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Why Changing Race of Established Comics Characters is Wrong

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Nov 15, 2013 | 9:00am EST

Marvel Comics is at it again. The former House of Ideas (no longer worthy of that title, especially in light of such thinly-veiled publicity stunts as this) announced recently that Ms. Marvel will be reintroduced as 16-year-old Kamala Khan, a Muslim daughter of Pakistani parents. Having taken the mantle of her childhood hero (the previous Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers) Khan will reportedly have the ability to grow and shrink her body at will, ultimately having her shape shift. Looks like the first such form she’ll take is a big ball of controversy – and rightfully so.

Lest anyone misjudge me, I couldn’t care less what color or religion any writer wishes to make a character, either in a comic book or in film. It’s the altering of such a character (for the sake of simply altering a character) where I hold the fault. This token Ms. Marvel move, or the “let’s make Nick Fury black in the movies” is shameless, really.

Samuel L Jackson, Nick Fury

Marvel Studios

Why not simply invent a whole new character? Nick Fury was a white leader of an elite team of World War II soldiers. Sam Jackson is a great actor, but looks nothing like the character in the comics. The thing is, have you ever read how shamefully African-Americans were treated in World War II? Suffice to say the Army wasn't asking many of them to lead elite units of soliders. Ask the Tuskegee Airmen. For similar reasons, you will also never hear me lobbying for Tom Cruise to play Blade, for example. Why? Because it would be silly, frankly.

Marvel announcing that Ms. Marvel is now a Muslim teen makes the character completely a product of her racial and religious makeup. It’s not uplifting the character in the least. It is relegating it to the confines of these labels.

Superheroes stand above all race, creed and color. They are an example to all of us – regardless of what color we see in the mirror. In calling attention to the racial change, Marvel is actually pointing out the difference in these characters and all of us, not celebrating it.

Let’s not forget this is the same studio that arbitrarily decided to make a character called “The Rawhide Kid” gay – complete with big press campaign to show how great they were for doing this - only to have the book quickly became a bastion for all things stereotypical about homosexuals.

More diversity in comics is great. What we don’t need is a press release announcing how diverse a company is. It’s self-serving and grandiose.

Time was once that Marvel made headlines because its books were good. Now, the only time it generates headlines is for its cheap ploys at currying media attention by any means necessary.

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