How Multiculturalism Took Over Comic Books

Last week Marvel comics announced that it was replacing Bruce Banner (old, white guy) with Amadeus Cho (young, Korean guy) as the Incredible Hulk. This comes on the heels of Marvel recently turning Thor into a woman, Ms. Marvel into a Muslim teenager, and Spider-Man into a kid who’s half African-American and half Puerto Rican but, disappointingly, still male, heterosexual, and cisgendered. As you can see, there is much progress yet to be made.

You may be asking yourself why, exactly, the world needs a Korean Hulk. But then, over the last couple decades the Hulk character has become so convoluted that he’s far afield of what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby cooked up in 1962. I mean, did the world need Grey Hulk? A Savage Hulk? A Merged Hulk? A Red Hulk? A Hulkling? In other words, the new Korean Hulk isn’t an outrage. It’s just another gimmick in a long line of gimmicks.

And truth be told, it’s not a bad gimmick because it brings something new to the table. The Amadeus Cho character is a precocious young genius (which is a troubling racial stereotype, but whatever) who didn’t accidentally overdose on gamma radiation. Rather, he figures out how to turn himself into the Hulk, at will, and—here’s the best part—he keeps his own personality when he becomes the Big Guy. Imagine a younger Tony Stark wearing a Hulk suit and that’s pretty much the character. Not bad.

But Korean Hulk does reflect a sad trend in the comic-book industry. Since the 1960s, writers and artists whose political and cultural sympathies run from the reliably liberal to the outright radical have dominated the comics industry. You can count the number of prominent conservative writers in the business on one, or possibly two, hands.

Marvel’s self-conscious recasting of their characters has been driven, by their own admission, by an urge to demonstrate their fealty to multiculturalism. It isn’t about sales—these re-cast titles are rarely big sellers. And it isn’t about creativity, either. Because if they really wanted to just tell stories with multicultural characters they would invent new characters who were not white, or male, or whatever other descriptor is now disfavored.

And the truth is, the best, most influential characters are the ones not dreamed up as PC sentiment. For example, take Jessica Jones. In 2001, Brian Michael Bendis created a new character from whole cloth who was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. A failed superhero who had become a junior-varsity alcoholic, Jones made ends meet working as a private detective (she wasn’t a very good one, either: Jones was just smart enough to realize that she wasn’t quite smart enough). The character was so great that Marvel plucked her out of the siloed world Bendis wrote her in and incorporated her into its mainstream narrative. And then made a Netflix series with her. And may even bring her to the big-screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That’s what happens when you do character first and politics second.

Coincidentally, Korean Hulk debuted the week after Frank Miller returned to comics with Dark Knight III: Master Race, which he has co-written with Brian Azzarello. Miller is one of the rare conservatives in comics. And he also happens to be the most influential comic book creator of the last forty years. You could argue that his masterwork, The Dark Knight Returns, is the single most influential comic since Action Comics #1, which gave the world Superman and created the superhero genre.

Since it first appeared, The Dark Knight Returns has influenced just about every comic book written and even today, thirty years after the fact, it retains unbelievable vitality; the energy still pops off the page.

But here’s the thing: Miller is well known, and somewhat reviled, within the industry for his conservatism. (The Guardian refers to him as a “crypto-fascist.”) He certainly has no interest in multiculturalism. But in The Dark Knight Returns he created one of the great non-powered characters in the history of comics: Ellen Yindel.

The Dark Knight Returns takes place in (what was then) the medium-future, when Bruce Wayne is a man in his 50s and the there is a changing of the guard in Gotham City. Part of that entails long-time Batman conspirator Jim Gordon being put out to pasture as commissioner. His replacement, Ellen Yindel, is a diversity hire. And she wants to arrest the Batman. In short, Miller loads the deck against Yindel so that readers are ready to hate her.

But then he pulls a fast one: Yindel turns out to be smart, and capable, and she has a yard of guts. By the time The Dark Knight Returns wraps up, she’s one of the most interesting and sympathetic characters in the story.

