A black Captain America and female Thor aren’t enough (Wired UK)


Captain America

Marvel Entertainment


Starting in November, it seems we’ll have a new Captain America
to go along with the new Thor
in Marvel’s comic book line-up. As announced on Wednesday night’s
episode of The Colbert Report, Sam Wilson — better known to many
as the Falcon from this spring’s movie Captain America: The
Winter Soldier
— will be taking up the shield and replacing
Steve Rogers in the current comic storyline.

The reveal of an African-American Captain America following on
the heels of a female Thor is hardly a coincidence. Speaking to
Time.com earlier this week, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso said
that the publisher “perceived there to be a real thirst for
characters that reflect what we see in the mirror [and] our goal is
to make our characters reflect the outside world.”

On the surface, this is good news. Marvel, like its chief
competitor DC Entertainment, has an obvious diversity problem –
one born of the comic book industry’s reluctance to enrage a
conservative fanbase or disrupt its own nostalgia-based appeal. Any
attempt at broadening its cast of characters is a welcome one. Just
three years ago, Marvel had no comics with female leads; as of October, it will have eight,
including the new Thor series. (The All-New Captain
America
series will be one of seven Marvel books with a
non-white lead; eight, if you count Rocket Raccoon.)

There’s only one problem: As genuine attempts to diversify the
Marvel universe, both the Thor and Captain America announcements
are significantly flawed, and are likely doomed to fail.

Temporary measures

Let’s ignore the uncomfortable weirdness around an African-American
Cap working for a white master (From Marvel’s press release about
the new Cap, former Cap Steve Rogers will be “running Cap’s
missions from his headquarters in Avengers Mansion” and will “also
tutor Sam in how to throw the shield, a skill that’s deceptively
difficult for the new Cap to master”); there’s also the fact that
neither the new Thor nor the new Captain America actually get to
establish their own identities in any real sense.

Not only are they, by definition, replacements — forced to live
up to legacies established by white male characters both in the
fictional worlds they inhabit and the minds of the fans reading the
comics — but they both got the job because of the failings of
their white predecessors rather than on their own merits. (Again,
from the official press release about the new Captain America:
“Steve’s spirit is as willing as ever, but his body is no longer up
to the task of being Captain America.” From the press release about
the new Thor: “No longer is the classic Thunder God able to hold
the mighty hammer, Mjölnir, and a brand new female hero will emerge
worthy of the name THOR.”

But perhaps worst of all, both the new Thor and the new Captain
America are practically guaranteed to be temporary changes. History
and experience suggests as much: Sam Wilson is the seventh person
to be Captain America, with the role always defaulting to Steve
Rogers for some increasingly unlikely reason, and Thor’s past
replacements have proven to be equally temporary. Even the creators
of the stories have hinted as much: Jason Aaron, writer of the new
Thor series has already spoken about his plan to give a different character
Thor’s power “for a while” and implying that the original Thor will
“return” at some point.

Those identities are likely to be taken away from them when
Marvel requires the old status quo to reassert itself for the sake
of a dramatic plot twist or movie tie-in. (Do you really believe
the comics won’t bring back the old Thor or Cap to tie in to the
next movies, if they hadn’t already done so?) And that undercuts
the message of diversity and inclusion that Marvel is promoting
with these announcements. While Marvel is paying lip service to the
idea that women or African-Americans are the equal of its
traditional white male leads, the publisher takes their agency away
at almost every turn.

None of this means that the stories in question won’t be
enjoyable, or that Marvel isn’t sincere in its desire to offer
something more than just white guys saving the world. It does,
however, point out that trying to do this kind of thing is more
difficult than it looks, and needs a different approach from that
suggested by these two recent announcements.

Thor and Captain America may get all the headlines — as Marvel
engineered with the national-TV announcements — but living up to
their promise of these announcements may require more meaningful
measures.

This article originally appeared on Wired.com

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Source: wired.co.uk
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