Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Is MARVEL pandering?

pander (pan·der)
To do or provide what someone wants or demands even though it is not proper, good, or reasonable. (Merriam-Webster)

Is Marvel Comics, or MARVEL in general, pandering to the masses? I'm only asking because I recently saw some comments online claiming that Marvel is pandering by introducing new characters that are more diverse. Specifically the comments were in reference to the character of Ironheart taking over Iron Man's duties in the Invincible Iron Man comic. In case you were not aware, Ironheart is a female African American teen who is a genius that got into M.I.T at age fifteen and built her own Iron Man suit. But the pander label was also in reference to several other characters taking on the names and roles of iconic, longstanding Marvel characters. 

Thor is now a woman, Jane Foster. (unless of course Thor is a dude again. These things are hard to follow sometimes.)

There is/has been a new Spider-Man, Miles Morales. He was in a different universe where Peter Parker died but is not in the main Marvel universe. It's comics. Things get complicated.

Sam Wilson (aka Falcon) briefly took on the role of Captain America. Cap is also an African American Woman in the Spider-Gwen series. Yes, more alt-universe stuff.

Kamala Khan is Ms. Marvel. The original Ms. Marvel is now Captain Marvel.

Oh and the new Iron Man/Ironheart, meet Riri Williams.

This "pandering" may also be in reference to actors of more ethnic origins taking on the roles of traditionally white Marvel characters in Marvel movies like Idris Elba as Heimdall in the Thor films and now Zendaya portraying Peter Parker's girlfriend, Mary-Jane Watson.

But is this pandering? Marvel is trying to appeal to a more diverse audience. And it is working. But are these changes "not proper, good, or reasonable?" A better question would be, REALLY? This is an actual question people are asking? These are fictional characters. Comic book fictional characters where even if someone dies (especially the popular/iconic ones) they will not stay dead. And why not put a spin on a characters race and/or gender. It's like James Bond. Every actor brought something to that role and different charters bring different styles and points of view to the heroes they become. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. And lets be honest, something like making Thor a woman isn't as dumb as making the original Captain America an agent of Hydra. Because that just happened recently. (Not that Jane Foster becoming Thor was dumb... You know what I mean.)

But probably the most important reason for making these characters more diverse is because it is in the very spirit of the United States. We are supposed to be able to aspire to anything. To dream big. And it is way easier to dream when you can see people that look like you being great and doing great things. It means a lot when you can point to a character like Captain America and tell a kid of any race or gender, "You can be Cap." And when you can go and read literally decades of comics that feature the characters you know and love, why is giving someone “different” a shot at an iconic role such a big deal? I thought all that mattered was if the story was good.

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