Iron Fist: Why Danny Rand needs to be white

Netflix’s latest superhero series, Marvel’s Iron Fist, is days away from debuting on the streaming service. Early reviews are savaging the show but not on its quality. Rather the reviewers are complaining that they cast a white actor as Danny Rand instead of an Asian-American actor and thus are perpetuating the “white savior” trope. Of course if they had cast an Asian-American actor these same critics would probably be attacking the show for perpetuating the racist stereotype that all Asians are martial artists. Marvel and Netflix were pretty much damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. The thing is, I get the feeling that many of the reviewers attacking the show for casting a white actor aren’t terribly familiar with the character and why it was important that Danny Rand be white. To understand it’s necessary to look at Marvel’s history publishing superheroic martial artists.

Starting in the 60s, Asian martial arts started becoming popular in American pop culture. In 1966 Bruce Lee entered the American consciousness playing Kato on The Green Hornet. By a not so odd coincidence, that was the same year that DC Comics added Karate Kid to the Legion of Super-Heroes. It took Marvel a few more years to jump on the martial arts band wagon.

1972 saw the debut of Kung Fu, one of the most popular TV shows of the early 70s. Marvel tried to obtain the comic book rights to the show but was denied permission by the show’s owner, Time Warner, which also happened to own DC Comics. Instead Marvel settled for obtaining the rights to the pulp villain Fu Manchu. In December, 1973, Shang-Chi, the previously unknown son of Fu Manchu, appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15. He appeared again in issue #16 and by the next issue the title of the book had been changed to The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. The book was popular and ran until June, 1983.

Marvel’s next foray into martial arts was the Sons of the Tiger, who debuted in April, 1974 in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1. The Sons were a trio of martial artists led by Lin Sun, who was of Chinese descent, and also including Bob Diamond, a Caucasian actor, and Abe Brown, an African-American. The trio had magic amulets which allowed them to combine their physical prowess and skills when all three recited a special chant. They proved to not be as popular as Shang-Chi and a year and a half later they broke up with Lin Sun throwing their amulets away. The amulets were found by Hector Ayala who combined them to become the White Tiger, the first Puerto Rican superhero in the history of comics and Marvel’s first Hispanic superhero, in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #19 (December, 1975). Unfortunately he wasn’t any more popular than the Sons of the Tiger and Deadly Hands of Kung Fu was cancelled after issue #33.

Iron Fist first appeared in Marvel Premiere #15 (May, 1974), one month after the first appearance of the Sons of the Tiger. In November, 1975 he was spun off into a solo series written by Chris Claremont and penciled by John Byrne. It ran for 15 issues before finding itself on the brink of cancellation because Iron Fist, like the Sons of the Tiger and the White Tiger, wasn’t popular enough to sustain a book on his own. So Marvel decided to have Iron Fist team up with another hero who was also on the verge of cancellation, Luke Cage, Power Man. While Iron Fist had been inspired by Hong Kong action movies, Luke was derived from Blaxploitation movies. It was an odd pairing of two men who were about as opposite as you could possibly get. Yet it worked surprisingly well. With issue #50, the title of Luke Cage, Power Man was changed to Power Man and Iron Fist. The combination proved popular enough to keep the book running for another 75 issues until it was cancelled in September, 1986 with Power Man and Iron Fist #125.

What was it about these two characters that they couldn’t sustain a book individually but together they could? Power Man and Iron Fist was one of my favorite comic books and it’s still a series I look back on fondly. The stories were often character driven as opposed to the slug fests that many comic books are. At its core, the book was about two vastly different men who became the best of friends despite their differences. Not only was Danny’s best friend black but so was his girlfriend, Misty Knight. Bear in mind that these books were being written in a time period when interracial romances were still controversial. Yet here was a comic book that many would consider aimed at children portraying a healthy interracial relationship. In fact Power Man and Iron Fist had a racially diverse cast with blacks, whites, and Asians. To me, a major theme of the series was racial harmony and diversity.

I was very excited to hear that Netflix was creating series based on Luke Cage and Danny Rand. Given the racial divisiveness of recent years, I think we could all use the message of tolerance that was contained in Power Man and Iron Fist and that’s why I think Danny Rand still needs to be white.

