Ethnic Superhero Season, or What Michelle Rodriguez Can Teach Us About Believability

Virtually any time that something happens at the intersection of Black people and comics, I get a message on Facebook. That’s because my friends love me, I’m sure, but it occasionally leads me to be inundated with eight or nine messages about the same thing. Take, for example, this video of Michelle Rodriguez, which was sent to me by about twelve people a month ago:

In the video, Michelle offers a few choice words on diversity in casting: “Stop stealing white superheroes.” It caused a bit of an uproar in some circles, and Michelle made a video clarifying her statements. But first, let’s address the premise itself. Are all of these superheroes, “originally” white, whose races are being changed, being stolen? First, a superhero is functionally a mythological entity (yes, they are—I will fight you), and cannot be stolen. They can, however, be appropriated, and this may be closer to what Rodriguez meant. My initial reaction was confusion, both personal and academic. As an individual, I was confused at why another person of color objects to the practice of diversifying white characters, especially Green Lantern who has already seen a Latino character—Kyle Rayner—in a print run.

Academically, I was confused because the notion that white characters can be “stolen” or “appropriated” when they are primarily what’s made available to young people of all races, while even our fantasies are “regulated by white believability” is troubling. Even more than that, myths are shaped, stolen, borrowed, passed around, and stripped for parts regularly. That’s their nature and cannot be separated from their purpose. It’s what they do. If you don’t believe me, on the left is a picture of Chinese Jesus.

There’s no universe in which I’m sad that Thor is a woman in the newest print run, and I don’t feel that men have lost anything; Thor was a man for all comic print runs beforehand (except for that time he was a frog). A little turnabout is fair play. Similarly, I’m not upset that Heimdall was played by Idris Elba or that Johnny Storm is being played Michael B. Jordan. I’m not even upset that Donald Glover keeps teasing us with this Spider-Man thing, or that Tyrese Gibson keeps telling us how ready he is to play Green Lantern (although I wish they’d stop teasing us, I’m getting chafed over here).

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Movie Review: Justice League: War

justice-league-war-teamSo I finally got around to watching Justice League: War, and I have to say that it’s not as good as I thought it would be. I don’t think it’s bad, either—it’s actually really good—but I had set my expectations for this film much higher than I realized. Of course, most of my complaints are things that I should have seen coming.

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“We Need to Get Wonder Woman on the Big Screen”

I’ve been a Marvel kid since I could pronounce the word Spider-Man. I’ve long found many of DC’s titles boring, or found that their work was too busy putzing around trying to relate to their Golden Age and Silver Age comics to be compelling. So, with the obvious exception of Batman and one or two other titles, I’m not DC’s biggest fan. One of those “other titles” is Wonder Woman. She’s an archetypal ancient Greek hero, a quintessential badass, a household name, and a feminist icon.

kevin_tsujiharaI’ve always been rather disappointed that after god knows how many Batman and Superman movies, even an ill-fated Green Lantern movie, there has been no substantive big screen or television effort for Wonder-Woman since comics’ Modern Age (although there was a direct-to-tv animated film, which was actually quite good). Some people would like to see that change, and now “some people” includes not just yours truly, but also Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara.

Having been instrumental in making a new Warner Bros. deal with JK Rowling, Tsujihara is on the lookout for new content to produce through the WB studio. He’s been rather direct in the discussion of new properties he wants to work with, saying that “we need to get Wonder Woman on the big screen or TV.”

yass_girl_wonderwomanSomeone with money, power, and real pull has recognized the massive potential for Wonder Woman titles. That makes me happy enough to pop out of my star-spangled metal bra, especially when it comes without the caveat that she’s too difficult to write or whatever. Unlike, say, DC President Diane Nelson’s rather shifty claim that “She has been, since I started, one of the top three priorities for DC and for Warner Bros. We are still trying right now, but she’s tricky.”

I understand that there’s a lot of backstory to Wonder Woman, and I understand that yes, it would be truly catastrophic if a film were produced and happened to be awful. But to me, it would seem like the solution to that is to get it together, and do it right (something DC is having trouble with lately), not to just pussyfoot around it. There’s just not a good reason why a Wonder Woman movie couldn’t be made, and made well. Here, have a video to that effect, by which I mean a cogent and perfect argument as to why we should have this movie now:

Once you’re done nodding your head in agreement, go ahead and check this out:

wonder womanI’d argue that this gives us a pretty good sense of how a Wonder-Woman film might be realized, albeit with superior production values and dear-sweet-god-I’m-begging-you-please-better-fight-choreography (it’s a long standing pet peeve of mine that many superhero movies have awful fight choreography). How might Wonder-Woman battle moral corruption and religious intolerance, while also battling the monsters of Greek mythology and the opponents of the Justice League? There’s a question a Wonder Woman film could seek to answer. Furthermore, Wonder Woman is essentially an alien, the child of gods, much like Thor or Superman, so what do we learn from her? How does she relate to a strange world in which there are new kinds of deceit and enemies are less straightforward than Titans, a world with wars whose level of pettiness had previously been reserved for fights between Zeus and Hera?

There’s not a lack of producible content; there’s not even a dearth of artists who want to work on a Wonder Woman property. What gives? As Susana Polo has pointed out, they just seem to have real trouble figuring out how to make a compelling and exciting film that isn’t about a white man. That’s disappointing. Listen up, DC/Warner Bros./Whoever:

You’re sitting on the most well-known female superhero in history, DC. Do something with her, or you’re going to let Black Widow run away with that title.

Sexualized Saturdays: That cape is Fabulous!

So, this happened yesterday:

That’s Alan Scott, kissing his boyfriend after coming home from a business trip. Alan Scott is also known as the first Green Lantern, receiving his powers from a mysterious green flame fashioned into the shape of a green lantern. Yeah, not exactly the most cerebral origin story out there, but it spawned my favorite superhero, so I let it slide.

DC Comics yesterday announced that the first Green Lantern is gay. Scott’s change in sexuality (he had a wife and kids in the original) comes from a reboot entitled The New 52.

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The Good, The Bad, and the Review: Green Lantern

Lady Geek Girl: So yeah, the Green Lantern movie was… okay.

MadameAce: It was terrible.

Lady Geek Girl: Oh, come on. It wasn’t that bad.

MadameAce: Not that bad? It sucked. Yeah. That pretty much sums up how I feel about this movie, and I think that accurately sums up how a lot of people feel about this movie. By no means is Green Lantern the worst thing I have ever seen. I mean, very few movies are ever going to dig a deeper hole than Eragon did.

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