Fear of a Black Superman?

I hate to say it, but the Postman is bringing the controversy in this week’s “Postal Apocalypse.” Do you dare to find out the answer to this sensitive question: Does Doctor Who suck?


The New Black

Leslie S.:

Reading about the controversy about Game of Thrones casting an actor that does not exactly match some people's expectation of that character's race, I was suddenly struck by the question of whether there has ever been a version of Superman who was black? I mean, didn't we have Heimdall from the Thor franchise played by a black person and didn't some people seriously lose their shit over it? How much shit would be lost if Superman were ever a person of color?

To answer your first question, yes and no. Yes, we have had a black Superman, in the sense that we have Steel, who was one of the four Superman running around after Superman died. He has a lot of the same powers and wears the S and is part of the Supes family, although he’s had jack to do in the New 52. But of course that’s not Superman, per se.

Grant Morrison introduced a ton of “Supermen of the Muliverse” in Final Crisis, including Calvin Ellis, the black Superman of Earth-23 (that's him above). Whether you want to count him or not, he is definitely the one and only Superman of that universe, wears the traditional Superman outfit, and oh, he’s the president, too. He shows up later in Morrison’s Action Comics #9, so he wasn’t just a one-off character, although lord knows if anyone besides Morrison will ever mention the character again.

People didn’t lose their shit over this, but he’s essentially an Elseworlds character that’s had less than 10 pages of face time. So say DC started releasing a monthly comic about the adventures of this Superman. I think it would get a lot of press, and there’d be a few crazy racists decrying — something — but for the most part I don’t think people would care.

Would casting a black man as Superman in a movie cause people to lose their shit? Absolutely. There’s a lot of reasons for this, first and foremost because movies and TV shows are infinitely higher profile than comics; second, you can’t get the public to understand what an “Elseworlds” tale is. Instead of hearing “This is a black Superman,” all they’d hear is “Superman in now black.” So generally people would see it as changing the character, not adding to the mythos, and that’s how people get scandalized, I guess.

Look, Marc Bernadin said this better and more eloquently than I ever will in his awesome "The Last Thing Spider-Man Should Be Is Another White Guy" essay (on this very site, I might add!), but changing a character's race almost never matters. Sometimes — sometimes — it might clash with a character's origin, but as Bernadin points out, whiteness is not an essential part of Spider-Man's character at all. Nor is it Superman's, for that matter. Or Batman, or any of the X-Men, or Iron Man. Now, Captain America, part of his deal is that he was Hitler’s blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan ideal and still hated everything Hitler stood for, so changing his race does alter one aspect of the character. While some people might find that single aspect fundamental to Cap, others don't.

Honestly, sometimes I think a race change might make things more interesting, especially in regards to the Spider-Man reboot. I’m genuinely sad Donald Glover wasn’t cast as Spider-Man, because he would have been perfect. And since Amazing Spider-Man barely deviated from the path of the first movie, some kind of change like this would have definitely made the movie more interesting to me.

I understand why nerds who've waited their entire lives to see their favorite heroes on screen want it to be as accurate to their ideal versions of the characters as possible, but they — and everybody — should realize that race isn't a part of that, or at least it shouldn't be. I think we'll get there eventually, and everybody and everything will be better for it.


Fear of a Black Superman?

Who Cares?

Jarod S.:

Postman,

I've never really liked Doctor Who. Is there something wrong with me?

GOD YES. SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY.

No, I’m kidding. Doctor Who is definitely an acquired taste. It’s a family TV show, which we don’t generally have in America anymore — a show that’s supposed to appeal to adults and kids simultaneously, which makes it too “kiddie” for many older viewers. It’s also one of those shows whose strength is its continuity, meaning the more you know the show and the more you’ve seen, the more you’ll enjoy it and its myriad Easter Eggs. It’s not a fantasy, but it’s also the softest hard scifi show on TV. So it requires some investment before you become a fan, no matter what.

Also, as much as I love Steven Moffat’s work, there’s something about his Doctor Who that’s leaving me cold. I’m not sure what it is, I just know I never really look forward to new Who episodes anymore. I guess you’re not really missing out on much at the moment, is what I’m saying.


Fear of a Black Superman?

Daily Double

Jack R.:

I have a couple quick questions I have longed to see answers for, and I am hoping you can clear some things up...

1) Lord of the Rings: Why doesn't Sauron turn invisible when he was wearing the One Ring? Wouldn't he have thought that was awesome and cool?

2) Star Wars: How does the Death Star travel across the galaxy? Or maybe more importantly, why not just shoot Yavin instead of waiting 30 minutes to orbit it, so there was a clean shot at its moon? Most likely the destruction of Yavin would have gotten the moon as well.

1) The One Ring doesn’t make people disappear as much as it sends people to the Unseen world — basically another plane of existence over top regular Middle Earth. People like Bilbo, Frodo and Sam — regular people — just pop over, rendering them effectively invisible to people on the physical realm. However! Sauron is a Maia, a spirit that lives primarily in the Unseen world, whose physical body is a construct he made. Because he already exists in the Unseen world, putting on the ring doesn’t send him over, because he's already there, so to speak. Also, Tom Bombadil, who is some kind of nature god or spirit or physical manifestation of the natural world or something, puts on the ring and doesn’t turn invisible either.

