The Invincible Riri Williams

Tony’s a goner! That’s right, Tony Stark is done as Iron Man. I’m so glad that arrogant, smug jerk is gone. Ok, ok now I know that was a little harsh. But it’s true. Time magazine revealed that at the end of the current Civil War II storyline in the comics the original Iron Man, Tony Stark, will be stepping down as Iron Man and he’ll be replaced by a genius 15-year-old African American woman named Riri Williams (No, not this Riri)

 

Image Courtesy of movieweb.com

For a little background, she’s an MIT student who reverse engineers one of Stark’s old armors (the guy leaves them around like old underwear) and catches Stark’s attention as a result. Pretty dope. I definitely couldn’t do that at age 15. I was too busy trying to pass Algebra II!

Bendis says that his inspiration for the character came while he was working on a defunct TV show in Chicago, he was inspired by the story of an African American woman who overcame tragedy in her neighborhood to go to college. He stated that he felt like this was the modern superhero story.

I think that it’s great that Brian Michael Bendis (BMB) is trying to diversify comics. I call him the trailblazer, he was the one that brought Miles Morales to the comic world. And I do applaud both he and Marvel for trying to create characters more reflective of America as it is now.

Image courtesy of fusion.net

 

Now there is the other side.

There are some people who are somewhat upset with the fact that the character was not created by a person of color. David Betancourt from the Washington Post noted that Black Twitter was in a tizzy over the reveal.  Some feel that an authentic black female voice should be the one writing the character. The greater concern too is that although the characters are more diverse, the creative teams behind them are not. If we can have Ta-Nehisi Coates writing Black Panther then we sure enough should be able to have a modern day Jackie Ormes  drawing the New Iron Man.

Secondly I have issue with the name Riri. It sounds a little too stereotypical to me. Why can’t the character just be called something like Rianne? As a side point, there have been studies that showed that job applicants with “black” sounding names were less likely to get hired. And I am thinking, will that be the case with comic buyers and Riri?

One of my other concerns is that the inspiration for this character was based on “oppressed minority who overcomes terrible obstacles” narrative that we have heard time and time again. Why not base it on a black woman who was middle class? I don’t know maybe I’m overthinking it.

Also I wonder with (SPOILER ALERT) Rhodey dying in the Civil War II, is Riri a consolation prize? Kill an old black character and replace them with a newer model.

Last gripe, Mike Deodato. I just do not like his artwork. I think his inks are too dark and his action scenes leave a lot to be desired.

Image courtesy of bleedingcool.com

Well, I’ve had my say. What do you all think out there? Are you going to buy the comic? Would you like to see Riri in an MCU movie? Please sound off below.

Oscars so…..?

Image courtesy of ABC

So it’s that time of year again…award season is upon us. The red carpet is being rolled out in Hollywood. But this year is a little different (or maybe not so different?).  The controversy over the lack of diversity among the Oscar nominees has put a cloud over the ceremony. Especially with the #OscarsSoWhite rampant on Twitter it doesn’t take Tom Hanks telling us “Houston we have a problem,”(yes, I couldn’t resist the Apollo 13 reference) to let us know that there is something seriously wrong going on here.

Even some high profile stars are boycotting the Oscars, with Jada Pinkett Smith being one of the most prominent ones.

Many people are bemoaning this outcry by saying that people of color should be patient, as Michael Caine recently mentioned. That’s like Lyndon Baines Johnson telling Dr. King to be patient for the Voting Rights Act.

Going beyond the Oscars there is a real problem with diversity in our entertainment arena. In a recent study conducted by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, they found that out of 109 motion pictures evaluated only 7% had a racially balanced cast. The study also found that at least half or more of all media evaluated (film, television, streaming) failed to portray one speaking or named Asian or Asian American on screen. Of the lead characters in film, only 21.8% were an underrepresented minority, which is 16.1% below the U.S. Census number.

Behind the camera things weren’t much better. Only 12.7% of film directors were from an underrepresented minority group, and out of that they named just two Black women: Ava DuVernay (Selma) and Amma Asante (Belle)—who happens to be Ghanaian.

The major studios overall did not fair much better. No studio scored an inclusion score above 25% across all metrics. Only Sony and Viacom achieved a Fully Inclusive score for underrepresented minority characters and leads. The authors of the study credit films like About Last Night, Selma and Top Five for helping to bolster their respective scores.

The authors suggest ways to remedy this including: targeted inclusion goals, countering mythologizing in decision making with evidence (i.e. thought that minority leads can’t do well at the box office), and building inclusive consideration lists.

I think some people are afraid and think that others are taking their piece of the pie. No. It’s not about taking a piece of someone’s pie, it’s about making the pie bigger.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Have your Peter and eat your Miles too

Image Courtesy of: Comicbookmovie.com

Wow! After the debacle that was Secret Wars we get the New 52….ahem I mean the All-New Marvel universe. Can’t believe I’m getting my companies confused but how can you blame me, it’s like both of the big two are blowing up the existing continuity to create something ‘new’!

After all of the delays and confusion with the Secret Wars limited series not even being complete before we get the All-New Marvel comics it’s finally a new day in the Marvel Universe. To catch you up, Marvel ran a multi-year story line that introduced concept of the destruction of the multiverse. In essence all of the alternative universes were destroyed one by one  by something called “Incursions” which eventually led to the conflict between the main continuity 616 universe and the Ultimate universe. This led to the Secret Wars conflict which was a mash-up of various bits and pieces of alternative universes. I personally think it was just an opportunity for Marvel staff to create their Vanity projects without having a lasting effect on continuity.

