There has been a lot of noise, lately, from various camps about the racial retconning of many classic comic book characters. I have to say, I think it’s a good thing.
Since the beginning of the medium, comic books have been an escape. First for soldiers in war and later on, for kids who craved the fantasy of strength and adventure. Comic books, by their sheer nature, exposed us to the different, the unusual, the extraordinary. Be they extraterrestrials, talking animals or costumed crimefighters. Comic books always, ALWAYS explored…possibilities. And what are possibilities but fuel for the open mind?
But as with all things, people grow up. Readers grow up. And these same readers don’t want their cherished memories diminished in any way. We want them to stay exactly the same as we remember them. Even if our memories weren’t exactly accurate. Spiderman has always been Peter Parker, Superman was never Chinese, Nick Fury was never a Black guy and Doctor Strange was always Asian. Wait…wasn’t he?
I’ve heard the arguments that Marvel and DC should simply come up with new characters of color rather than performing skin transplants on existing ones. I understand that people don’t like change. But we forget that there used to be a different Green Lantern, a different Flash, a different Human Torch and a differently colored Hulk. Does no one remember that Lex Luthor originally had hair, Alfred Pennyworth was overweight, and Batgirl was a completely different person entirely?
If we are readers of comic books, then by definition, we’re suppose to be accepting of the fantastic, the improbable, the unusual. We’re suppose to be open to things that are different…open to change. Change in possibilities, change in cultural attitudes and change in people. Even in the ones we look up to as our superheroes. And if our problem isn’t so much about change in general but just change in skin tone, then what does that make us?
But aren’t these racial retcons just publicity stunts? Of course! It’s still a business afterall. But for me, it’s actually a mission. Some of you may have noticed that almost all the lead characters in my comics are people of color. Asians mostly, though the stories themselves don’t deal with Asian issues or perspectives. Just like me, my characters are just trying to get through life and just happen to be Asian.
So am I biased when I applaud these changes in ethnic identities? Perhaps. But I’m also biased towards change in general. I’m a lover of old things made new. And a lover of seeing the little guys going up against the big guys. And minorities are always the little guys.
Doesn’t anyone remember that the first superhero comic book was Superman. An illegal alien created by two Jewish kids. Think about that!
Comic Book Creator
& Founder, Diversity Comic Con