In the beginning, America was a mostly Caucasian dominated society. From this world comic books were born and, with them, the legendary superheroes we know to this day– Superman, Captain America, Batman, Ironman, Flash, Spider-man and on and on. Men (and a few woman on occasion, because it was also a male-dominated society) drawn in the image of their creators: Caucasian.
But that’s just the way things were. An artist/creator can’t be faulted for writing what they know. And on the times they reached outside that box, they created ‘ethnic’ characters that were such stereotypes that they were almost racist.
Things have changed as the world becomes interconnected. There are several African and African American superheroes and villains; a few Asian ones (Asia being any of those countries out near China, but it doesn’t mater as long as they know some kind of martial art or carry a sword), there are a few Hispanic ones (though I can’t think of them straight away and I’m sure some were rebooted out of existence), and I’m sure there’s an villain from India (just the one). Meanwhile Canada and Europe have their own superhero teams galore, despite being some of the smaller percentages of the global population.
Statistically speaking, assuming super powers are gained by random chance; China and India should have a much greater representation in the super-powered community (Followed by the USA, Indonesia and Brazil. Although now that I’m seeing this, it might explain why all superheroes are attractive. Imagine a bunch of Brazilian models flying around and saving the day.)
Now you might be thinking I’m mad or angry or something, but I’m not. I’m really only pointing out a curiosity As an artist I think it would be more appalling to force people to create ethnic characters just for the sake of diversity. If it doesn’t fit in the story, don’t do it. But on the other hand… it can fit in the story. There are opportunities to have ethnic secondary characters and to run into someone who isn’t an English-speaking Westerner.
The problem is we are to afraid to let go of the old characters, the ones who no longer fit the current social constructs and have become outdated. There is no room for new characters and new comics if the old ones are taking up most of the shelf space. Will the major players be brave enough to move forward. Will Peter Parker stay dead? Will the reboots go on forever? Yes. Because they are still making money. Sometimes it’s a little sad for me to see. Often as I’m reading an issue I get angry that this big long soap opera/sitcom will never change. Sure they’re trying, the new Green Lantern and a gay wedding, but does that matter when they have to do a retcon to fix everything back to square one?
What is more frustrating is that I find myself falling into the same habits. My main characters are Caucasian, they’re American and they’re men. For my recent book I had to make a very specific attempt to integrate ethnicity into my novel. Is that because I’m inundated with ethnically-slanted entertainment media? I’m sure I could turn that question into a mile long debate. The only thing that matters to me, a brown person and artist, is that I recognize the box I put over my head and work to fix it. Because what I want in the next few years is a Halloween where I can dress as something without feeling awkward about being the “brown version”.
So I humbly offer this awesome spider based super hero for the taking.
The Brown Recluse!
P.S. I know there are plenty of ways to explain off why Western, first world nations have a higher percentage of superheroes, but that’s not the point.