And here’s what you have to remember: Frank Miller didn’t create Ellen Yindel because he thought it was time to replace the Gordon character with a woman because comics needed female role models, or diversity, or some other bit of PC twaddle. He created Ellen Yindel because he had a story to tell about a great character that was rattling around in his head.

It’s the difference between artistic vision and politically minded tokenism. The rest of the industry should think about that.

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  • PapayaSF

    Well stated.

  • Terenc Blakely

    Fool, nothing must interfere with the ‘narrative’. Not reality nor especially entertainment. Any deviation will postpone the arrival of the post-patriarchal, post-white utopia.

  • teapartydoc

    The comic book writers are reflecting the values they learned in school and are producing material for kids who are indoctrinated in the same manner they were. It’s not art, it’s cultural socialization. It works the same way the comics did when we were kids, only with an entirely different set of values, and with hopes for a society not in the making, but one that is ascendant right here, right now. It is a society and a culture that stinks like raw sewage, but that is the fruit of liberalism and cuckservatism. It is going to take radical thinking to undo it.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      As you can see from my above post, I agree wholeheartedly. The thing is that in terms of the culture, the way to do it is to play it straight, to write good books, make good films and create good comic books that are devoid of the heavy handed can’t, to tell stories that people want to read or enjoy. I collect books and magazines from the 1880s – 1920s, when there were marvelous storytellers working in both short and long form and when there were incredible illustrators on both sides of the pond.

      There were certainly writers then with a cynical bent, Mark Twain for one, Mencken for another, but the type of dripping, Letterman style cynicism did not pervade everything. In Mencken’s case, it seemed to be habitual. Although he is often vilified for his prejudice, in actuality he hated everyone and everything equally. But now, almost everyone who is considered a comedian is full of dripping, drooling sarcasm, especially for anyone who exposes anything close to traditional values.

  • Jon

    The risk the reboots run in terms of marketing is that it can take away what made the comics’ primary characters attractive enough to turn into major non-comic silencing properties and — over the past two decades — movie stars thanks to the advances in CGI.

    No offense to Nick Fury, but he’s not a big enough character to people outside the Marvel universe to care whether or not you change his background story or race. Most people don’t give a damn because he’s simply the character that helps position the other characters viewers do what to see. An under control Hulk, in contrast (and without concern for his racial background), threatens to take a lot of the appeal of the character out of the equation, which was basically the unleashing of uncontrollable rage in its most mindless form. That’s what made the Hulk different from Marvel’s concurrent character of the 60s, The Thing. The new character would basically be green Ben Grimm with the ability to change back to normal.

    The modified character might play with audiences if expanded past the comics and into the movies, but the tension of not wanting to turn into the Hulk is gone, quite possibly for the PC reason the current staff at Marvel didn’t want to insinuate a scientist who is a minority couldn’t control his experiment (the mitigating circumstance here is if the new creation made it to the screen, it would mean the end of hyper-progressive actor Mark Ruffalo playing the Hulk, because in today’s PC world, we couldn’t have a white guy portraying a Korean scientist).

  • Johnathan Swift Jr.

    I have probably read about three comic books in my life, but over the years I have seen the passion many people have for them and many of the artists are truly talented, capable of dynamic action with their figures. But in the end, any art form with a narrative must have a plot and interesting characters. Once you set out to create something that is driven by politics in most cases what you produce will be turgid crap.

    In the end it is Cultural Marxism and its allies that have ruined almost every art form, because in the end everything is to be reduced to politics. Cultural Marxists are in a sense the flip side of the Jihadists, for the Jihadists it is religion and only religion 24/7 and for the Cultural Marxists, it is politics 24/7.

    A book becomes a “text” that is not to be read for enjoyment, but something that is to be “deconstructed” and viewed through a monomaniacal prism of race, gender or class. So, in the end, a comic book becomes just another convenient tool for indoctrination.

  • Rodrigo

    You can put this down to one cause. Progressive Disney corporation management. See “Mulan”, “Hunchback”, “Pocahontas”, “Frog Princess” – the ham handed diverse
    “message” properties that helped kill 2d animation. They had to buy Pixar and give them some measure of autonomy from the leftist suits in order to get back into the game. The comic book “diversity” push is just as ham handed.

