It’s a headline that might have described the antics in an episode of “Family Guy”: White guy pretends to be a Japanese guy to work as a comic book writer, and keeps the charade going for two years until he one day kills off his Asian altere-go when it outlived its usefulness. And, as with so many “Family Guy” subplots, the story has an overtly racist undertone.
No one would imagine that not only would this happen in real life, but that the White man in question would be named this year as Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief — one of the top positions in the comic book industry. But yes, earlier last month, Bleeding Cool broke the news that newly-promoted Marvel Comics EIC C.B. Cebulski had spent two years between 2004 and 2005 writing several prominent Marvel titles under the invented guise of “Akira Yoshida”. Adding insult to injury, most of the stories written by Cebulski-as-Yoshida are Asiaphilic fables involving White protagonists immersed in the hyper-saturated colours of Orientalist fantasy.
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.
My boyfriend and I rarely go to the movies these days: tickets are overpriced, concessions are empty calories, 3D makes our heads hurt, and no one seems to follow basic theatre etiquette anymore. But, we make the rare exception for blockbuster movies: any film for which the special effects necessitate a big screen. Earlier this summer, we braved the Friday night mall crowds to check out Iron Man 3. Without fail, we found ourselves seated next to a trio of fanboys who, moments after the room darkened, launched themselves into a loud and obnoxious litany of Mystery Science Theatre commentary on the 15 minutes of trailer, each statement of amateurish snark blasted at full volume so that the entire movie-going audience could “share” in this bit of uninvited “fun”.
When the trailer for “The Wolverine” came on, MST Fanboy #1 – the fanboy who of the bunch was both loudest and closest to us — let out a shrill squeal. “I so can’t wait for when this comes out! It’s gonna be epic,” he declared loudly to no one in particular between fistfuls from his bucket-sized popcorn, and the rest of us found our lives enriched by the knowledge of his growing excitement about this movie, or at least by a momentary respite from the scathing and unrelenting witticism that he had unleashed upon the other trailers.
(By the time the movie started, it was clear that these fanboys had no plans of letting up. 20 minutes in as Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark led us through his post-Avengers PTSD, we pointedly turned to MST Fanboy #1 and hissed loudly to get his attention. As soon as he turned to us we snapped: “Hey, dude, we can ALL hear you, and you’re not funny enough to justify this. You need to shut up. Now. ” The rest of the movie was enjoyed in much-appreciated silence punctuated by periodic glares of sullen reproach from my left.)
I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t one of those fanboys, and not just because I know how to enjoy a movie in respectful silence.
I also wasn’t one of those fanboys who was particularly excited about the upcoming “The Wolverine”. I just couldn’t find the wherewithal to be excited about a movie that seemed like little more than a modern-day X-gene adaptation of Miss Saigon, albeit with a little less singing and a little more mad ninja skills.