BearSleuth Opinion Piece: Marvel are getting diverse (again)!

I have seen a lot of chatter this week over the fact that Marvel Comics have finally announced that Riri Williams, an African American tech genius who cracked the secret to the Iron Man armour, will be taking up the Iron mantle from Tony Stark later this year. This is the latest move in what could be interpreted as a calculated effort to diversify the ranks of Marvel’s leading line up of Avengers. I have spent all day agonising on how to approach this story and here is my final consensus; everyone seriously needs to jam their hype. See for the best part of a century Marvel Comics have been in the comic book business and, unlike competitors such as DC, have maintained a coherent timeline by creating the illusion of forward progression. This has taken the form of stuff like the Fantastic Four having kids of Peter Parker getting married to Mary Jane. However, they have also pursued a steady process of backwards progression, the Fantastic Four kids don’t really age and Peter simply got a demon to undo his marriage.

Just look at Captain America…

Image result for sam wilson captain america

Before we had an African American Captain America we had a homicidal mentally unstable Captain America, who many seemed to have a lot less of a problem with. But after a year or two of Bucky Barnes as Captain America, Steve Rodgers popped up and reclaimed his shield. Now, only around a month ago, Steve has turned up again to share the mantle of Captain America with Sam Wilson, the aforementioned African American Captain America. The entire chronology I’ve just mentioned has happened within the last ten years and I have witnessed the internet and fans all over loss their minds over these developments. It’s also worth mentioning at this point that Marvel have been quoted at most of these points as saying something akin to ‘this is the new status quo going forward’ by which they really mean ‘this is the status quo for the next five minutes’. However there are concerns that unlike the changes we saw across the Captain America arc, which made a lot of sense in the long running context of the series, this new change could feel out of place and hurtful to the long running continuity of Iron Man. I mean if some snot-nosed punk can figure out the suit then Tony Stark really cannot be that special.

Just look at Thor…

Image result for female thor

Around two years ago Jane Foster, Natalie Portman’s character from the Thor film franchise, took up the hammer Mjolnir and became the Goddess of Thunder. This lead to some major fan outcry as Marvel undid hundreds of years of Norse mythology for the sake of a diversifying character change that, while it had some grounding in the long term continuity, had pretty much sprung up from nowhere. Then fans began to read the books and the Thor series, which had experienced a drop in sales, began to gain momentum and popularity. Now, along with the news of Riri, we have learned that Thor Odinson will be returning to the Marvel Universe as his own character, the Unworthy Thor. This will no doubt lead to a return to popularity and a general over haul of the Thor series leading to a return of the status quo and another boost in sales, which is what all of this is about at the end of the day.

Just look at Spider-Man…

Image result for miles morales

Back at the turn of the millennium, Marvel launched the Ultimate Universe which saw the original Marvel stories retold for a modern audience. The universe started with massive sales and witnessed a steady decline to the point that Marvel killed off Ultimate Peter Parker and replaced him with, African America, Miles Morales. This saw a boost to the sales of the Ultimate Spider-Man series but with the other Ultimate lines failing Marvel decided to incorporate Miles into the main Marvel Universe. They made Miles the main Spider-Man, generating yet more controversy and yet more sales, before also announcing that Peter Parker would still be around as the Amazing Spider-Man, which conveniently got a more prominent release schedule. This then generated more sales from Peter Parker purist. At the end of the day the status quo is both changed and unchanged and Marvel get to appear as though they are diversifying while also knowing they are gaining more sales at every point with every news story.

Now let’s look at Iron Man…

Image result for Iron man riri

There is no need to fear this change. It’s great that Marvel are expanding their cast of characters to include more diversity but ultimately Riri will either become her own thing or she will be completely forgotten, like that time when Pepper Potts became Rescue or the Fantastic Four. I would be highy surprised if this effects the cinematic universe, although I would be happier if it did as that place is seriously lacking diversity. In truth I would just be happier if we got a few more Muslim or Jewish super heroes, like Ms Marvel, or European super heroes, like…um…Captain Britain, in the ranks of the Avengers. The diversity shouldn’t be feared, the change to the characters stories shouldn’t be feared and if you want an explanation for all of this is a ploy for more sales. Now what you should really be fearing is what is happening to the X-Men this winter…

Image result for death of x

(Yes I know it’s a flashback event but it’s still looking to kill a whole host of the B-cast).

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Opinion Piece!!! Check back on Wednesday for a new Comic History 101!!!

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