Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Roads to Regrettability : Legacy Heroes of Color
The League of Regrettable Heroes – soon to be published by Quirk Books and written by yours truly – features write-ups on 100 of comicdom’s weirdest, most unfortunate, most misunderstood and flat-out strangest  superheroes. The book debuts June 2, 2015, so in the meantime let’s discuss the many paths a character can take on the road to regrettability. 

As I write this, the color- and gender-landcape at the Big Two mainstream comics publishers is changing in a fashion best described as both "radical" and "long overdue." Long-standing flagship characters are being updated to reflect modern diversity, largely to the overwhelming approval of the comic-buying public. Traditionally male superhero Thor has been replaced by a woman bearing the same name and powers, Steve Rogers has stepped down as Captain America and passed the mantle on to his African-American partner Sam Wilson, and Spider-Man has long-since welcomed an alternate universe analog of mixed descent, and who looks to be replacing him in the immediate future.

And why wouldn't little girls be inspired by this?
The above describe only the most high-profile cases, all of which remain surprising for long-time readers who may recall that this particular brand of passing the torch used to better resemble getting thrown a bone. Even as recently as within the last decade, the trend of traditionally white, male superheroes passing their legacy on to non-white, non-male successors ended in one fashion: With the successor dead and the white male hero resuming his own legacy.

As a for-example, the second Dr.Mid-Nite was an African-American woman, the second Wildcat was an Hispanic woman, and both of them were murdered unceremoniously in the pages of a lesser-read comic so that the (respectively) original white male hero and a nearly indistinguishable white male successor could take back the names and costumes.

Others merely vanished - the Asian female Judomaster, the African-American (Manhattan) Guardian, the African-American Aqualad, Jakeem Thunder, Crispus Allen as the Spectre, Renee Montoya's The Question, Connor Hawke, Shilo Norman, the heroic Dr.Light, Cassandra Cain's Batgirl, and more ... although, wow, these all seem to be from the same company, huh?

I shoulda mentioned this guy. Whoo.
Among the most recent, highest-profile scenarios involves Ryan Choi, the Asian-American successor to the Atom. Popular enough to warrant a series of his own, written by a fan-favorite author, it wasn't enough to stave off his own murder the second the Atom who's on all the merchandise showed back up.

Conversely, Steel may be the first non-white legacy hero to survive long enough to create a legacy of his own (complete with a non-male successor at one point), gaining his own nom de guerre, distinctive look and supporting cast (I'll make a notation here for James Rhodes, the second Iron Man, who did survive AND spin-off into his own identity, but which is still exclusively modeled on his predecessor, Iron Man, so ... it's a push). Appearing alongside three other claimants to the Superman mantle, all of whom spun off into their own books or stories, Steel might've partially benefited from getting somewhat lost in the crowd.

Still, it's long-overdue that the superhero universe - ideally an environment for children seeking role models - should better represent the world surrounding that very impressionable audience, and provide a broad and welcoming variety of characters for them. Hopefully this current raft of characters will survive the transition...

1 comment:

Paul S. said...

Funny thing about the Merch. Ryan Choi was actually featured in a line of action figures tied and guest starring in the popular Brave & The Bold cartoon at the time they killed him off.

Not even logical corporate synergy could save Ryan Choi from DC's desire to bring back the white dude...

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