TESS Teach

A MARVELous Dirty Secret

EDIT 23 April 2015: Fans have asked me to explain my thoughts about Marvel Comics’ diversity. My reply is found here: https://facevaluecomics.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/invulnerability-a-new-social-superpower/

We congratulate Marvel Comics for embracing diversity! Today (22 April 2015), Issue #40 of “All New X-Men” hits comic store shelves. In it, long-time hero Bobby Drake comes out as gay, or at least bi-sexual. We may see Iceman wrestle with his sexual identity after talking with fellow mutant, Jean Grey. If shown with compassion, Iceman’s real-life sexual identity questions could establish him as a contemporary role-model for readers.


This example gives us at least the third suddenly-diverse character from Marvel Comics. Last year, a female picked up Mjolnir as Thor! An African-American donned the classic shield and mantle of Captain America. Iceman was created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, so it’s been a long time for him to finally discuss his sexual identity.


Ardent comic book fans may want small changes their new characters’ super-powers or heroic battle-cry. Change begets change. Despite any perceived flaws in a costume design, for example, fans will grow to accept their heroes. Maybe, fans will even grow to love the newest incarnations of their beloved heroes.


Certainly, we can’t DISLIKE ‘em. This edict applies to comics reviews, too. Why?


If we don’t like a new African-American as Captain America, we’re racist.


If we don’t like a new female incarnation of Thor, we’re sexist.


If we don’t like a new gay Iceman, we’re homophobic or heterosexist.


We congratulate Marvel Comics for a brilliant, polarizing marketing strategy!


Some of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters – Wolverine and Deadpool – have recently died in their respective titles. Keeping a running count, now we have at least FIVE distinct changes within the Marvel Comics Universe in less than a year. May we ask WHY we suddenly have such an outpouring of new characters?


I contend this change has nothing to do with diversity and everything to do about money.


Knowing how much money popular comic books have hauled at theaters, Marvel Comics’ so-called benevolence is actually tied to a HISTORY of money choices.


Artist Jack Kirby created Captain America and Thor. When an average fan recollects an image of either two heroes, they likely think of the characters as drawn by Kirby. Since so many fans already connect these two characters with Jack Kirby’s art, his family sued Marvel Comics. They wanted rightful compensation for the characters that Kirby helped make famous.


Marvel Comics countered by showing the world their news images of these two heroes. Alongside a blonde hair, blue eye, Caucasian Captain America, we saw the NEW  African-American Captain America. There’s no comparison! Similarly, we saw a female Thor who looks nothing like her bulging biceps male name-sake. Again, there is no comparison!


Thankfully, people saw through the charade. These new characters created by Marvel Comics pre-dated the lawsuit by months. They played a shell game with very high stakes. If Marvel Comics wins, they retain all rights to box-office giants’ sales. Lose, and they have to pay an artist handsomely. Eventually, Marvel Comics paid Jack Kirby’s estate a settlement.


Did you remember how Iceman was co-created by Jack Kirby, too? Sony Pictures Entertainment once owned exclusive cinematic rights the the Spider-man franchise. This explains why movie-goers saw a completely different-looking Electro character from the one created by…guess who- Jack Kirby!


Gregor Mendel is rolling over in his grave- Marvel Comics owns the copyright to the word “mutant!” This suggests how Kirby’s creations – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch – are NOT going to be mutants in the new Avenger’s movie this summer. They will have NO ties to the X-Men as we grew to know from the comic books. What?!?


20th Century Fox bought movie rights to some characters from Marvel Comics. Primarily, these characters include the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. All SIX of the popular X-Men movies were created by 20th Century Fox, not Disney or Marvel Comics. Therefore, the profits from these movies go into pockets at 20th Century Fox.


Like a spoiled child at the playground, Marvel Comics decided to take their ball and go home. They made a dramatic strategic plan: destroy their comics characters tied to 20th Century Fox. Make certain characters unusable. Marvel Comics indicated how they want to end the print run on the Fantastic Four. In the new Fantastic Four movie re-launch, the Human Torch inexplicably transforms from Caucasian to African-American. Next, Marvel Comics killed Wolverine. Deadpool is, ironically, dead, too. More importantly, fans should recognize how these two characters’ deaths happened within the world of the X-Men franchise.