Actresses in Greenface

Two years ago some people were upset that Zoe Saldana had to wear green body paint for her role in Guardians of the Galaxy, citing a history of Hollywood requiring black actresses to wear body paint to exoticize them or emphasize their otherness.

Oops…sorry, meant to insert a picture of Zoe Saldana as Gamora but that’s actually Rachel Nichols in her role as Zoe Saldana’s roommate in 2009’s “Star Trek.” Just a minute…

Oops…sorry again. That’s not Zoe Saldana. That’s Karen Gillan, in her role as Zoe Saldana’s adopted sister in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Maybe I should just move on…

Now those same people are upset that the movie “Warcraft,” which opens in theaters on Friday, features another actress of color, Paula Patton, in greenface.

No, wait, that’s Anna Galvin who’s also in the movie. Hold on…

No, that’s Clancy Brown. Maybe I should get my eyes checked.

Okay, that’s Rebecca Romijn and I’m not going to apologize because it’s Rebecca Romijn in blue body paint and very little else and…and…what was I saying? Oh yes.

Gamora, the character Zoe Saldana played in “Guardians of the Galaxy” has been green since she first appeared in 1975. Which means she’s been green longer that Zoe Saldana has been alive.

Garona, the character Paula Patton plays in “Warcraft,” has been green since the first Warcraft video game came out in 1994. She hasn’t been green longer than Paula Patton has been alive but she has been green since long before anyone even thought there might be a Warcraft movie with an actress of color playing her. Now orcs in general have been green long before Paula Patton was born so there’s that.

Contrary to what the easily offended might think, this is not a case of racist Hollywood slapping body paint on black actresses just for the hell of it. This is a case of Hollywood casting black actresses in roles that would require body paint no matter what race the actress was.

People need to recognize that Hollywood has undergone a technological evolution that makes it easier to produce superhero, science fiction, and epic fantasy movies which opens the door to actors portraying mutants, aliens, fantastic creatures, and other characters that may come in colors that are not standard for the human race. Right now we’ve got the Marvel franchises, the DC franchises, the Star Trek franchise, and the Star Wars franchise pumping out movies and/or television shows as fast as they can. Social Justice Warriors need to decide if they want more diversity in movie casts or if they want to reserve extra colorful character roles for white actors like Jennifer Lawrence, Kelsey Grammer, and Alan Cumming. You can’t have it both ways.

My Third Party Manifesto

With yet another election around the corner I am once more seeing people posting about how if people vote Libertarian it will allow the wrong people to win the election. Well I’ve held my nose and voted “strategically” for years and that hasn’t worked out too well. That’s not terribly surprising when you remember that when you vote for the lesser of two evils you still vote for evil. So these days when it comes to voting for non-Libertarian candidates I have some criteria.

  • If your party has passed ballot access laws to make it difficult for third party candidates to get on the ballot, I will not vote for your party.
  • If your party has filed lawsuits to keep third party candidates off of the ballot I will not vote for your party.
  • If your party has worked to keep third party candidates off of the ballot while attacking another party for disenfranchising voters I will not vote for your party.
  • If your candidate refuses to engage third party candidates in public debate even when one of those candidates is polling well enough to affect the outcome of the election I will not vote for your candidate.
  • If your party has recently told a significant portion of its own base to sit down and shut up I will not vote for your party.
  • If your party is unwilling to meet me half way by adopting at least some Libertarian positions I will not vote for your party.
  • If the best argument your party can present to convince me to vote for them is that they suck slightly less than the other party, I will not vote for your party.
  • If your party tries to browbeat me into voting for your party, I will not vote for your party.

The major parties make a big deal over the importance of nominating “electable” candidates. By “electable” they mean politicians willing to compromise party ideals on issues in order to attract voters who will not otherwise vote for the party. If the major parties are unwilling to adopt parts of the Libertarian platform to win votes then obviously they don’t really believe they need Libertarian votes so why should I vote for them?

Spider-Butt (NSFW)

Recently there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over a recent Spider-Woman comic book cover. On the one side are people saying that the cover sexualizes the character and is emblematic of how comic books treat women. Others say that there are plenty of images of Spider-Man in the exact same pose with no one complaining about them. I figured I might as well throw in my two cents on the matter.

