June 09, 2015

Judging Red Wolf by his costume

Tom Brevoort Scolds Fans for Judging Marvel Character By Promotional Art Marvel Created to Promote Character

By Jude Terror"Hey Tom," asked Anonymous. "I think bringing Red Wolf into prominence is a great idea, and will fit Marvel's sense of diversity in the future. I do have a question about this though: was there ever a concern that the character might be viewed as a stereotype, or met with a similar controversy to say, the Washington Redskins? Well, thanks for your time and keep up the good work!"

It's a reasonable question. After all, Red Wolf does look a little bit... outdated:

Shirtless, wearing war paint, wearing buckskin pants, wearing, inexplicably, a loincloth over the buckskin pants, wearing a necklace made out of animal teeth, and holding a bow and arrow, Red Wolf looks a little bit stereotypical. Maybe there's a good reason for this. Maybe it totally makes sense in the story and Red Wolf will be the most inoffensive character ever created.

But looking at that image, which Marvel produced and released for the purpose of getting readers excited about All-New All-Different Marvel NOW!, it's a perfectly valid response to ask a question, right? It's something that's been discussed recently in the national media in response to sports teams using stereotypical images of Native Americans as mascots, so it's clearly relevant. We can all agree that asking questions is okay, especially when raised in the respectful and non-confrontational manner as Anonymous did?

Well, not according to Tom Brevoort:No concern, in that we thought that when people read the story, as opposed to judging wildly from a piece of promotional art, they would understand the character.Really, Tom? Did the person asking the question "judge wildly?" Is any kind of response other than blind devotion considered "wild judgement?"

This kind of attitude is indicative of the smarm that permeates the industry and parts of fandom. If the marketing pumped out daily by Marvel gets you excited and in the mood to buy their comics, that's a perfectly accepted response. But if you criticize it? Well, mister, you should wait until the book comes out before passing "wild" judgement! That promotional art is only for people to fawn over and place their preorders. Criticism isn't allowed around here. How dare people "wildly" judge Marvel by the promotional art Marvel itself creates and publishes?! Who do you think you are, comic book reader, to question the House of Ideas?
Guess Which 'All New, All Different' Marvel Hero Looks Like a 19th-Century RelicBrevoort's response is so arrogant, it makes us wonder whether the folks at Marvel have already begun holding damage-control meetings that have made Brevoort extra-cranky. Putting a bare-chested, face-painted Native hero in buckskins next to Iron Man in the year 2015 is really unforgivable. That needs to be fixed. Time will tell whether the Red Wolf Marvel ultimately delivers really is All-New and All-Different, or whether he's the same-old same-old.Comment:  Except for calling the judgment "wild," I don't think Brevoort's answer is that bad. I wouldn't rant about it as these commentators have done.

But Brevoort is still wrong. You certainly can judge visual stereotypes by the visuals. That's all you can judge them by. No amount of nonvisual information can wipe a visual stereotype from your eyes.

Brevoort's answer about understanding the character is a dodge. Red Wolf may be an extremely well-developed character, worthy of our respect, but we're talking about his appearance. You could dress Hamlet or Willy Loman as Red Wolf and the costume would be stereotypical. Any of them in that costume, with those weapons, would be a half-naked savage by definition.

Let us know when you have a real answer, Tom. So far you haven't addressed the issue of Red Wolf's stereotypical appearance.

For more on the subject, see All-New, All-Different Red Wolf? and Same-Old, Same-Old Red Wolf.

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