There are over 10,000 major & supporting comic-book characters created throughout the pantheon of all the major Publishing houses. (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, IDW). Tens of thousands more are written for single issue arcs or merely exist in the background to further the story along. And what do they all have in common?
99.9% of all comic-book characters, both major and supporting, both background and incidental...are all Caucasian.
How can this be? Well let's go back. Way back to the beginning...
All of human life originated in Africa. If you're a human being, your genes (literally) are African in origin. We are all the children of Africa. We are the children and the descendants of black-skinned homo-sapiens, the first human beings on Earth. The first human beings to walk on this lovely blue planet of ours.
Now let's fast forward nearly 5 million years later, after lots of evolution and near extinction-level climate change. At this time on planet Earth, over 40% of the current human population is Asian.
People of African or indirect African descent are 23-28% of the current human population.
15% of the world's current population is Latin/Hispanic.
10% of the world's current population is European/Caucasian.
5% are Indigenous/Tribes (lost or hidden).
2% are considered the mysterious Other.
*c/o W.H.O (World Health Organization, 2013) These are the facts, and they point to an incredibly diverse world, which the past & current state of comics in no way represent.
When combined, over 86% of the world's population is filled with People of Color. (African, Asian, Hispanic/Latin). Why then, do comic-books not mirror the state of our real world? Why are comic-books literally white-washed, with an incredibly unrealistic depiction of the reality that we see everyday? We read these comics day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. And they remain 99.9% white-washed. Clearly the world that we live in is not being used for inspiration in the comic-book world. Not by the writers nor the artists. So what is?
Hard questions have to be asked, and very few will be happy with the answers they bring forth. But the truth cannot be denied. The original sin of the Comic Industry as a whole, is the outright abolishment of diversity within its published works for nearly 80 years. For every comic-book creative legend that we adore, for every inker & artist who drew the characters we love & practically worship...these men and women continued a status quo of racially divisive and dangerous art that excluded over 86% of the world's population...across EIGHTY YEARS.
So what now? How do we fix this and where does the Comic Book Industry go from here?
Films based on these literary properties are now among the hottest commodities in the entire movie-making industry. They're nearly guaranteed to be box-office gold because of their vast appeal, and they have the added bonus of bringing years worth of fans to the theaters, guaranteeing curious eyes glued to the silver screen as these characters are finally brought to life. It seems encouraging however, that the studios & filmmakers caught wind of the grand mistakes of the past, and are doing their part to include diversity in the films based on these comic-book properties. The film industry is outright vying hard to not repeat that same mistake, that "original sin" the Comic Book Industry is founded on.
Otherwise, can you imagine the absurdity of going to see a comic-book film where every single person and character you see on screen is Caucasian? Why not. If the filmmakers literally and "faithfully" adapted the work, then that's exactly what we'd be seeing. Thankfully, this is not what we're seeing when we go to see comic-book films, and for that I'm grateful to Hollywood. For once.
Nick Fury, once portrayed as Caucasian is now portrayed by African-American screen-legend Samuel L. Jackson across the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Kingpin, a Spider-Man & Daredevil arch villain, was portrayed as Caucasian in comics; but was portrayed by African-American actor Michael Clarke Duncan in the 2003 Daredevil film. May he rest in peace. Acting giant Lawrence Fishburne recently portrayed Daily Planet boss Perry White in 2013's Man of Steel, who's universally been previously portrayed as Caucasian in comics, television and film. Afro-British actor Idris Elba has portrayed norse god Heimdall in the two released Thor films, to great critical acclaim. Next in line is Michael B. Jordan to portray Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) in the reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise.
However, not all of the fans are happy with the choices being made to add much needed diversity to comic-book films, and their related properties. Why is that?
These "fans" will have to answer that question within themselves. The world is moving forward, and hopefully from now on the entire Comic Book Industry as a whole will fully embrace diversity and portray worlds & universes within their properties, that are as diverse as our very own. Some may complain and bemoan people of color being cast in originally Caucasian roles. But they're missing the big picture. They're missing the point of comics. In the end...the true heroes always stand for what is right. And seeing Nick Fury as he's currently being portrayed is right. Seeing Heimdall as he's being portrayed, is right. Diversity is never wrong, and because of the growing diversity in the genre...they're also beginning to make some downright amazing films that appeal to our whole world.
- Jason Raphael for Rated R for Reviews