Comics Creators

Nerd Fight: Is Replacing A Character With A Minority Substitute A Viable Solution To The Lack Of Div


I co-write this article at Bleeding Cool. This is our second one. It went up yesterday. Figured you guys might enjoy it or not but I hope it’s okay to post it here. I posted my first article in the creative section last week.

We will be doing Nerd Fight weekly with different topics and each time (my co-writer and me) will be switching our stances on the topic. So if one week I am for something and he’s against it then the next week that will switch.


I think you do yourself a disservice when you call it nerd fight. It’s two interesting perspectives arguing in a reasoned and well thought out manner. You’re selling yourselves short. Unless next week it’s who would win in a fight!

On the subject, I say the path was shown in X Men, where diversity was introduced through new characters. It led to a cast of hundreds of all backgorunds, ethnicities and cultures and created comic and characters the people love. From the Byrne/Clairemont roster thru recently the X titles are the poster child for progress. And in almost every case they introduced a new character, rather than a repurposing of an existing character.

Marvel have lots of titles that could support natural diversity. Young Avengers and Runaways, Guardians, Fantastic Four, Spidey, Inhumans to name a few. It shouldn’t mix in with their main characters (Marvel forget who brought them to the ball when they replace Thor, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers - can you imagine pitching a Justice League book with an Asian Batman, Latina Superman and an African American Wonder Woman each replacing the current characters? It’d be a bad selling book.

I applaud Marvel diversifying their books. I boo their method. Certainly they future is more diverse characters, but it should be done with new creations for a new generation, not repackaging characters from the 60’s.


Hell no.
If I wanted to read about a hispanic hero I would read Sterling Gate’s excellent Vibe series or some such.

If I’m not reading Iron Man or Ant Man, then making them Ecuadorian sure won’t.


I’m not a big fan of legacy characters in general, aside from instances like GL/Nova where it makes sense, but I’d happily read a book with a diverse cast of new characters, as long as it was good. Runaways was a good example of this.


I am so glad someone has raised this. It has been annoying me for a while. I am all for comics companies having a more diverse line-up that better reflects the world we live in. However this should not come at the expense of existing characters. The reason characters like Luke Cage and Black Panther work is because they aren’t replacements for existing characters, they were characters in their own right.

Axel’s time as Marvel editor seems to have focused on swapping all Marvels key line-up with younger more diverse versions when they should have instead focused on creating some exciting new characters that are more diverse (and not bloody Inhumans).

Imagine if Marvel editorial sat around one day and said we don’t have a diverse enough readership on the X-Men books. We need a latino Wolverine. Wolverines dead. Let have a short latino guy with claws and facial hair and have him replace the real Wolverine. It wouldn’t work as Wolverine is James Howlett, Logan, Patch etc. Not just some schmuck with claws. It should be the same with other characters.

Iron Man isn’t a suit of armour it’s Tony Stark. The Hulk isn’t just someone irradiated with Gamma Radiation it’s Bruce Banner. Thor isn’t whoever holds the hammer, it’s the big nordic guy called um Thor. Captain America works as a title that could be handed over but even then how is Sam Wilson able to keep up with Cap’s rogues without any super soldier serum? In the Bleeding Cool article it’s implied that anyone that objects to this is just wanting things to stay in the 60s. I don’t think that’s the case. It’s more that people don’t want treasured characters to be unnecessarily replaced in order to fit a marketing agenda and with little care for how that works within the narrative and the characters legacy.

The latest run of Iron Man has been a backdoor pilot for RiRi, more time has been focused on teasing this child genius prodigy than on Tony Stark. This is a shame as it feels as though Tony’s days were numbered from the very first issue so they didn’t even bother with him.


I think DC tends to do legacy better because it seems less contrived.

Marvel makes legacy characters of characters with very specific origins - like Hulk and Thor, and while I’m happy to see a Korean hulk and Female Thor, it’s very hard to shake the notion that it was done purely to bring in more minorities than for the character. That said, both stories appear to be strong, but I think the long term gain is little. In the case of Thor and Hulk, (and Iron Man and to a far lesser extent Captain America) I’ll never replace the feeling that character A was replaced not for drama, but for diversity, and that’s when the conversation becomes complicated.

I more or less agree that spotlighting new diverse characters is a better alternative, but, particularly with Marvel, it’s been demonstrated that something like Blue Marvel or Brother Voodoo doesn’t sell as well as Ms Marvel or Miles Morales, where the new character is part of an established mythology.


I think this is a tricky topic.
The one thing that I will say is that reading Multiversity, all of the Justice Leagues on the various Earths are pretty diverse. You see it as different at first but then it comes to the story set on the Nazi Earth and the League are all white and I found it pretty shocking (but obviously it fits the story). That’s when you remember that the real Justice League lack diversity are exactly the same and you’re left with a deflated “oh”. I thought it was pretty clever.

