Tag Archives: The Hero Initiative

Race + Comics: Three Characters Of Color Who (Probably) Won’t Benefit From The Avengers’ Success

Courtesy artwallpapers.biz

By Arturo R. García

Ok, so The Avengers–pardon me, Marvel’s The Avengers–is a well-made summer blockbuster-type movie, well worth catching at least once. To no one’s surprise, the film’s gargantuan opening weekend has made a sequel inevitable. Which means it’s officially time to start speculating on which characters will be next to make the jump to the big screen.

This would be a great chance for Marvel to give fans a more diverse super-team, right? Maybe include Black Panther or Luke Cage? It’s a nice thought, but with the comic-book industry involved, it’s … best not to get too optimistic. Still, it’s not hard to see the opportunities Marvel is almost assuredly going to neglect because of some behind-the-scenes moves.

Ultimate Janet Van Dyne
Way back in 2008, Samuel L. Jackson’s surprise appearance as Nick Fury in Iron Man served as an elegant signal to viewers and readers: the nascent Marvel movieverse would be adapting material from the company’s Ultimate line of comics, which presented more diverse versions of the company’s core characters. Ultimate Nick Fury’s character design, for example, was specifically modeled after Jackson. And Ultimate Janet was depicted as an Asian-American woman.

Over the years, however, the company has transferred that corporate synergy toward its primary line of comics: Tony Stark looks more like Robert Downey Jr; Hawkeye looks more like Jeremy Renner; and most recently, a black Nick Fury was introduced in the Battle Lines miniseries.

If that pattern holds, it’s not hard to imagine Ultimate Janet not getting a movie counterpart, while her Caucasian counterpart gets the nod. But if Joss Whedon returns to direct an Avengers 2 movie, here’s to hoping he can do right by another Dollhouse alum–blink and you’ll miss Enver Gokaj as a cop in Avengers–and cast Dichen Lachman instead.

Miles Morales
It’s worth noting that Marvel doesn’t own the film rights to the Spider-Man brand; right now they’re controlled by Sony Entertainment. And even if the upcoming Andrew Garfield vehicle The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t do well at the box office (which isn’t likely; it honestly doesn’t look bad at all), all Sony has to do is keep making movies to retain those rights. Which is bad news for fans of Miles, who was introduced in Ultimate Spider-Man last year, when he took up the mantle of the dead Ultimate Peter Parker.

Even if we indulge in some wild speculation, and argue that Marvel and parent company Disney can use some of that Avengers money to buy back the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four brands, it won’t help Miles. After all, the traditional Peter Parker is still alive and well, and a featured player in two Avengers titles.

Courtesy Marvel Comics

Monica Rambeau
Monica is perhaps still best known for being the second character to take on the name Captain Marvel (in Marvel canon, anyway), and for being written to not only appear in the Avengers comic book in the 1980s, but become the team leader.

As we’ve mentioned before on Racialicious, the key words there are “being written to ____.” Because ever since her run with the Avengers, not only have Monica’s appearances dwindled to a few miniseries, but she’s been written to give up her superhero name twice to the original Captain’s son, Genis-Vell, leading to Monica getting rebranded from Captain Marvel to Photon to Pulsar, with less emphasis on her along the way.

That doesn’t figure to change with the news that there will be a new Captain Marvel series, where Carol Danvers, the character formerly known as Ms. Marvel, will get the benefit of not only the Captain Marvel brand, but a new costume, and Marvel’s promotional muscle behind her. In other words, the Danvers character is being positioned to be all but a cinch for inclusion in the next round of Marvel films.

This isn’t a knock on the new Marvel’s creative team, writer Kelly Sue DeCormick and artist Dexter Soy. But Marvel editor Steve Wacker did shed some light on the company’s thought process in this piece by Comics Alliance’s Laura Hudson, where he told Hudson he “has been trying to get this name change since my first day editing the book about five years ago, so this has been a long time coming.”

Think about that for a second. Wacker had been working on raising the Danvers character’s profile for five years. All the while, Carol has been written to be a part of at least one Avengers team, on top of getting her own solo series. Has anybody given such consideration to an audience for Rambeau, even as she was part of the cult hit miniseries Nextwave?

Apparently not, because ever since Nextwave, Rambeau has only been written as a supporting players in miniseries like Marvel Divas, Heralds, and Young Allies, none of which was promoted as a major event by Marvel. Why could that be?

Oh, right. Silly me.

Aside: I feel it’s absolutely necessary to point out that while the Avengers film is good for what it is, but none of it would have been possible without the efforts of Jack Kirby, who co-created many of the characters featured in it and won’t see a dime of the box-office take. CA’s David Brothers has an excellent column detailing how little Kirby received for his contributions to Marvel Comics:

For most artists, the form was a one-page contract. For Kirby, it was four pages. You can read the form here on The Comics Journal site, and get a good background on the fight for Kirby’s artwork by Michael Dean here. Marvel offered to return eighty-eight pages to Jack Kirby. Kirby’s regular schedule for in the ’70s was fifteen pages a week, depending on how much outside animation work he was doing. But even then, he’d worked for Marvel for years, generating thousands of pages of work. There is a gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon between what Kirby was legally owed and what Marvel offered. Marvel’s offer was an insult, at best.

In exchange for those 88 pages, Kirby would have to give up several rights. Here’s an incomplete list of Marvel’s requests:

  • Kirby was to agree that Marvel was “the sole and exclusive owner of all copyright in and to the Artwork throughout the worid,” and if the art somehow wasn’t already copyright Marvel, Kirby was to cede copyright to Marvel for that, too.
  • Kirby was to receive no royalties for future use of the work by Marvel.
  • Kirby was forbidden from assisting others in questioning Marvel’s copyright.
  • Kirby was forbidden from objecting to future use or modification of his work, no matter the form it took.
  • Marvel was to receive the rights to Kirby’s name, likeness, and biographical info to use in their marketing or publishing as they wished.
  • Kirby was not allowed to copy, publicly display, or even give away any of his artwork.
  • Kirby was to give Marvel unfettered access to the artwork at Marvel’s sole discretion.
  • Kirby was forbidden from saying that Marvel had possession of any more of his art.

In light of this injustice, I’d like to invite our readers to make a donation to Avengers to The Hero Initiative, a non-profit group that helps comics creators pay for medical aid and other essentials as needed. Another standout piece from CA on why this matters can be found here.