Mighty Marvel Monday: Bad News For Diversity

So last week’s Mighty Marvel Monday, I wrote about how wonderful it was to see Marvel making actual attempts at diversifying its creative teams and also being recognized for the quality work they do (side note: isn’t it weird how the stories being written by women – that have characters from underrepresented groups being treated as actual people and not cliches – keep getting nominated for awards? Crazy!)

But it only takes one thing to happen, or in this instance to not happen, for that progress to be undermined and now everyone is back to saying Marvel is the Worst, and I don’t entirely disagree.

It was a Thursday like any other. And then it happened. The Iron First casting announcement.

If you weren’t around on twitter when it happened, count yourself lucky. It got ugly. To the people I know (and the people I don’t!) who called bullshit on this casting–especially those of you who are POC and then got harassed for it–this gif is for you.


You are brave, and I love you.

There’ve been a number of articles about the casting of Finn Jones as Iron Fist, so I’m not going to repeat what you’ve read on Harpy, Vox and elsewhere. But I will link to Marjorie Liu’s tweet.

And also these tweets.

The former illustrates how Marvel, if they had been smarter about it, would have been able to keep Danny Rand’s origin story but also infuse it with a new element. The suggestion has been made several times that a second or third generation Asian-American would have been able to keep the “culture shock” elements of Danny Rand’s story, get rid of the Mighty Whitey trope, and add an element that reconnects our new Chinese-American Danny Rand with his Chinese heritage. 

The latter illustrates exactly what’s at stake here for Asian-Americans. Yes, Jubilee exists, as does Psylocke. And yes, Marvel/Netflix cast Elodie Yung as Elektra, racebending a traditionally white character within the Marvel/Netflix universe just like casting Chloe Bennet racebent Daisy Johnson. It just so happens we got our first look at her as Elektra in action (both in and out of costume) this week.

Elektra looks incredibly badass and sexy and morally gray and I am here for it. But all of these badass Asian characters are women. We’re still waiting for our male Asian-American superhero, but so far all the men have been evil and the big bad for Daredevil season two is a group of evil mystical ninjas (no really). If Marvel doesn’t see how only casting Asian men in bad guys roles is a problem, they need to listen more and pay attention. The #AAIronFist hashtag has been around for awhile now, and the concerns it raised should have been listened to and not dismissed.

That’s the theme for this week, unfortunately: Marvel not listening. I was pointed to an exchange on tumblr between Tom Brevoort and a Ms. Marvel fan who was concerned about Kamala being whitewashed in the All-New, All-Different universe. The first question and response is bad, but it just gets worse, with Brevoort accusing the fan of cherry picking their images and once again denying any intentional wrong doing. That’s not listening, Tom. 

This is the image that the fan provided.


On the left, you see Ms. Marvel as she was drawn in 2014. On the right, in 2015.

How does something like this happen, and who is responsible when it happens? I’ve linked to this before, but Ronald Wimberley’s comic, “Lighten Up,” on the Nib provides incisive analysis about the way lightening a character’s skin can be indicative of racist standards of beauty. It also puts the responsibility not on the artist or colorist, but on the editor. Clearly, if an editor can email a colorist to ask someone to lighten someone’s skin, they can also email someone to darken it back to the shade that it should be.

Brevoort’s response is not only tone deaf but needlessly defensive and just plain wrong. Intent doesn’t matter when it comes to something like whitewashing. If, as Brevoort claims, it’s not intentional, (although Wimberly’s comic makes one wonder…) then that means it’s editorial carelessness–and that it’s widespread. Marguerite Bennett recently tweeted her awareness of the same problem happening with Sera in Angela: Queen of Hel.

Here’s Sera before All-New, All-Different Avengers.


Here’s Sera after.


Not only is Sera skin significantly whiter, her body shape is also significantly thinner. Color issues may be addressed in the trade, says Bennett, but body type issues would require the pages to be redrawn–which just won’t happen. So, is this just coincidence? Does Marvel have a widespread editorial problem? Or does, as Brevoort claims, the culpability belong to the new artists and colorists?

Moving on.

In more news, it appears that Channing Tatum won’t be playing Gambit after all–or at least, not anytime soon. I reported recently that filming was about to start in New Orleans, but on Sunday, Fox pulled the movie from its release schedule, and added release dates for two unnamed Marvel movies. One is easy to guess. Deadpool is making a shit ton of money, and so Deadpool 2 is a gimme. Speculation about the second has been leaning towards an X-Force movie, mostly because Ryan Reynolds really wants one, and Fox will probably give Ryan Reynolds anything he wants from now on. Also, it would be a very smart move since X-Men: Apocalypse is probably the last X-Men film, and an X-Force film could conceivably be the new home for those characters, in addition to the characters from Deadpool.


I searched long and hard for some joyfulness to share this week and I was at a loss of what to share–until the Oscars happened. 

Apparently Chris Evans caught Henry Cavill eating Girl Scout cookies (maybe his chewing was distracting?), and I don’t think I have to tell you that this is exactly what would happen if Steve Rogers and Clark Kent were at an Awards show together.



This is the crossover we deserve, Marvel.

Oh and one more thing–if Marvel gets all of Star Wars now, I get to link to this piece of happy news re: Episode VIII and queer characters. 


I’m going to read that as confirmation of Canonically Bisexual Poe Dameron, and nobody can stop me.

Kate Tanski

Kate Tanski

Recovering academic. Fangirl. Geek knitter.

6 thoughts on “Mighty Marvel Monday: Bad News For Diversity

  1. The obvious answer would have been to just give up on making Iron Fist non-racist and do a Misty Knight and Colleen Wing series instead – two non-white protagonists. They don’t have any less general public recognition than Danny Rand.

    Oh, and Psylocke is not really an Asian-American character to be proud of. She’s actually an upper-class English woman who was bodyswapped into being Asian because of the creator’s race fetishes.

    1. We are getting a Misty! She is cast and she is lovely. I don’t think that ignoring Danny’s origins is the best strategy. Reclamation can be important, since it acknowledges the racist origins. And yes–my brief mention of Psylocke was in reference to having her represented onscreen, but there are definitely issues with her bodyswap that should be acknowledged and discussed.

  2. Huh. I DID notice what happened with Sera, which is a big part of why I dropped the book after the second issue, but somehow I missed the coloring problem with Kamala despite reading her stuff from her first issue. …so…how do we go about fixing THIS stuff?

    I did catch the Iron Fist casting. Bad call, Marvel. In more ways than one, if my understanding about his acting is accurate. …so he’s white, Doctor Strange is white…any other possibilities for heroic Asian men from Marvel? I know a fair bit, but I got nuthin’ else for dudes even linked to “Asian” stuff.

    1. Re: Coloring–that’s my question too. Is it an artist issue or is it an editorial issue? Or both? Regardless, Marvel needs to not dismiss fans who bring this up as an issue. Also–I’m not sure a link is necessary when you’re thinking about recasting traditionally white characters, but what was important about recasting Iron Fist or Doctor Strange was the opportunity to reclaim a character whose origins are steeped in orientalism and racism. I definitely think they made the wrong call.

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