The Marvel Universe is ending; so, what about all that much-hyped diversity?

January 22, 2015

marvel-secret-wars

(with intellectual contribution from Snoopy Jenkins)

How long does Cowl Rental last for non-White, non-male superheroes in the Marvel Universe? Apparently, less than a year.

Marvel’s earlier diversity efforts — the introductions of the Ultimate Universe’s Miles Morales (Spiderman) and the 616 Universe’s Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) — have been well-received by fans. Last October, Marvel again made headlines — and even the Colbert Report — for its announcement of new diversity initiatives that would replace many of the Marvel Universe’s classic superheroes with non-White or non-male successors. Filling the void left behind when Steve Rogers was depowered, Sam Wilson would give up his mantle as the Falcon to be the “first” Black Captain America (although he wasn’t the first). Thor Odinson would lose the ability to wield Mjolnir, the source of his power, making way for a new, female Thor whose identity, after three issues, remains a mystery.

But, as I speculated in October of last year, diversity via Cowl Rental is always fraught, particularly for the minority character involved. Not only does it typically end poorly for the minority inheritor of a high-profile cowl, but, as artist Denys Cowan reiterated in an interview with the Washington Post yesterday (wherein the Post reported that he, Reggie Hudlin and Derek Dingle are interested in resurrecting Milestone Media), the entire tactic is also politically troublesome.

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Milestone Comics is being resurrected!

January 21, 2015
Dwayne McDuffie's character, Static Shock.
Dwayne McDuffie’s character, Static Shock.

More than three years after the untimely death of comics legend Dwayne McDuffie —  the man who can be rightfully pointed to as the pioneer of today’s diversity efforts in mainstream comics — Washington Post is exclusively reporting that McDuffie’s Milestone Media may rise again.

McDuffie, who died suddenly at the height of his career, is credited for co-founding Milestone Media, the parent company of Milestone Comics, in 1993 during a boom in the comic book industry. However, unlike other independent comic book studios started in the era (such as Top Cow and Image), Milestone was started with a very specific and political purpose: to promote a broader racial diversity within the comic book medium.  Recruiting top minority writing and artist talent, launched with a slate of comic titles focused on minority superheroes, including Static and Icon which introduced characters Static Shock, Icon and Rocket; all are now characters in the DC Comics mainstream pantheon.

Although many of Milestone’s earliest characters were Black, Milestone supported efforts to bring all forms of racial and sexual diversity to comics, which included the introduction of several Asian American superheroes. In 1994, Milestone launched Xombi, written by John Rozum and illustrated by Denys Cowan. The title focused on Korean American hero David Kim who becomes a technologically-advanced “xombi” after his body is infused with nanites; it remains one of the only comic book titles to ever focus on an Asian American male superhero protagonist.

That same year, Milestone also launched Shadow Cabinet, an Outsiders-esque team of covert superheroes. The team included several characters within the Middle Eastern, Asian and Asian American diaspora including: Blitzen, a Japanese speedster in a lesbian relationship with fellow Shadow Cabinet member Donner; Iron Butterfly, a Palestinian ferrokinetic; and the powerful and mysterious precog Dharma, leader of the Shadow Cabinet who appears to be of South Asian American descent.

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Murdered USC Grad Student Was Targeted Because He Was Chinese

January 20, 2015
USC graduate student Xinran Ji was murdered last year during a robbery attempt.
USC graduate student Xinran Ji was murdered last year during a robbery attempt.

Last July, 24-year-old USC graduate student in engineering, Xinran Ji, was walking home to his apartment after a late-night study session when he was brutally accosted by a group of unknown strangers just a few hundred feet off-campus, and beaten bloody with a baseball bat and a wrench in an attempted robbery. Ji survived the initial attack and stumbled to his apartment with multiple internal injuries, where his roommate found him dead in his bed the following morning.

Now, three teenagers —  Jonathan Del Carmen, 19; Alberto Ochoa, 17; and Alejandra Guerrero, 16 — are standing trial for murder. Two additional teenagers were also arrested in the incident, but one — 19-year-old Andrew Garcia — is currently awaiting a hearing to determine his mental competency, while the other unnamed teenaged girl is not being charged with Ji’s murder because officials say she was not involved in the attack; she was instead charged with robbery for a crime committed later in the night.

All four of Ji’s attackers confessed to the robbery and assault. Further, Andrew Garcia is quoted as saying that the teenagers targeted Ji for his race. Reports the New York Daily News:

Andrew Garcia, 19, told cops that he and four other friends saw the 24-year-old walking home alone on July 24. The group decided to mug him, he said.

“Because he was Chinese, he must have money,” Garcia told police.

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ISIS Threatens Two Japanese Hostages & Demands $200M Ransom in Latest Video

January 20, 2015
PMC CEO Haruna Yukawa in a photo from Syria dated two years ago.
PMC CEO Haruna Yukawa in a photo from Syria dated two years ago.

The latest video posted this morning by ISIS militants shows members of the extremist organization threatening the lives of two Japanese hostages, Private Military Company CEO Haruna Yukawa (above) and freelance journalist Kenji Goto; both Japanese citizens were captured by the extremist group last year. The macabre setting of this morning’s video is heartbreakingly familiar: the orange jumpsuit-clad hostages knelt in front of a rocky dune next to the same hooded spokesman who has been featured in earlier beheading videos.

In this morning’s video, ISIS demands that the Japanese government pay the group $200 million dollars for Goto and Yukawa’s safe return. This was apparently in reference to the recent decision by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to commit $200 million in non-military aid to countries fighting ISIS; that decision was announced Saturday and was intended to support infrastructure projects. Abe also announced Saturday that his government is ready to commit an additional $2.5 billion humanitarian support. These monies are in addition to the country’s $2.2 billion dollar pledge two years ago to support humanitarian causes in the Middle East.

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Do demographic data support lower admission rates for Asian applicants to Harvard? Maybe not. | #IAmNotYourWedge

January 16, 2015
Photo credit: NY Times
Photo credit: NY Times

Last week, I posted a surprising finding with regard to the evidence — or lack thereof — of an anti-Asian American cap quota at Harvard. Spurred by the infamous New York Times infographic shown above, I asked whether Harvard’s published freshman enrollment data supported the popular assumption reinforced by the above graph: that Harvard’s Asian American population was stuck at approximately 20%, and had not increased despite increases in Asian American overall population size.

It turns out that when you do the math, this popular preconception turns out to be false: in actuality, when you crunch the numbers with regard to changing applicant pool and falling admission rate, you find that Harvard’s admitted Asian American student population has increased between 2000-2014 at almost exactly the same pace as our national population growth. In other words, admission data simply do not support the conclusion that Harvard’s Asian American student population has been artificially capped to resist the last decade’s increases in Asian American overall population size.

This is a problematic finding for Asian American opponents of affirmative action, because the belief that Harvard exercises an anti-Asian cap quota is one of the primary reasons they cite to argue that affirmative action is unconstitutional, and violates Fourteenth Amendment protections for Asian American students.

Another major argument that Asian American opponents of affirmative action cite is that Asian American students are being admitted into Harvard at a lower admission rate than non-Asian American students because we are overrepresented in the applicant pool.

Sounds like another testable hypothesis, albeit a harder one to really get at since the numbers aren’t published by Havard or any other private academic institution. Still, I asked myself today, is this also something we can crunch the numbers on?

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