    • entonces_99

      Disney has certainly come a long way since Carl Barks was doing Donald Duck comics.

  • Hawkeye52

    Go back to the early 1980s and the X-Men graphic novel “God loves, Man kills.” As a somewhat naive college kid at the time I did not realize that this story was a metaphor for homosexuals and a caricature of Evangelicals. This has been part of the comics industry for a long time.

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  • Eliot Mason

    Ms. Marvel was by far the worst. The Multiculturalism in it is so forced it almost seems like they are making fun of it. Ms. Marvel is a muslim girl with an emasculate (but attractive) male friend, who is dating a very ugly fat chick with lesbian parents.

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  • eltigro13

    While i enjoy the movies, I would like to see Marvel go out of business as a comic publisher. No seriously. As a lifelong comic fan, as a comic store owner for 28 years, their uncreative, progressive agenda is sickening. I appreciated the inclusion of some progessive elements throughout the history of comics, particularly the X-Men, but today’s diversity-driven re-invention agenda is heavy-handed and pathetic. I appreciate characters representing readers of every race, but Marvel is basically crapping on 54 years of investment into the Hulk character. Likewise, Marvel treats the comics as a marketing think tank anyway, instead of recognizing the investment that lifelong readers have made in their characters. All of the lifelong readers have been driven away through Marvel’s (as well as DC’s) disrespect and even *embarrassment* of fanboys that supported them for decades.

    • Marc Anthony Ortiz

      As an owner for 28 years in the comic store business, you should understand that things and behavior in the market happen to change every decade or so. The fact that most owners choose to not associate with these changes is what hurt the brick and mortar stores to begin with. While it is true that the both the older demographic and younger ones have a mixed difference on what they like to read and associate with the industry, you have no right to differentiate them as fanboys just because you don’t agree with it. YOU are a business owner and it is YOUR job to tend to your customers rather than uphold an elitist mentality. And that my friend is the problem with the comic book industry nowadays. Owners of stores tend to stick to some old school mentality rather than be a part of the current market. Now that being said, if it is the current Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, and so forth current story telling is what’s hindering your sales, then maybe you and others should take it upon yourselves to address this to the publishers; rather than rant on random articles. The comic book industry is like everything else in the world of business. It changes and adapts with its market to stay alive. If you don’t like it, then you are in the wrong business. Now before you judge me, I’m 32. My father loved comics and so do I. I have been reading since I was 6 so I would not want to see another crash like the 80s and 90s. While those times had their own reasons for their crashes, I wouldn’t want to see it crash again because some store owners just don’t get it.

      • bellhound407

        Notice you have not one thumbs up. I don’t read Thor to see Jane Foster wearing a gay pride shirt and to hear Wonder Woman tell me not to “mansplain”. Now you will undoubtedly respond with regurgitated sjw crap, but seeings as to how my sons and their friends feel the same way. Now you may respond with you’re a “white male” and you may go all “Carl the cuck” on me, but I’m Mexican. I don’t want or need a Hispanic Ghost Rider to be pandered to me, it’s insulting and I love Blaze and Ketch more than this cheap trick. My favorite character the Hulk has been replaced just to appease Tom Brevoort’s Korean wife. Really? I am all for a wall and I’m a Mexican American who has lived in Mexico, am I racist ? You’re a funny guy I bet you voted for killary. Let me tell you something that may hurt your prissy feelings, the Majority of America feel’s like me, and we’re tired of being called racist and xenophobes and homopbic just because we don’t want you’re agendas shoved down our throats. SJWs like your self are fighting a battle you will never win. And we speak with our pockets. Guess who’s going to win in the end ?

        • Marc Anthony Ortiz

          Racist? White male? Killary? And this became political why? This has nothing to do with politics or sjws or whatever. I even said that everyone has their tastes. Especially when it comes to age difference. I only said that complaining here instead of addressing the issues to the right party was a waste of time. I don’t think you’re racist. But I now think you’re illiterate.

          • bellhound407

            Everything I posted went over your head huh ? And I’m the illiterate one ? HAHAHAHAHAHA. You should have your reproductive organs burned

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