Comic books ought to in­crease di­ver­sity among scriptwrit­ers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

DAVID BE­TAN­COURT

IRON Man will soon be a young, black, fe­male teen.

Where do we be­gin? At first glance, this an­nounce­ment, first made by Time, is an­other step for­ward in Marvel Comics’ con­tin­ued ef­forts to make its comic-book uni­verse bet­ter re­sem­ble the world it oc­cu­pies. For so long that wasn’t the case. But we now have Miles Mo­rales as a half African-Amer­i­can/half Puerto Ri­can Spi­der-Man.

We’ve got Ka­mala Khan, the new Mus­lim Ms Marvel. Thor is a woman. The In­cred­i­ble Hulk is Asian. Nova has a Latina mother. The Marvel Comics uni­verse is al­most un­recog­nis­able when you com­pare it to just a decade ago.

And now, we have Riri Wil­liams, a beau­ti­ful, young black girl with a ge­nius-level IQ who has a mind so­phis­ti­cated enough to take over for Iron Man when the fi­nal events of Marvel’s Civil War II un­fold, we as­sume. Even bet­ter, the per­son that is bring­ing us Riri, writer Brian Michael Bendis, is the same cre­ator who gave us Miles Mo­rales. Every­one loves Miles (this writer in­cluded), so ev­ery­thing is just great in the march to­wards su­per­hero di­ver­sity, right? Not ex­actly. While many on so­cial me­dia were quick to cel­e­brate this news, there is a sec­tion of the in­ter­net, Black Twit­ter specif­i­cally, that isn’t re­ally sure how to re­act. The an­nounce­ment hasn’t been met with 100 per­cent good vibes, that’s for sure. That’s be­cause as Marvel’s comic-book pages start splash­ing more colour on the skin of their he­roes, the cre­ative minds be­hind the process con­tinue to be not as di­verse.

Brian Michael Bendis is white; he is not a black woman. There are those out there, my­self in­cluded to a de­gree, who feel if you’re go­ing to bring in a new young, black char­ac­ter and put a fa­mous su­per­hero man­tle on her shoul­ders, the least you could do is give her an au­then­tic black, fe­male voice. On the other hand, Bendis is one of the most pow­er­ful voices in the en­tire comic-book in­dus­try. And he has used the power be­hind his voice and writ­ten words to di­ver­sify a comic-book uni­verse that might not be as in­clu­sive as it feels now with­out his ef­forts. In­stead of a moral vic­tory, Riri Wil­liams feels like a pro­duc­tive draw. A point for each side, but no­body wins.

Few ex­cel at su­per­hero di­a­logue like Bendis.

He’s prob­a­bly the one writer who can get away with his he­roes be­ing ex­tra chatty and not hav­ing to POW and BAM their way through an is­sue. I am look­ing for­ward to what Bendis can do with Riri, just as ea­gerly as I await a new comic-book about Miles Mo­rales each month. But just as I re­luc­tantly ad­mit that Mo­rales, in his his­toric run as Spi­der-Man, hasn’t done any­thing out­landishly Puerto Ri­can (no domi­noes, no won­der­ing why that last Menudo group never came out with a full al­bum, no eat­ing abuela’s ar­roz y habichue­las, no men­tion of the debt cri­sis) or black (no de­bat­ing be­ing a su­per­hero of colour – one who has his skin colour cov­ered up, granted – in the Black Lives Mat­ter era), I have to as­sume that same feel­ing of a lack of au­then­tic voice will come over me when I read Riri.

Bendis’s heart is in the right place. And for those who don’t know, he is proudly the fa­ther of black chil­dren, and he’d have an in­vested in­ter­est in mak­ing sure the com­pany he works for re­flects his di­verse fam­ily.

Marvel at some point is go­ing to have to re­alise that these an­nounce­ments of di­ver­sity can only be half­way cel­e­brated if the di­ver­sity isn’t be­hind the pages as well and not just in the pan­els. Some­where there is a half African-Amer­i­can/half Puerto Ri­can kid that would love to write Mo­rales.

If Marvel can get Ta-Ne­hisi Coates to write Black Pan­ther and an all-Asian cre­ative team on To­tally Awe­some Hulk, then some­where there is a black, fe­male voice ready to give Riri Wil­liams new life, whether it be as Iron Man, or what­ever iden­tity she may hold in the fu­ture. – The In­de­pen­dent

Civil War II

Riri Wil­liams, the beau­ti­ful ge­nius who may take over from Iron Man when the events of Marvel’s un­fold.

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