Probably the worst example of Marvel’s replacement tactic is whatever the hell they did to 616 Nick Fury. Ultimate Fury was such a great idea that you have to wonder why that guy couldn’t just cross over to 616 and take over? Now it’s Fury’s African-American son? Who also lost an eye, and he might have the same name? It just seems over-convoluted and pointless to me. Maybe somebody can turn him into a great character one day but right now he seems like a token shell to me. How did he supersede Maria Hill and become head of S.H.I.E.L.D. anyway? That organisation is a mess.


I think everyone’s been head of SHIELD by this point. How did Fury end up after Secret Wars? I assumed they’d take the opportunity to sweep the convoluted son under the rug and just port over Ultimate Fury, but I’ve not actually checked.


Thor I’m not reading because I don’t want to read a Thor comic book about cancer. Is that too much to ask?


Does the Odinson not have his own spinoff title yet? If not then I’m surprised considering there are three Iron Man titles.


Thanks to everyone who has replied and read the article. Glad you guys enjoyed it and that it has created good conversation.


I’ve been thinking about this but didn’t get a chance to respond yesterday. I think it’s a bit odd that so many people complain about these characters being replaced when it has been done so many times in the past. The Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Green Lantern, Flash, Batman and even Superman roles have all been filled by people who weren’t Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Odinson, Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Some of those guys aren’t even the original bearers of those titles.

I think gender and race do play a role. In the past, even the replacements were mostly white and all men. I don’t think it’s the major one though. I think the big one is portrayal in other media. With US comics, the reach of the comics themselves pales in comparison to the reach of other media like film and TV. Those are generally the portrayals that get lodged in everyone’s psyche at an early age.

I think it’s why so many insist on a Superman that is closer to the one portrayed by Christopher Reeves or Marvel characters closer to the ones they’ve seen in the films. There’s oddly a generational element to this too. You can see it in people’s preference for the kind of Batman they want whether it’s more like Adam West, Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy or Christian Bale.

There is one point where this created an odd wrinkle from my point of view. When the Green Lantern film came out, I kept seeing people protest that Ryan Reynolds couldn’t play the character because Green Lantern was black. As a comic fan, I originally just kind of wrote this criticism off as people just not knowing their comic history. Now I realize that we’re getting a clash of generations over who is their Green Lantern. The older generation who grew up on Super Friends sees it as Hal Jordan. Whereas, a younger generation that grew up on Justice League sees it as John Stewart. With that case in particular, neither character is the originator of the title.

Some of the replacement characters are genuinely great characters and ideas as replacements and not new characters. Rhodey was always amazing as Iron Man/War Machine. John Stewart makes a great Green Lantern. Jane Foster as Thor has me more interested in that character in a way I haven’t been since The Ultimates. However, their status always feels very ephemeral. We all know that at some point Tony or Hal or Odinson are going to be back to take back their mantle. Unless…

The one place where this all changes is the films. It could also be a way of kicking that ball to the second generation in a new and different way that lets the story continue and doesn’t just keep James Bonding it. If these replacements could be used as the next generation in the films, I think the change would stick because it would cement these characters in a wider consciousness.

I would love to see a Thor film starring Natalie Portman or an Iron Man film starring Don Cheadle. Though I think it’s going to be even more important to bring in young actors that could be the next to take up the mantle. There are hints that the Wolverine franchise might go this direction and replace Hugh Jackman with a younger female playing the Laura Kinney version of the character. I hope they do. It could be the first in a whole new future or younger more diverse characters telling new and interesting stories.


Inherent in this is…did they ever explain what Nick Fury said to Thor to make him unworthy?

If they did it took a long time, and that’s the point.
They took a vague way out to switch characters and it is just pandersome.


They still haven’t explained. Also the whole of Original Sin was a naff way of getting rid of Old Nick Fury. What’s happened to him him since he took over from Uatu?


They haven’t?
That’s a point in microcosm then.

They did it to make Jane Thor.
For the brownie points.

If they had cared about it on a story level…then there would have been a story./


I don’t think they have. To be fair, I would assume this will be something more suited to the upcoming Unworthy Thor to answer.

Have you been reading Mighty Thor? I wasn’t reading when the switch happened but the stories they’re telling with Jane Foster as Thor now are pretty stellar.


Seconded. Although I have been enjoying everything that Jason Aaron has been doing in the various iterations of the Thor book.


Actually, it’s suited for the series to answer.

It’s a fundamental question that you need to make a transition like this worthwhile.
Also, the issues where they kept her identity a secret were kinda…plain so I dropped it.


Why Odinson is unworthy is a story about him, not Jane Foster. I do think they’ve drug it out a bit long but this book is not about him. The upcoming one will be.

It also appears that Marvel is trying to turn their single character books into franchises in a way similar to what DC did with Green Lantern a while back.


I place it firmly as a story about how Jane became Thor.
Thor is a part of Jane’s whole backstory, this is something ripe for narrative meat and they just set it aside and played an incredibly boring game.