…which is the same sinking ship where Bobby Drake just professed his sexual identity.


Take a mature step away from the world of comic books. Look at these transactions like a business. Marvel Comics just drew a line in the sand- they killed two main characters in the X-Men line-up. Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) won’t draw audiences to any new X-Men movies. Would YOU want to see an X-Men movie without Wolverine? Professor X died in the last movie, too. Who leads the team? How about Iceman? If 20th Century Fox does NOT use Iceman as a gay character in future movies, guess what happens:


20th Century Fox – NOT MARVEL COMICS – gets any heat for how well they use a character’s undefined homosexual/bi-sexual identity.


I really want to like the diversity we now see in comic books. Regardless of the genesis, I really want to like the new Captain America, Thor, and Iceman identities. I think they can be good examples of how people value heroism in different ways.


Hopefully, we’ve learned a lot about new comic books. More importantly, we may have learned a crucial business lesson taught by Marvel Comics. To this end, I challenge:


If Marvel Comics easily dismisses an African American Captain America – THEY ARE RACIST.


If Marvel Comics easily dismisses a female incarnation of Thor – THEY ARE SEXIST.


If Marvel Comics easily dismisses a gay Iceman, THEY ARE HOMOPHOBIC and/or HETEROSEXIST.


School is still in session. Let me show Marvel Comics how they can embrace diversity and influence real social change.


Give Peter Parker, the Amazing and Spectacular Spider-man, CANCER.


C’mon- a RADIOACTIVE spider bit the guy! It gave Spider-man his unique super-powers. Why not add ‘cancer’ to the list? Partner with writers who understand the cancer experience. Solicit advice from well-respected cancer treatment experts. Welcome new fans who need a hero like themselves.


Imagine a world where Spider-man had too many decisions. Rescue the damsel in distress? Stop the villain bent on city-wide destruction? Study for tomorrow’s big chemistry test? When does he fit-in needed chemotherapy treatment? How well does he feel following a visit with his physician? This strategy taps into creative writing minds and see an opponent more deadly than any foe Spider-man ever fought. Will villains know about Spider-man’s diagnosis, and will they use his physical weakness against him? How will his allies help Spider-man combat crime? Will Mr. Fantastic or Dr. Strange suddenly “cure” cancer within five days of this story line, though?


Hopefully, our fans know how serious we take autism advocacy in comic books. We took our own advice! We’ve partnered with great professionals who help advise us about certain aspects of autism. Diagnosed as an adult with autism, I write the script for the world’s first featured autistic comic book hero. We weave real-life personal and professional experiences, and clinically-accurate diagnostic criteria, into our stories. Facial feature recognition helps many of our readers understand character’s emotions, and their own. This science has been well-researched for 25 years, and formed the basis for educational reform in our home school district. Yes- Face Value Comics helped influence tax-free educational reform for students with special needs.


Why would we expect a multi-billion dollar business to give the common man legitimate diversity in its heroes? I cannot respect Marvel Comics’ attempts, knowing the source of change was only money. Don’t feed me table scraps , call it ‘diversity,’ and expect me to feel satisfied.


Yes, I WILL buy the new comic book today. I wonder when Iceman may tenderly hold another man’s hand. I wonder when he may kiss another man in love. I wonder when Iceman will get married to another man. All of these things have heterosexual counterparts in the Marvel Comics Universe, so why not see these common life events happen to a gay hero? It’s a fictional world, so Marvel Comics’ writers aren’t bound by repressive same-sex marriage laws. If I can believe in green-skinned monsters and flying robot-men, I can imagine a (fictional) place where equality can finally reign. Can’t you?


Today, Marvel Comics’ biggest secret isn’t that Iceman is gay. Their push for diversity is driven by competing rights to their popular characters in a battle of attrition. Knowing our politically-correct society, Marvel Comics embraces new, gullible fans. Meanwhile, they use their free hands to gesture obscenely towards 20th Century Fox and Jack Kirby’s influences.

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