For comparison purposes here is the Spider-Woman cover next to Spider-Man in a similar pose as well as the indisputably pornographic cover of another Milo Manara comic book.

Gee, it’s real hard to decide which of those two images the picture of Spider-Woman most resembles. Oh wait, no it’s not.

Notice that while Spider-Man and Spider-Woman are performing similar actions, they are in different postures. Spider-Man is bent forward as he comes over the top of the tombstone. This is a fairly natural position as it follows the shape of the stone he is perched on. While he wears a skintight costume, the cloth is stretched across his rear with only a slight dimple marking the separation of his butt cheeks. Draw a plane beneath his hands and feet and you’ll see he’s crouched with his shoulders up and his butt down. On the other hand, Spider-Woman’s back is arched backwards, pressing her shoulders and torso down against the rooftop while raising her ass in the air. This is not a particularly natural position for someone climbing over the edge of a building onto the rooftop. Draw a plane beneath her hands and feet and her butt will be higher than her shoulders. Her costume is molded to her rear end. Whether her costume is made of cloth, spandex, leather, rubber, or latex it would not fit like that unless it was specifically designed to. She is, in fact, in almost the exact same pose as the pornographic image on the right which was drawn by the same artist.

This should not be a surprise to anyone. Milo Manara (NSFW) has been drawing erotic comic books for over 30 years. If you do a Google image search on his name with Safe Search turned off the results are decidedly not safe for work. Manara draws some beautiful images but they also tend to be pornographic. Marvel had to have known this when they hired Manara to do this cover. It’s no secret that he draws erotic comics yet Marvel felt he was the right guy to draw Spider-Woman.

That Marvel should choose an erotic artist to draw Spider-Woman actually isn’t all that surprising anyway. This isn’t the first time that Marvel has sexualized a female version of a male character. Check out the subtle differences between Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel’s costumes.

Of course it would be unfair to make it sound like only Marvel sexualizes its female heroes. DC Comics does it too. Here’s Superman with his cousins Power Girl and Supergirl.

Here we have three unrelated Marvel characters; Namor, Colleen Wing, and Hercules. There’s something about Colleen that stands out more despite the fact that both Namor and Hercules are bare chested and Colleen isn’t. See if you can put your finger on it. Just don’t look too closely or you might put an eye out.

For extra credit here are Cosmic Boy, Emma Frost, and Tyroc wearing similar costumes. See if you can guess which two costumes tend to be ridiculed and were eventually replaced by full bodysuits and which one is considered a classic with the character’s subsequent costumes being variations on a theme.

Just in case you can’t figure it out, here is the answer.

Given the comics industry’s history of sexualizing female characters and Marvel’s decision to hire an artist who specializes in erotic comics to do a Spider-Woman cover you’ll understand if I’m a bit skeptical as to their intentions. Marvel and DC keep trying to attract female readers and always manage to fail miserably. Maybe if they’d stop acting like a bunch of horny teenagers they’d have better luck.

Comics History: Why Is Gamora Green?

While looking up information on the Guardians of the Galaxy movie I came across a claim that the movie is racist because they painted Zoe Saldana green to highlight her “otherness.” I can’t help but wonder if that means the movie is also racist for painting Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, and Josh Brolin, among others, assorted colors? In any case I thought it might be informative to take a little look at comics history to understand why Gamora is green.

First let’s look at a comic convention: aliens are often drawn as humans with odd colored skin and one or two minor cosmetic differences like pointy ears, antennae, one eye, funky chins, etc. In this comics mirror television and the movies though they do it for different reasons. They do this on television and in the movies because, ultimately, aliens are played by human actors and until the relatively recent advent of high quality CGI, attempts to make human actors look inhuman tended to look fairly cheesy. They do this in comics because comics are produced on a regular schedule and it’s easier, and thus faster, for artists to draw human figures, which they have a lot of experience drawing, than a bunch of weird, outlandish, alien figures.