2) It has a hyperdrive (actually, a bunch of hyperdrives) that allows it to cross great distances, and regular ion engines for traveling within a planetary system. As for why it didn’t keep moving and shoot Yavin IV, I assume it was because the Death Star had to divert the energy from its hypermatter reactor to power up the main laser. And as for why it didn’t destroy Yavin itself, it's because there’s no telling if the damage from the exploding planet would manage to hit the moon, and then the gravity would be gone and Yavin IV would fly god knows where and the Death Star would have to chase it while the laser powered up again and Tarkin and Vader and the Emperor would all be pissed and it was just easier to wait 20 minutes and shoot the damn thing itself.

I’m sure some Lord of the Rings and Star Wars nerds will explain in further detail in the comments. Look for any post with “ROB BRICKEN IS AN IDIOT” near the top.


Fear of a Black Superman?

Khan-Fusion

Rob R.:

Assuming, Star Trek is set in the future of a universe that could be ours, what's the deal with Khan's timeline. So, if Khan was in suspended animation for 300 years, and the events surrounding his revival take place around 2260 or so, shouldn't that mean he and his genetically advanced compatriots have already carried out his nefarious crimes? Do the filmmakers except us to not think about this, or forget it happened? Or is something else happening? Or is Star Date not actually based on our calendar counting system?

Stardate is based on our calendar, alas, so you’re correct. Into Darkness is set in 2259. And the movie specifically states that Khan was a genetically engineered soldier who fought in the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s, so either the filmmakers expect us not to think about this weirdness or not care.

Now, on the plus side, this discrepancy is kinda neat because it perfectly matches the origin of the original Trek universe's Khan, whom Kirk first met in the Star Trek episode “Space Seed.” On the other hand, that episode was made in 1967, and it’s currently 2013 where we all know the 1990s came and went without any Eugenics Wars, also making it super, super dumb.

Honestly, I’m not sure what Abrams could have done: Rejiggering Khan’s origin would have pissed off the Trek fans, because the event that split the two universes only happened in 2233, so everything before that should be exactly the same. On the other hand, pretending there were “Eugenics Wars” in the ‘90s for a movie released in 2013 in ludicrous. There’s not a good answer here. Unless, of course, you consider not using Khan at all and avoiding the entire issue and then not remaking Wrath of Khan and doing something original to be a good answer, which I do.


Fear of a Black Superman?

How the West Was Lost

J. Keith H.:

Mr. Postman,

With the failure of The Lone Ranger to find an audience, sticking yet another fork in the dead horse of the genre, do you feel there is any hope, at all, of Marvel bringing any of their beloved Western heroes to the big screen? This is the studio that's willing to roll the dice on a Guardians of The Galaxy film. Does Marvel have the moxy to produce a Western, too? If so, which of their classic cowboys deserves first shot at the silver screen?

P.S. My vote goes to The Ringo Kid.

I wouldn’t hold your breath. First of all, very few Westerns get made nowadays, and even fewer do well. The Westerns that are box office successes aren’t PG-13 action fests, like The Lone Ranger or Jonah Hex, but R-rated, violent dramas with all-star casts, like 3:10 to Yuma, Tombstone and Unforgiven.

Marvel would be way out of its wheelhouse trying to turn one of its Western comics into a movie like Unforgiven, and I doubt it would spend its time and resources on something this uncertain when it has many, many other characters that are safer bets (I’d say even GotG is a safer bet than a Western, sorry).

My vote, if they did do one, which they won’t? The Rawhide Kid. I wouldn’t want a Western with a bunch of innuendo and gay panic jokes, but a regular Western where the protagonist just happens to be gay could be cool.


Fear of a Black Superman?

28 Lbs. Later

Sean O’C:

I was just thinking about zombies again and here’s my question:

If say 50% of America is morbidly obese, what does that translate to when they become zombies? Is this a thinning of the herd where all the zombies are made up of the fat people that couldn’t get away along with some unlucky healthy people? An additional question, as an in shape person, Is it easier or harder to get away from a fat zombie?

Why would it be harder? Because the fat zombies are hungrier than regular zombies?

It is easier to get away from a fat zombie, for a few reasons: 1) they’re bigger and thus don’t maneuver quite as well, 2) they can’t get into tight spots, and 3) their added weight slows them down a little (not in a “I need to catch my breath” way, since they’re animated by the zombie virus, just in a “my limbs are super-heavy” way).

But most zombies don’t get you because they’re physically superior to you, they get you because there’s one of you and hundreds of them. Sure, if you’re in shape and there are 50 fat zombies chasing you, you could briskly jog and stay ahead of them for hours. But eventually you’ll get tired and they’ll catch up, or more zombies will pop up in front of you.

On the plus side, when the outbreak is first happening, the fat people will all be eaten as we’ll be too out if shape to run/escape/climb stairs, etc., and you in-shape people can use that precious time to get away. So it’ll be great for awhile. Until you have 50 million bitter, jealous, overweight zombies shambling after you.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!