Iron Fist: Big Trouble in Little China.

I am not happy with the casting of Finn Jones as Iron Fist. While the choice of a Caucasian actor for the role adheres to the character’s origin, I think the selection of a biracial actor to play the part of Daniel Rand would have improved upon the story told and enhanced the overall quality of the cinematic Marvel universe (and Hollywood in general) in multiple ways.

Finn JonesFirst and foremost, depending on the actor’s phenotype, a biracial actor of European and Asian descent would have provided a visual signifier of Daniel Rand’s existence as a warrior trapped between two worlds—that of a modern Western city and an ancient Asian village. To watch billionaire adventurer Wendell Rand and the Chinese businesswoman who captivated him enough to become his bride work to build a life for Daniel that included both of their cultures would excellently foreshadow Daniel’s later struggles as an adult to do the same. The existence of a biracial Iron Fist would also act as a bridge, tempering the woefully appropriative nature of the Caucasian martial artist Daredevil and paving the way for the later introduction of well-known Chinese hero Shang Chi. (One could even argue that Daniel Rand’s presence was not needed in the Marvel cinematic universe at all, for every role he plays could have been neatly divided between Matt Murdock and Shang Chi.)

A biracial Iron Fist, hot on the heels of the black Luke Cage, would have provided instant (though minimal) racial diversity to Marvel’s overwhelmingly white line-up of leading men. Given that we are at a point where Marvel has been repeatedly and publicly admonished for its non-existent efforts at diversifying its slate of films, one would think that the selection of non-white leading men would be a priority. And yet an Arab actor is not playing Doctor Strange and a biracial actor was not chosen for Iron Fist. This is a shame.

The substandard depiction of men of Asian descent in American films is a longstanding problem and has driven many to seek proper representation in foreign films. But why should Asian Americans have to look outside of their country to see Asian men shown as masculine, heroic, and sexually desirable? This is absurd—and must be terribly frustrating to young Asian American men. Not only is there a dearth of material in which one is mirrored, but one must endure a glut of projects showcasing white male action stars playing dress up in costumes cobbled together from the culture of one’s forefathers.

While the selection of Finn Jones as Iron Fist extinguishes yet another opportunity for a male actor of Asian descent to step into the limelight as an action hero and heartthrob, I must admit that my disappointment stems from the fact that black women of darker hues may perhaps be robbed of the rare opportunity to be seen as romantically desirable as Marvel adjusts Iron Fist’s history in order to deflect criticism by increasing the number and importance of supporting female Asian characters.

Simone MissickWhen in doubt, swap the secondary characters out. While Marvel is clearly disdainful of altering the races of its leading white male characters, the studio seems more than happy to add diversity where supporting characters are concerned. I would not be surprised to see Marvel replace Misty Knight with the biracial Colleen Wing as Daniel’s primary love interest—cribbing from Iron Fist’s histories in the House of M event and the Ultimate universe. However, it would be frustrating to lose Misty Knight as Daniel’s companion given her status as the only woman in the Marvel universe who is not fair-skinned and is also depicted as attractive and desirable. Who would be depicted as a woman deeply loved–first and exclusively. The physical changes made to Storm, Cecelia Reyes, Claire Temple, and Reva Connors would be glaring in Misty’s absence and would lead one to question if colorism were at the root of it.

Oh, so many missed opportunities! Many critics have argued that Iron Fist must be white to provide a cultural counterpart to Misty Knight and Luke Cage, but a biracial Daniel Rand would still be wealthy, would still benefit in certain ways from his father’s white privilege and mother’s “model minority” status, would still find wonder in modern technologies—providing a perfect contrast to Misty and Luke. The inclusion of whiteness is not necessary in every exploration of race relations and inequality.

But the choice has already been made and Iron Fist is white. So how does Marvel move forward from here? By taking cues from the title of this post and the second season of Daredevil as well. Jack Burton is the star of Big Trouble in Little China, but Wang Chi is the hero. Marvel could do the same with Shang Chi, inserting him into the series as a foil to Iron Fist as Punisher and Elektra initially were to Daredevil. How fun would it be to see Shang Chi as Elektra’s inverse, a weapon of the Chaste stolen and raised by the Hand, only to return to his true heroic nature! How fun would it be to see Shang Chi emerge as the star of the show as just as Punisher usurped Daredevil’s throne!

The fight for representation is an ongoing battle, and we must be as creative as possible in exploring every loophole before Hollywood can sew it shut.


Having more fun, Marvel?

I’ll make this fast. Your blondes are starting to look alike. Fix this quickly before you end up an embarrassment like DC. Let your artists know. One of your blondes needs to bulk up (Steve Rogers). One of your blondes needs a slightly unkempt ’70s hairstyle (Danny Rand). One of your blondes is just right (Thor). One of your blondes needs a shaved head, or hair so short that it looks shaved (Paladin). And one of your blondes needs to go “dirty” (Clint Barton). There are even more blondes that I haven’t mentioned. Might I recommend a nice strawberry blonde color? A nearly white platinum would work as well (Angel). Maybe a slim, lanky build? Really curly hair? Freckles (Cannonball)?

Just putting that out there before the next big crossover or downtime issue. It’s getting pretty noticeable.


7-11.

I said I’d get to Marvel eventually, right? Seven things I want from Marvel in the ’11. Let’s go.

More graf-inspired artists. No it won’t work on Avengers, but I bet it’d look sweet on a Spidey issue. Nicholas is nice with it. I love me some Mahfood. Let me see some Ronald Wimberly up in there. I love a whole host of different art styles, and I’d love to see a place for each and every one of those styles at Marvel. From Linsner to Warren. Adams to Hernandez. I want it all.

