unfortunately I have not been able to read/afford any of these issues, yet I still applaud Marvel for finally pushing this idea further. Another hero that had a major change a while back was when Miles Morales was introduced as another Spider-Man. While he didn’t replace Peter Parker, it was still a sudden addition into that universe since he was Black and Hispanic! I can’t stress enough how important it would have been to mini-me to see an Asian version of the major heroes I adored. Just psychologically, it would have changed the way I saw certain things. Not race related, but changing Thor to a woman was a smart and calculated move on Marvel’s part as well. It’s these types of sudden changes that need to occur to get these types of conversations going. They also need to occur so all of our children can identify themselves with these major heroes. All the backstory and history of characters we’ve grown to love is great. But there’s nothing wrong with establishing these characters again for newer generations. That is what truly makes comics one of the better forms of entertainment. These stories can be written decades ago but still apply to the world today. It’s about time that the characters are modeled after the ever increasing diversity of the world.