by Brett White
Since the Marvel Universe was conceived of in the much less diverse days of the early 1960s, the majority of the characters that have risen to prominence are straight, white and male (looking your way, every member of The Avengers other than Black Widow). And while Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t completely lacking in diversity, most of the women there served as a love interests (Pepper Potts, Betty Ross, Jane Foster and Peggy Carter) and there were even fewer characters of color (James Rhodes as War Machine and the Ultimate version of Nick Fury, himself previously Caucasian in the comics).
Things look to be improving for Phase Two, with characters like Sif and War Machine getting prominent placement and Falcon and Sharon Carter suiting up for action. But we think Marvel can really strive for diversity by utilizing some of the great characters mentioned below in Phase Three.
The only thing we know about Edgar Wright’s upcoming “Ant-Man” film is that Ant-Man will be in it. And with so many characters having donned the bug-helmet over the years, odds are there will be a couple of Ant-Men in the film. Ant-Man has an incredibly important hero in his supporting cast: the Wasp. As the first lady of the Avengers, the Wasp has grown from being a ditzy ’60s female stereotype obsessed with shopping to the leader of Earth’s mightiest heroes. They could also adapt the Ultimate version of Janet Van Dyne, giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe its first Asian-American hero.
Fans want a Black Panther film, and Hollywood has been trying to get one off the ground for decades now. “Thor: The Dark World” star Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has expressed interest in pulling double duty in the MCU as the iconic hero, and we’d be fine with that. As the first black superhero and the most iconic hero of color this side of Storm, this film would be a huge step for the MCU. The “Blade” trilogy, which doesn’t receive enough credit for kickstarting the modern comic book film era, proved that audiences would support a person of color in a leading role. It’s a wonder it’s taken Marvel this long.
“Captain America 3”
Just breaking down the main cast of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” only the title character and titular adversary are white males. Nick Fury, Falcon, Black Widow, Maria Hill and Sharon Carter comprise a relatively diverse cast, one that will be quite captivating to watch on the big screen. With S.H.I.E.L.D. as his homebase, Cap has a big cast to draw from. The Chinese-American agent Jimmy Woo would be a welcome addition to a third “Cap” movie, as would the young Daisy Johnson (who herself becomes Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comics).
This film’s been half-confirmed already, and if so, it presents another opportunity for minority characters to get some screen. While Strange’s sidekick and manservant Wong is still steeped in dated early ’60s ideas, his character has received welcome updates at the hands of Brian K. Vaughan and Greg Pak. The mystical, bisexual witch Jennifer Kale would help round out the cast, as would the Haitian sorcerer Brother Voodoo.
“Guardians of the Galaxy 2”
There’s a lesbian super couple at the heart of the Guardians, one that regrettably doesn’t appear to have made it into the first film. If a sequel is indeed imminent, then Moondragon and Phyla-Vell have to be included. Plus with Moondragon’s father, Drax, already in the cast, “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” would be in the unique position to portray the familial side of superhero comics that has rarely been touched upon.
“Incredible Hulk 2”
Everyone wants Mark Ruffalo back for more smashing, especially if he brings along his lawyer cousin Jennifer Walters as She-Hulk. “Rizzoli & Isles” star Angie Harmon was even campaigning to play the part last year. If you’re going to list Marvel’s iconic heroines, then She-Hulk is definitely near the top of that list (especially considering that Fox owns all of the mutants). In addition to her, throw in Amadeus Cho, the Asian American boy genius as Banner’s sidekick, fulfilling the role that Rick Jones did for years.
Not if, but when this TV series is picked up, this is most likely where we will meet the majority of Marvel’s diverse, street-level cast. The list of potential guest-stars is long, but on it are White Tiger (a Hispanic woman currently co-starring in the “Ultimate Spider-Man” cartoon), the duo Cloak and Dagger, and the Chinese martial arts master Shang-Chi. The series is also the perfect way to introduce Jessica Jones, the private investigator whose solo television series never got off the ground. And this isn’t even including the Heroes For Hire franchise, which includes notable African American characters like Luke Cage and Misty Knight, as well as the Japanese Colleen Wing.
(There’s also room for this series to include the legion of teenage superheroes that populate Marvel Comics. Many of these characters — like Hulkling, Wiccan, Julie Power, Karolina Dean, Xavin and Striker — would provide positive portrayals of LGBT youth that are incredibly essential to any diversification efforts.)
The first “Thor” film already made diversity a priority when they re-imagined Heimdall and Hogun. They could next branch out by including a female villainess like the Enchantress, or by providing Jaimie Alexander’s excellent portrayal of Sif with a sister-in-combat, Valkyrie. Marvel’s Greek mythology could be explored, placing Hercules on the big-screen. Hercules has been rather open lately about his encounters with both men and women throughout history, and an alternate reality version of the character was in a committed relationship with an alternate version of Wolverine in Greg Pak’s “X-Treme X-Men” series.
The “Avengers” sequel is the only film in Phase Two that we still know jack about, casting-wise. This is where pretty much any character mentioned previously could make their big debut, where leading ladies could take charge (like Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch or Monica Rambeau) or where a previously supporting character solidify their place as a heavy hitter (Falcon and War Machine). If Wasp debuts in “Ant-Man,” she’ll be a shoe-in for “Avengers 3.” And there are definitely characters primed to crossover from “S.H.I.E.L.D.” to the big screen, should they appear (Luke Cage, Shang-Chi, Jessica Jones). No matter what, there’s no way Joss Whedon is letting the first “Avengers” film’s laughable five-to-one male-to-female ratio stand.