Talking About Tropes is a series where I talk about storytelling tropes and my thoughts on them. I also talk about certain topics in media and take part in discussions about topical and sometimes sensitive issues. Today, I discuss why Marvel should consider making original superheroes for their Cinematic Universe.
Talking About Tropes: Why Marvel Should Consider Making Original Heroes for the MCU
With Infinity War over, I figured I’d take advantage of the hype and talk about a subject that could benefit Marvel and the superhero world in general. One criticism I noted is that there are too many male characters and not enough female ones. And if there are, they’re not impactful enough. To be fair, this is the result of pooling so many heroes from the 40s and 50s that never gave female superheroes much of a spotlight.
And if they did, they were geared towards the males who wanted nothing more than eye candy. Not generalizing, but things were different back then compared to the inclusive society today. Sometimes, that has to be taken into consideration as well. You did have characters like Wonder Woman, Storm, Batgirl, Catwoman, and others. But how many can you name off the top of your head besides those? I’d imagine not as many as you’d think.
As a result, many of the characters are male. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Spider-Man, and others like Wolverine and the other X-Men. Back then, comics were geared towards men. Female comic lovers weren’t as big back then as they are today. It’s somewhat unfair to say that they’re negligent, but they could do better. Things are looking up with Captain Marvel and Black Widow getting their own movies at some point, and Black Panther being a box office juggernaut, but it’s not enough for some.
So with that, I propose an idea. Marvel, both the movie studio and the comics, should invest in original characters outside of their core group of heroes. This is a bit of a gamble since they can’t just make any superhero. Some have come and gone and to have the staying power as their predecessors is difficult in itself. Could this new, inclusive face in the superhero scene truly stand alongside Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America?
So let’s talk about it, shall we?
Adding New Heroes for the MCU
Marvel has a massive pool of comic history to get heroes and movie ideas from. If they inevitably get X-Men, Fantastic Four, and yes, even Deadpool, they can increase their hold on the superhero movie genre. But again, this was back when male superheroes ruled the roost and female ones were just sex appeal. Disappointing, but that’s how the 40s and 50s worked sometimes.
Harder to get away with that nowadays, but this could be a good opportunity to bring in new heroes for the MCU. Now, they can’t just bring a diverse hero and call it a day. Think of how big Black Panther got for a hero who hadn’t been a staple until now. I doubt most people, even if they were familiar with the hero, knew anything about him.
But if Black Panther, a lower-tier Marvel Character until now, could be a box-office titan, then this could give Marvel an opportunity to bring in some new faces exclusively for the universe. Considering that many of these heroes were unfamiliar faces now thrust into the spotlight, this is a good chance for them to change the game. I mean, could you have imagined an Ant-Man movie? Guardians of the Galaxy? Black Widow? What about Doctor Strange?
Most of them are unknown outside of the big ones like Spider-Man, Thor, and everyone else, but the fact that they got movies and are now recognizable just shows that this is a great chance. Plus, the MCU gives them a playground to see who could be the newest Avenger without making them front and center. Put them in a smaller role with another Avenger and see if they’re likable enough.
I won’t spoil Infinity War (I did that already here), but this gives them a perfect opportunity to add new life to their world and make them a global force for good instead of those in America being heroes. In fact, this could work out perfectly if they get the right hero. Want proof?
Case and Point
Harley Quinn. Yeah, you knew I was going there. She debuted in Batman: The Animated Series, a cartoon separate from the comics, and she’s become a staple villain in the DC canon. In fact, she didn’t debut in the comics at all and was introduced for an animated TV show featuring the best Joker of all time. Marvel needs their Harley Quinn.
This is risky since Harley Quinn was a one of a kind character. That kind could have failed so badly, but the fact that it didn’t gives me hope that Marvel could produce something grand and get their own hero. Again, it’s hard since many people love familiarity. The core Avengers are icons and have been for ages. They won’t be as big as them, but I don’t think they need to be.
I’m under the camp that we need newer icons in this world. How many books made in the last ten years have become household names. Maze Runner, Hunger Games, Twilight, Song of Ice and Fire? Did you know any of them when you were a kid in the 80s and 90s? Did you know any of these until their adaptations came out and pushed them and their creators into the spotlight? If they can be icons, there’s no reason why a new Avenger exclusive to the MCU can’t share the same iconic status as the core group.
Again, it’s risky to do such a thing. Hollywood is notorious for playing it safe and Disney almost destroyed their reputation by playing safe. Remember the sequel era? Thankfully, those days are over, but if Marvel wants to get one over DC, the Avengers need to be a global force for good rather than the same old heroes in the golden age of comics where men ruled the world.
Just Add Diversity?
I’ve talked about diversity before, but just to reiterate, I’m 100% for seeing new faces in media. New characters and new worlds, and especially new cultures. But I’m also under the belief that we can’t just add a non-white-male character and call it done and dusted. Representation matters, but execution matters as well.
It’s not enough to include a bunch of these characters and call it representation. If they’re not given a big enough role, then is that really worth it? They need to show the world how important they are and that they’re not just there to give the core group a boost. Black Panther, again, should be a standard for the future. How to take underrepresented characters and turn them into box-office heroes.
Overwatch is a great example of making all the heroes iconic and worth playing. Their stories through media like comics and short videos give depth and lets Blizzard explore storylines that would be otherwise hard in a constant setting. The Avengers did a great job of balancing as many heroes as they could, but a few did get smaller roles than before. Considering how many there were, this was no easy task.
There’s also the risk of having too many heroes. Add enough Avengers and it’d be a nightmare trying to organize them all. Hawkeye and Ant-Man being absent in Infinity War is proof of that. One possible idea is to not have everyone be in the same film and have smaller stories like Civil War where they all show up. This was where Spider-Man and Black Panther were introduced for the first time, so maybe have another situation.
Perhaps a new Wakandan hero could take the spotlight. Or maybe a woman from Sokovia could seek vengeance against those who destroyed her home. Maybe explore other worlds. A southeast Asian hero from Nepal, under the tutelage of magic users, could enter alongside Doctor Strange. Maybe She-Hulk could finally get her long-awaited debut?
What about a hero who has ice powers from the Arctic? Perhaps he could be an American Native? Or maybe a Chinese, Japanese, or Korean hero that’s reminiscent of Kamen Rider or Ultra Man to give manga fans an interest in traditional comics.
I’m already coming up with tons of ideas that I may never even use, but this is how it starts. This is how diversity begins, by making interesting ideas that gives new life and creates a unified superhero world. Of course, time will tell if Marvel will even consider such an idea, but it’s a start.
I won’t hold it against them if they continue to use the same old heroes, but they need to bring their own brand of representation to Marvel. African kids wanting to be Black Panther and young ladies wanting to be Wonder Woman or Supergirl is a wonderful start, but we can do better. The world is changing. For better or worse, we’ve become a global society that is linked unlike ever before. Friends from other countries and identities we hadn’t even considered until now.
It’s time we have this talk because this could be for the better, assuming it’s done right.
So any ideas on how Marvel could improve their diversity? Should they make more original heroes? Or should they give other heroes a bigger role? Let me know what you think.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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