Anyway, the outcome was a more diverse Marvel Universe. This included Sam Wilson, the former Falcon, as Captain America, an female Wolverine (formerly X-23) , a female Star Lord, and Two, count them, Two Spider-Men residing in the same Universe.  So we get a jet-setting millionaire playboy Peter Parker and struggling high schooler Miles Morales. You get both your Spider-Men and everyone is happy. Right?

Maybe.

In an article in Comicbookresources, Joseph Ilidge wrote a very good article regarding Marvel hedging their bets. He highlighted the fact that Marvel is trying to have their cake and eat it too with having two Captain Americas in Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson. He posited something akin to Captain America being an institution and not so much an individual, thereby making dual Caps feasible. I sort of like that idea. The only thing I fear is that eventually Marvel will go back to its default and get rid of Sam Wilson as Cap. Believe me, they do this all the time in comics–kill or teleport or replace a character and then bring them back to make the “real” fans happy.

On one hand I applaud Marvel for striving for diversity by bringing in a black Captain America and Miles Morales’ Spider-Man. But it’s almost like they are trying to please everybody. Sometimes in doing that you don’t break new ground. Sometimes the audience has to be uncomfortable to bring something cool and fresh. That’s just my opinion.

Tell me, what do you think?

Star Sisters

No, I’m not referring to Venus and Serena Williams but I am referring to the new additions to the Star Wars franchise, Lupita Nyongo and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Ms. Nyongo will be in the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Ms. Mbatha-Raw will be in Episode VIII due in May 2017.

Lupita Nyongo. Image Courtesy of: TheAfricachannel.com

Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Photo Courtesy of: Comicbookmovie.com

As someone of Ghanaian descent it’s cool to see two women of African descent (Mbatha -Raw from South Africa via the UK, and Nyongo from Kenya via Mexic0). This is very great news when it comes to seeing Women of Color in Sci Fi and comicbook related properties.

On 60 Minutes today, the director of The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams was asked by Bill Whitaker about the diversity that is in The Force Awakens. His response was that it was important to him to have a film that reflected the audience in which it was being displayed to. Now to me that’s very forward thinking. When you have directors like Ridley Scott, who make movies like Gods of Egypt portraying a biblical event with a virtually all Caucasian cast (not the least bit historically accurate), its nice to see a director making a movie that accurately reflects the audience that makes up the current movie going populace.

This is just the beginning though. I look forward to seeing Women of Color in more prominent roles in genre films, whether it be superhero movies, sci fi, or fantasy. Could you imagine someone like Kerry Washington playing the commander of a star ship, or Teyonah Parris playing Captain Marvel, or Tika Sumpter playing an Elvish Queen? That would be awesome.

What do you think? Would Kerry Washington make a good Starbuck or Candice Patton a good ice maiden? Please share your thoughts below. I’m looking forward to a lively conversation.

Respect Your King

Recently Entertainment Weekly ran a cover story on the new Captain America: Civil War film which will be out in May. Like most fanboys and girls I am very excited to see this film. It marks the live action debut of one of the most anticipated superheroes of all, Black Panther. If you follow my blog you may have noticed that I am a big Black Panther fan. Ever since I first saw him in the Avengers comics I thought he was alright but not that interesting. It wasn’t until Christopher J. Priest’s run on the series that I realized how powerful this guy was. T’Challa is the king of the most technologically advanced nation in the world, Wakanda (To all my geographically impaired people, please don’t look it up on a map, it doesn’t exist). He was an awesomely intelligent leader who could outmaneuver Captain America and has the technological brilliance to even make Tony Stark look like a Luddite.

Now imagine my disappointment when I saw the cover.

Now there are a number of things that I take issue with regarding this cover. Firstly, how are you going to place the newly introduced character into the background? That’s not the treatment Entertainment Weekly gave Wonder Woman on its Batman V Superman special issue. Just notice the difference…

 

Wonder Woman is the newly introduced character to the DC Cinematic Universe (We’ve already seen Batman, albeit in his Dark Knight Trilogy, recently). She looks bold, confident, and second to no one. Now, with the Black Panther they have him looking like the third wheel that nobody wants. Seriously? I know that the cover editors probably never overtly intended to disrespect him but then again whoever intentionally disrespects someone these days? They just do it accidentally…like that’s any better.

Secondly, they compare him to one of the reality show Housewives, pick your version, Orange County, New York, Atlanta. My money’s on Atlanta because he’s a black character and they have a predominantly black cast. But I digress. Before I leave this point, speaking of Atlanta, the Atlanta Black Star also wrote a piece discussing the EW Black Panther cover issue.

Thirdly, simple editorial reasoning says if you’re going to introduce a new character you put them up front. That’s like introducing the new LeBron James shoes behind a Jump Man logo for Jordans. That simply does not make any sense whatsoever. When you place the character behind you’re saying a number of things. Firstly, the character doesn’t matter. Secondly, he’s weak. Thirdly, we were too lazy to make our cover correspond with the interior content. All of those things rightly rile up a fanboy or girl.

Granted, they do a very good job on the interior in covering the character and discussing with Chadwick Boseman, the actor portraying the character, the intricacies of the character. But, as the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Many casual moviegoers who aren’t familiar with the character will look at the cover and say, “Who’s that (literal) Black Guy behind Captain America and Iron Man?” and then shrug their shoulders and walk off. It’s imperative that you treat all of your characters with respect, not just the ones with Arc reactors and stars on their chests.

Cheers.