Gamora first appeared in the June 1975 issue of Strange Tales which makes her 3 years older than Zoe Saldana. In that very first appearance she was green. She was also sexy, wearing a fishnet body stocking with a neckline that plunged to below her navel. Comics fans may be nerds but they still like their women to look human.gamora

Gamora is the last of an alien race known as the Zen Whoberi. The rest of her species had been exterminated by the Universal Church of Truth, a religious empire composed of diverse alien species and led by the Magus who, it is worth noting, is purple.


As a child Gamora was found by Thanos, who adopted her as his daughter and trained her as an assassin so that she could one day kill the Magus. Thanos, it is worth noting, is also purple with a funky chin.


In their quest to defeat the Magus, Gamora and Thanos allied with Adam Warlock, an artificial human and a Christ-figure destined to become the Magus unless he could find a way to alter his own timeline to prevent the Magus from ever coming into existence. Adam Warlock, it’s worth noting, was a golden color.


Rounding out our merry band of heroes was Adam’s friend, Pip. Pip was easily the most Caucasian member of the group. This was not a compliment to Caucasians.smPip

So, in conclusion, Gamora is green because she’s always been green, not because they want to make Zoe Saldana look alien.

Comic Book Adaptations

Someone said today that they thought I hated all movie adaptations of the comics when I said I liked Man of Steel. In response I thought it might be interesting for me to post lists of movies I thought were good, mediocre, and bad adaptations of comics. I will note that I am only listing properties where I have both read the comics and seen the movies. For example, I loved Kick-Ass but I’ve never read the comic so I can’t comment on the movie as an adaptation of the book. I will also note that these movies are being listed in roughly alphabetic order rather than how good or bad I think they are.

The Good

  • The Avengers
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • The Crow
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Hellboy
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  • Iron Man
  • Man of Steel
  • The Mask
  • Mystery Men
  • The Rocketeer
  • Sin City
  • Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Superman
  • Superman II
  • Watchmen
  • X-Men
  • X2: X-Men United
  • X-Men: First Class

The Mediocre

  • Batman
  • Batman Begins
  • Constantine
  • Daredevil
  • Ghost Rider
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Judge Dredd
  • Swamp Thing
  • Thor

The Bad

  • Batman Returns
  • Batman Forever
  • Batman & Robin
  • Catwoman
  • Elektra
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  • The Green Hornet
  • Hulk
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Spider-Man 3
  • The Spirit
  • Supergirl
  • Superman III
  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
  • Superman Returns
  • X-Men: Last Stand

The Blame Game

In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting people have rushed to place blame for what happened. I’ve noticed that where people lay the blame depends on what convenient scapegoat they can find that they’ve never liked and won’t be inconvenienced by if it’s banned. Right now the primary targets are guns, video games, and violent movies but in the past the scapegoats have included things like comic books, rock & roll music, and Dungeons & Dragons.

This blame is assigned without regard to the facts. Guns must be to blame because Britain and Japan have strong gun control laws and they don’t have this kind of violence. We’ll ignore Switzerland where people have easy access to military assault rifles, and I mean actual military assault rifles and not “military-style assault weapons,” and yet the Swiss violent crime rate is also low suggesting that easy access to firearms is not the problem. Violent video games and movies must be to blame because they desensitize us to violence while conditioning us to commit violent acts. We’ll ignore all the other countries in the world where they play the same video games and watch the same movies and yet don’t go on violent rampages.

Let me tell you where I place the blame. Back when I joined Facebook I did what a lot of people do. I “friended” a lot of my old college friends. About a week after reconnecting with one woman she made a snide comment about having just learned that her tennis partner was a fan of Ann Coulter. At the time I thought it was kind of tacky to be talking about the woman behind her back but I know Coulter is a polarizing figure so I just sort of shrugged it off. What happened next shocked me. Other people started posting some fairly vile, hate-filled comments about this woman that they clearly did not know. One man even said he’d like to whack her in the knees with a baseball bat. Most shocking to me was that my “friend” was clearly okay with this outpouring of hatred directed at a woman who probably thought she was her friend.

