The news that has been positively rocking the world of mainstream American comics the news of a new female Thor, which was shortly followed by the news Marvel would make The Falcon the new Captain America, meaning there is a black Captain America. This was treated in much of the media outside the comics press as something new and progressive (a word which is beginning to lose it’s meaning) which means Marvel get some brownie points with the increasing female readership and they can parade around Comic Con in San Diego this weekend looking better than the frankly pathetic DC Comics who seem not to care about equality.
Only problem is it’s not really equality, nor is this an original or new idea to change the sex, race, or character of a major hero at Marvel and DC. Thankfully some people have sussed out it’s a publicity stunt, and not an especially good one, plus when Marvel last made Captain America black it was the subject of one of the best, but sadly overlooked, superhero comics of the 21st Century, Truth: Red, White and Black, written by Robert Morales and drawn by the great Kyle Baker. That’s a comic worth looking at as it deals head on with race rather than this fuzzy fudging of race that seems to be going on here.
Race/sex changing is always a sales gimmick. It’s designed now as well to give the idea of equality but in fact serves to hide the fact that Marvel and DC don’t serve equality well in their books, or indeed, in their staff.
There’s also the fact that creators are reluctant to give away ideas without retaining rights, so those smart enough hold onto those ideas for when they get a deal at a company like Image, and seeing as Marvel and DC aren’t going to start fighting for creators rights overnight, expect things to remain pretty much the same with the odd bit of window dressing like a black Cap, or a female Thor. There’s too much money riding on these characters with film, TV and merchandising deals bringing vast amounts of money into the coffers of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warners. The subject of equal rights will be discussed but until the audience reflects society as a whole then things won’t especially change and these stunts will continue.
Also there’s something else and this might be hard for some older and newer superhero comics fans to swallow. The fans themselves need to change. They need to exert their power upon companies rather than just be consumers because that’s exactly what they want. There is absolutely no point complaining about say, a female Thor being a sop to the cause of equality and going out and buying it s it gives you no leverage at all. That’s one of the big problems with the explosion in what’s called ‘geek culture’ in that it’s essentially capitalist based, so there needs to be a greater understanding of the politics in action here, and that involves fans, new and old, to expand their reading material. Some comics fans would do well from reading a few newspapers, not to mention understanding the history of their own medium, and how vast events like San Diego have to clean the homeless off their streets so fans can have a event without having to see the victims of the sort of aggressive capitalism that we have today.
I’m not suggesting the world becomes an egalitarian socialist utopia tomorrow, though that would be very nice, but that fans realise when companies are playing them for wankers. So don’t get your knickers in a twist about a new Thor because things will be back to normal soon enough and Marvel will have gained some ‘credibility’ with enough fans that they can carry on doing what they’re doing. These companies treat you as consumers so use that as leverage to get change. Don’t just sit back, moan and then carry on buying the comics, toys and seeing the films because then it really doesn’t matter about how loudly you protest and change will never happen. Don’t give these companies your money if they do something you dislike. It really is that amazingly simple and if enough people do the same, they will act.