More diversity in your writing staff. I’m not even gonna lie. This is a tough one for a mainstream comic publisher. If you only hire five people to write your entire line, it’s going to be pretty damn hard to make sure you’ve got some women, minorities, and gay peeps sliding in as scribes. Here’s three successful tactics to take that I’ve mentioned on this blog dozens of times before. One, venture down the co-author road. Pluck a famous writer from another genre and pair her with an established comics writer. Step two: profit! Once she’s gotten the hang of writing for comics, split up the team and let each author go solo for maximum effect. You know it works. You’ve tested the method with white dudes more than enough times. I’ve also said that I love the idea of easing in new writers with back-up stories in the back of popular books. Let a new writer pen a nice five-page story about Danielle Cage’s first day of pre-school. Or perhaps a quick joint about Tony walking into a bar after hard day…and ordering a glass of milk? Back-up stories are also a nice way to let readers know that they’re getting more for their money. Especially when they’ve got to plunk down quite a bit more change than they do for a DC book. Anthologies are a nice idea, but you’re better off focusing on a certain character or theme than throwing the random work of thirteen black dudes together and trying to sell it. I’m more likely to buy a romance anthology or a Cage anthology. And I’m not paying for floppies either. I want a book. Go hard or go home.

Danny and Misty. I wander off to play video games and watch soap operas for a few months and come back to this? Fix. This. The hair (let’s nip this straight bang thing in the bud now, shall we?), the chi-sperm, everything. She doesn’t have to be pregnant, but…chi? I am so mad at that.

Ladies only. Listen, Marvel is the only place where I have even the slightest chance of getting a female team starring women of different races. And no, I don’t mean a book where the white women drive every story and there’s an Asian chick who stands in the background and kicks a guy every three issues. Yes, I have a lot of nerve asking for diversity and then frowning at the inclusion of penises. But can’t the guys be the damsels in distress for just one book? Let some old dude cook wheatcakes while the girls go off to be your friendly neighborhood superhero team. Or field operatives. Were you aware that SHIELD has had an all-female ROSE (Reconnaissance Organization for Security Enhancement) team in place since WW II? A red team of assassins, a white team of spies, and a yellow team for public, peace-keeping missions? Nine women in total. I bet you didn’t. Because that book doesn’t exist. Nope, no Guns & Roses book for you. You just sit over there and look pretty.

Logos. Yo, DC is killing you when it comes to logos, son! The following characters need clear, easily identifiable logos that stand for a certain theme or idea: Spider-man (and Spider-girl), Luke Cage, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, and Iron Man. I’d add Storm, but you guys have really made a mess of that character.

Black Panther. Hell, all of Wakanda. DoomWar was a great series—for Doom fans. It wasn’t so much fun for fans of the Wakandans. Doom basically spanked the hell out of them, emasculated T’Challa, and Diddy-bopped back to Latveria to bang hot, crazy chicks. And Black Panther decides to mope in Hell’s Kitchen while his baby sister handles business. This. Is. Not. Okay. You need to find some way to build the Wakandans back up to their past glory. New artist. New writer. Jungle Action Monthly. T’Challa holds court in Wakanda, Shuri rebels in the streets of NYC, and the Queen Mother has kept a large volume of active Vibranium secret from everyone—until now. Reboot the series. How did Wakandans stay isolated so long? Because the island (yes, an island set a bit lower off the continent) isn’t really hospitable to many humans. In fact, Doom was right. The Wakandans do carry a genetic strain that allows them to live upon the island and not suffer. But it’s a gene that a small number of humans all over the world carry. How was this discovered? Well, it was noticed when visitors and invaders started showing up on the island and dying. You see, Wakandans are nice in the water, so nice that they thrived by commandeering ships that dared venture into their waters. And when 85 percent of all the people captured (or liberated—where slave ships were concerned) died within days of hitting Wakandan shores? Well, you’ve got to be a little bit tougher than average to make it there. Oh, and due to the Wakandans being so nice in the water? Namor’s people and T’Challa’s people do not get along too well. And this provides a great deal of added tension that Storm doesn’t need—especially when Namor starts in with his nonsense about how mutants need to stick together. Luckily, Storm knows better than to listen to Namor. And T’Challa knows better than to leave Namor alone with anyone’s wife. Trust that.

When you’re done with T’Challa, can you mosey on over to Spidey? Get rid of Carlie. Hell, give Peter Carlie’s job as a forensic scientist (modeled after those appearing in hour-long dramas). Then he’s armed with the two most important things Spider-man should have—a lab and a camera. And he’d always be at the scene of a crime. Plus, he’d get to interact with the old Bugle staff (sans Norah the racist hipster, please) since they’d constantly hound him for scoops. And he’d always be torn between uncovering the truth at his day job and keeping secrets in the tights. Did I mention getting rid of Carlie? Secret time. I love the idea of a single Peter, but Carlie is boring and Poochiesque. And why would one make Peter single just to put him in a committed relationship? It makes no sense. Peter should have a trinity. I want MJ to hold Peter’s heart. I want Felicia to control Spider-man’s body. I want a brunette stimulating Parker’s mind on the job. Make her a reporter. Oh, and I want Aunt May fighting for Peter’s spirit (always guiding him to do the right thing) and Anya doing the same for Spider-man. Oh, and give Anya an after-school job with May. She needs to be in Peter’s life a lot more.

Anyway, there’s your seven for the eleven. Hurry up.