Since then I’ve seen many such occurrences from people ranging all across the political spectrum. When faced with someone whose beliefs differ from our own, all too often we don’t try to understand their point of view or engage them in a meaningful discussion of the issue. Instead we seek to demonize and dehumanize with hateful accusations that have no basis in reality. That way we don’t have to defend our own points of view much less consider the possibility that we’re wrong and they’re right. The thing is, our children learn by observing us. When we behave in a hateful manner we teach our children to behave in a hateful manner.

So if you’re looking for someone or something to blame for violence in our society, I suggest you start by taking a moment to look in the mirror and seriously reflect on what you’ve been teaching your children.

Assault Weapons: What Are They?

I’ve noticed when talking about gun control that there seems to be some confusion about what an assault weapon is and why it should or should not be banned. I thought it might be helpful to provide people with a side-by-side comparison of two semi-automatic firearms, one an assault weapon, the other not.

The gun on the left is an Intratec DC-9. The gun on the right is an Intratec AB-10. If you think they look a lot alike, that’s because they are basically the same gun. I mean that literally. The AB-10 is a DC-9 with a few cosmetic changes that don’t have much effect upon the operation of the gun. Both are cheap, mass produced weapons that fire the same caliber bullet from the same magazines and both guns are equally easy to convert to full automatic fire with the exact same parts. Yet one weapon was banned as an assault weapon and the other wasn’t. Why?

The Intratec TEC-9 was based on a prototype of a 9mm submachine gun developed for military applications. When they were unable to find a government buyer the company began production of a semi-automatic version for the US market where the gun proved popular with those wanting a cheap gun with an intimidating look.

Following the Cleveland School Massacre of 1989, California took measures to define and then ban assault weapons. Their definition was largely based on cosmetic factors in the apparent belief that guns are somehow more dangerous if they look dangerous. For example, one of the criteria for determining if a firearm is an assault weapon is if it accepts a detachable magazine outside of the pistol grip.

In order to circumvent California’s Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, which banned the Intratec TEC-9 by name, Intratec modified the TEC-9 into the TEC-DC9, the “DC” standing for “Designed for California.” The only difference between the TEC-9 and TEC-DC9 was that rings for a sling were moved from the side of the gun to a detachable metal clip on the back of the gun. That, along with a name change, was sufficient to circumvent California’s ban on assault weapons.

The TEC-9 and it’s variants such as the TEC-DC9 were also banned by name in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Again the ban was based largely on cosmetic factors that had little to do with the actual functioning of the gun. To circumvent the AWB Intratec merely removed the barrel shroud, eliminated some threading on the barrel, and renamed the gun the TEC-AB10.

If this gives you the impression that assault weapon bans are useless, well, that’s because they are. Bans on guns simply because they look dangerous plays well in the press because politicians can pose with dangerous looking weapons and pretend they are doing something about violent crime. The reality is that bans based on cosmetic factors are easily circumvented by simply changing a gun’s appearance without making it any less lethal.

De-Cluttering a Cluttered Life

My parents’ washer and dryer are probably 10-15 years old and I can tell that the drum bearing on the washer needs replacing. Given their age I’ve decided it would be better to replace them than repair them. Which has placed cleaning the utility room at the top of my priority list. It’s an interesting experience. Like much of the house it’s sort of a miniature archaeological dig through the strata of my family’s history.

The top stratum consists of towels from my parents’ condominiums. When the management company replaced the towels in the units, my parents elected to keep the old ones rather than throw them away. I, on the other hand, have little compunction about getting rid of them. They are a symbol of my parents’ inability to get rid of anything that might conceivably be of use to them at some unknown point in town.

The next layer is old clothes belonging to me. Not sure why these are down here instead of up in my closet but given that it’s stuff I probably haven’t worn in 25+ years, I have no problem getting rid of them as well.

There’s a layer of baby clothes that were presumably worn by my brother and me. I don’t seem to be in any danger of having a baby anytime soon and I doubt my friends would be interested in them. Besides, there have probably been a few safety-oriented improvements in baby clothes since I wore them. Out they go.

