Posted by P. Benjamin Mains
Marvel rocked the comic book world last Tuesday when they announced the mainstream Marvel Universe (AKA 616) would come to an end in Secret Wars after fifty-year years. What this means is still anyone’s guess but in all probability resemble a fusion of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and the original Secret Wars from 1984. However, I digress as the primary reason why I mention is because a comic blog I follow, Robot 6, profiled an artist who rendered their own “reboot” of the Marvel Universe to better reflect its diversity. While diversity in of itself is not “harmful and “bad,” it is problematic when mold to suit a particular ideology. The artist, who goes by the moniker “Calvin,” is immensely talented (I particularly enjoy his rendering of Pulsar AKA Monica Rambeau) but I noticed one thing: there are no white men.
Such a complaint may seem frivolous at first, even absurd, but I fear that “diversity” is becoming a codeword for “no white cishet males allowed” (as Social Justice parlance goes.) It essentially represents a toxic strain of fandom that is not only infecting comics, but also the media as a whole where the only acceptable prejudice is against white males. First and foremost, I stress that Calvin is perfectly within his rights to create and post what he desires and I am not trying to say otherwise. It is that I have always found it ironic that a certain group describes themselves as progressive, but reactionary in their thinking. Do Caucasian males face systematic oppression? Of course not, but it is not “justice” when social justice “warriors” use diversity as a bludgeon: it is petty vengeance, and it demeans ultimately minorities.
Case in point, in the description for Fantastic Four, it reads:
The original Fantastic Four disbanded after internal conflicts rose to unbearable levels. Reed Richards had grown jealous of Susan’s natural ability to lead and he feared her brilliant mind surpassed even his intellect. However, it wasn’t until Reed’s poor judgement and leadership led to the death of Johnny Storm. Refusing to take blame for the death, Reed lashed out at his companions, which ended Susan and Reed’s relationship. Reed then left with Ben Grimm and their current whereabouts are unknown but rumors tell of Reed’s mental instability and the possibility of him planning a villainous revenge plot.
What galls me about the description is that Susan Storm’s (AKA the Invisible Woman) worth as a character predicates on the demonization of Reed Richards. Granted, depending on the writer, Reed Richards is either a completely insensitive jerk or generally nice, but absentminded, professor. His Ultimate counter even turned to the dark side. Meanwhile, Susan was the backbone of the team for much of its existence. It is true that Stan Lee and Jake Kirby portrayed her as a constant damsel in distress with a power that was only initially good for hiding, however she did gain the ability to project invisible force fields and even use them offensively. However, when you compare her to the socially inept Reed, hotheaded Johnny, and self-loathing Ben Grimm, she was the calmer head that kept the team grounded, especially Reed. Her growth into the “First Lady” of Marvel Comics is remarkable as TV Tropes confirms:
Sue Storm/Invisible Woman from Fantastic Four is the poster girl of this trope. (Literally— See the top level page.) Originally the Invisible Girl, she was very meek, and her power was only personal invisibility. She was so useless (not many opportunities◊ for stealth◊ came along), the best her writers could say in response to constant fan outcry against The Load (even in-universe◊) was, “Having a pretty girl around makes the boys fight harder.” Her force field power was added (less than two years after her introduction), and she gradually became better and more versatile with it, especially under John Byrne. More dramatic was the shift from her original meek personality to her current confident one, which her new choice of codename signifies. These days, Doctor Doom himself considers her the strongest of the Fantastic Four.
What Calvin did to Susan Storm was ultimately condescending and sexist. Not because any overt hostility towards her, but because she is worthless in her current role in the comics. Reed Richards needs to be a mustache-twirling villain that Calvin needs to “rescue” her from. Similarly, Johnny’s death appeared to be an inversion of the “Women in Refrigerators” trope where its sole purpose is to facilitate Calvin’s hatred of Reed rather than advance Susan as a character. It is not a valorization of Susan as such; it is more an ingrained sexism that white knights mask with ostensibly benevolent intentions, which is anything but. The inclusion of Robbie Reye, Kamala Khan, and She-Hulk also carries the unfortunate connotations that the line-up serves more as an affirmative action checklist rather than including the characters on their own merits. A shame too, considering I always liked She-Hulk as a member of the team.
I admit that I am being very liberal in my interpretations of Supreme Marvel; however, much of the reasoning behind “diversity” in media is the exclusion and demonization of others based on the actions of their predecessors. Yes, Eurocentrism and sexism caused much suffering for minorities, but prejudice against a certain group does not erase those crimes. There are two idioms that come to mind: “Trouble with an eye for an eye is that it leaves everyone blind” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” For example, slavery is not solely a European phenomenon; the Arab slave trade lasted into the 1960s yet there is no widespread condemnation of Arab crimes against Africans and Europeans since the seventh century. Likewise, this willful blindness shows a fundamental intellectually dishonesty within the SJW sphere.
Human nature has a dark side that does not recognize pigmentation, ethnicity, or creed. I am not suggesting that Calvin should have made white men the most prominent characters. If he truly a proponent of diversity, he would have recognized they have a role to play. They do not need in a dominant role; the inclusion of Sam Wilson (AKA the Falcon) as Captain America is a logical choice considering his history as a partner of Steve Rogers and the bird-of-prey motif fits with American iconography. What I would have hoped for is more balance; not a reactionary hatred that oppresses minorities more than any human could.
Tags: Ben Grimm, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Feminism in Comics, Ghost Rider, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm, Kamala Khan, Marvel Comics, Media, Mister Fantastic, Monica Rambeau, Ms. Marvel, Pulsar, Reed Richards, Robbie Reyes, Sam Wilson, Secret Wars, She-Hulk, Social Justice, Supreme Marvel, Susan Storm, The Falcon