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Representation Matters in Comic Books

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Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Iyana Jones, Staff Writer

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I’m a fan of superhero movies, watching them come to life is always an exciting time. I cannot
wait to see who will be cast as my favorites and how they plan on bringing a comic full of so
many story lines into a short action packed film.

Of course, from comic to movie, not everything will stay exactly the same. Adjustments will
always be made to make it more appealing to general audiences. One adjustment that has been
frequently changing is the color of these characters. Most comic books were written in a time
where people of color weren’t even being written about let alone drawn. But in these live
actions films, many of the white characters are now being changed to represent people of color
and the comic book community is not ready for it.

But here’s why they should.

Representation matters. Most comics completely lack people of color and to bring them to life
today with that same overlooking would be disrespectful and harmful. Why is that so many
white children get to grow up seeing themselves as heroes but any child of color doesn’t? Why
do children of color only get to see themselves represented as criminals or gang members?
They need to be able to see themselves as heroes too.

And if that’s tainting the authenticity of the comic, so what? When we remake movies about
Egyptians why are all of the characters lighter skinned or white even though they are in the
middle of Africa? Why was a movie filmed in China about building the Great Wall starring a
white man as it’s lead (I’m looking at you Matt Damon). So we can put white actors in roles
that rightfully should go to actors of color, but when we put actors of color into roles that could
easily go to them, but for imprinting of white comic book characters, it’s an issue?

Zendaya has been cast to play Mary Jane (who was white in the comics) in the upcoming
Spiderman film. Candice Patton plays Iris West (who was white in the comics) on the CW’s The
Flash. Kiersey Clemmons has a cameo appearance in the upcoming Justice League movie as a
young Iris West. These are moments for young children of color to see themselves up on a big
screen as a hero. Is taking away your “authenticity” worth it?

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Representation Matters in Comic Books