There’s a layer of things that belonged to my grandparents. Not just clothes but stuff like dish towels and lace doilies and the like. I can understand my parents not wanting to get rid of the stuff. I feel a bit of nostalgia myself when I look at a particular hat that belonged to my grandmother. But my parents did the same thing I would do with the stuff. Shove in an out of the way corner and never look at it again, leaving it for my heirs to do something with it.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here it’s that we go through life accumulating things that we continue to hold on to long past the time we should. It feels so much better to clean out the clutter from time to time, getting rid of what we no longer need. Do you want to live with piles of things you have no use for or do you want to thoroughly clean house from time to time and have a home that you can enjoy to the full? I know what my answer to that question is.

DC Comic’s Gay Lantern

DC Comics is the company that gave us Power Girl, a super heroine with breasts larger than her head and a costume made for motorboating.

While Batman is almost fully covered Catwoman appears to be considering changing her name to Titwoman. While Superman wears only slightly less clothing than Batman, his cousin, Supergirl, wears a midriff-baring outfit with a skirt so short she can’t sit down without plunking her bare ass cheeks down on whatever she’s sitting on. (Did I mention she once had a romantic relationship with a horse?)

And the artist who draws Starfire must save a ton of money on figure references since he can just use something from his porn collection.

So it was with some interest that I read that DC Comics was making one of their major, iconic, male characters gay. DC’s target demographic is clearly horny heterosexual guys who can’t get laid and have no clue how to talk to a real woman. Something tells me that while they may not be bothered by a character being gay, they’re not terribly interested in watching two guys play tonsil hockey either. Much less fly around in skimpy costumes. Of course, I could be wrong.

Okay, I’m kind of cheating. Cosmic Boy only wore that costume for a few years in the 70s and then went back to the full bodysuits that all male superheroes seem to favor.

Anyway, based on that I figured there was no way DC was going to risk their bottom line by making someone like Batman or Superman gay. Instead I thought it would be some well-known supporting cast member, like Jimmy Olsen or Alfred, whose love life could be downplayed once DC’s PR stunt had run its course. As it turns out I overestimated DC.

The big reveal came and it turned out that the newly gay hero was none other than Green Lantern. Okay, Green Lantern is definitely a major iconic character. There’s just one little catch. When you mention the Green Lantern most people think of one of these guys.

None of these guys are the gay Green Lantern. Neither are any of these Green Lanterns.

No, the gay Green Lantern is this guy.

From a historical perspective he is a major character because he was the first Green Lantern. From a bottom line perspective, he’s not a major character at all. That’s because back in the 60’s DC Comics gave the character a major overhaul. He went from being Alan Scott, an engineer who found a magic lantern that gave him super-powers to Hal Jordan, a test pilot who was recruited by the Guardians of the Universe to be the Green Lantern of space sector 2814.

When DC revamped their characters they created a “multiverse” where there were many different Earths representing many different alternate realities. Their main universe that most of their stories were set in was Earth 1. The Earth where all of their “Golden Age” WWII-era heroes, including Alan Scott, had their adventures was Earth 2. Needless to say, with Alan Scott being on Earth 2 and most of DC comic books set on Earth 1 he hasn’t been particularly prominent in a long time. In fact, if I’m not mistaken he hasn’t had his own title in over 60 years.

Now for a while DC got rid of their multiverse so Alan Scott was on the same Earth as all the other Green Lanterns but even then he wasn’t that prominent since he was an old man who was barely connected to the modern Green Lantern Corps and spent most of his time mentoring the next generation of superheroes in the Justice Society of America. And it doesn’t matter now because Alan Scott’s coming out is part of an event that has restored the DC multiverse. And that brings me to the thing that really ticks me off about this whole affair.

Once more the main DC continuity, the continuity that is in the majority of their books, is Earth 1 while Alan Scott’s continuity is Earth 2. Which means DC is making a big deal out of outing a character who will hardly ever be seen. The worst of it is that people who don’t read comics but decide to check them out for this storyline probably aren’t going to pick up the book that Alan Scott appears in. No, they’re going to remember that it’s the Green Lantern that’s gay and so they’re going to pick up the Green Lantern books and those are all set on Earth 1 where men like their women to dress like this:

How does she keep from popping out of her top? The same way Green Lanterns do everything else. Willpower.

It’s a huge bait-and-switch to stage a PR stunt like this using a Green Lantern who doesn’t actually appear in any of the Green Lantern comic books.