Karl Urban, an actor who plays Skurge in the upcoming Thor movie, did an interview where he said of a movie starring Jane Foster’s Thor:
“I think it’s time. I think it’s well overdue. Absolutely. I mean, we’re getting a female Captain America, aren’t we? Oh, Captain Marvel, thank you. I never actually read the comics,”
Marvel, for quite some time, has been trying to modernize its cast of heroes to make its core superheroes more diverse for the upcoming generation. The new Spiderman is Miles Morales, a half black, half latino young man. Thor has been replaced by Jane Foster, his ongoing love interest. Iron Man has passed his mantle onto Riri Williams, a young, female, African American prodigy. Ms. Marvel has become Pakistani American Kamala Khan. Hulk has been replaced by a long-standing Korean side character, Amadeus Cho. Finally, Wolverine has been replaced by his daughter, X-23.
Personally, I don’t see any issue with having a diverse set of characters or what Marvel is doing. They’re a company and they can do whatever they like, plus, honestly, several of these characters are just fucking cool. However, just like with ESPN, Bioware and Late Night Talk Shows, Marvel’s sales suffered from the heavy-handed race to change the genders and races of their most popular characters.
Karl Urban’s quote is a perfect example of showing all the reasons why Marvel fans didn’t accept this strategy in one neat little package. One, it’s a request dictated by the political callout tumblr crowd, not the actual comic fanbase. As Urban says “It’s well overdue… I never actually read comics”. Marvel makes the changes to pander to this crowd of tumblr and youtube commentators who don’t read comics. It turns off their actual readers — not because they oppose diverse superheroes, but because the superheroes they love are radically changed or outright replaced by characters with different personalities and backstories. Then, after the readers are turned off, the Urbans of the world still don’t buy comic books.
Second, people aren’t against seeing people of color and women in comics. There have been people of color and women in comic books forever, many very popular. Hell, Storm was like the #2 most popular, powerful, and highest ranking character in X-Men for ages. They’re upset that they’re replacing known characters with new characters with cheap storytelling in a transparent attempt to pander to the politics of the current day. There’s a lot to unpack about what sensitive societal touch-points that gets at, but that’s a whole other article. More importantly, this also goes back into Urban’s quote — ‘We’re getting a female Captain America, aren’t we? Oh, Captain Marvel.” No one is upset about Captain Marvel getting more visibility or focus, because Captain Marvel isn’t replacing Captain America. If her movie resonates with an audience, she’ll succeed and that’s great. If it fails to, they can try again with her or another character, and Captain America is unaffected. No one is upset Cyborg is getting promoted from Teen Titans side character to Justice League founding member in the DC New 52. Popularity of Harley Quinn has organically soared to the point Gotham City Sirens has a movie slated to come out in 2020. She’s a great character, she’s an original character with a really cool story, not the result of Robin walking into a magic space portal that turns him into a woman or something.