The world was all abuzz with Marvel’s announcement of a Muslim Miss Marvel this week. Heck, even Stephen Colbert had to give it a mention. The rhetoric had to have a certain slant to it, of course, Marvel kept pronouncing it as “their first Muslim superhero,” but to the uninitiated (which is, in fact, most of the populace: I’ve had to explain to people the distinction between a Marvel and a DC character and why they likely won’t meet in the movies) it sounded a lot like “the first Muslim superhero.” That distinction occurred last year when DC introduced Simon Baz, a muslim Green Lantern, but not really; they split hair by saying he was their first major superhero. Even a lot of the coverage hasn’t failed to mention the “been there & done that” nature of the announcement.
Because we have; not that long ago it was with gay characters. I have no problem with a little diversity in comics. In fact the abundance of white-bread superheroes in a world that’s really not has always kind of irked me. This is owes to my own latino heritage. At the same time, however, if Marvel, DC, or whoever were to market a character to me as “you ought to read this, because it has a Latino character in it” I would take offense. Why should that be the defining characteristic of me, anyone else, or a fictional character?
When you introduce the character and feel the need to issue a press release touting “Muslim superhero” it creates the hidden message that “Muslim” is the defining characteristic (or, in this case “Muslim female,” which really drives home the target demographic nature of the product.) I would be far more trusting of this being something better than a gimmick if they’d simply introduced the new character (reboots are so en vogue these days) and let the world take notice, rather than pigeonhole the comic from the very start. The recent spout of minority superheroes (did you know DC announced their first major transgendered character earlier this year?) smacks far more of management wanting to get headlines than writers producing good ideas.
Maybe I’m just overly cynical.
Still, the new Miss Marvel’s shape-shifting powers make her far more interesting than the previous Miss Marvel, who was basically just Supergirl. Hopefully Marvel can avoid having her raped … but imagine the headlines if that did happen!
- Muslim Superheroes: Marketing Gimmick or Much More? @ Huffington Post
- New Ms. Marvel Isn’t the First Muslim–or Religious–Superhero @ LA Times – Hero Complex
- Top 10 Worst Moments in Marvel Comics @ Top Tenz