domingo, 28 de agosto de 2016

The Inhumans as the first Asian whitewashed superteam

Why are The Inhumans not Asian? This is not some random theoretical question about race and prejudice. This is about how in 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced them as a nation in the middle of Asia, with the Fantastic Four acting as Marco Polo at Kublai Khan's Court. They were one big fictionalized sleeping giant, waiting to wake up, after several millennia spent apart from the rest of the world.

If you look at them, you can clearly see how Jack Kirby designed their civilization with an Asian innuendo. There you had a silent king and his mischievous brother, the two of them beardless and with hair dark as night. There you had that shaolin monk with his tiny moustache, powered by martial arts. There you had that massive barbarian guy with goat legs who only needed a club to look like a character out of Journey to the West. There you had the one with dragon skin. There you had a giant molossoid dog looking like Chinese pugs whose phenotype was assimilated after by the English Bulldog. Even the crown of their king seemed more related to Silla's crowns from Korea than the ornamental headdress worn by the monarchy from any European Kingdom. 

There were two red haired girls too, yes. But that kind of hair is not a rare thing in central Asia, with the uyghurs being among the most prominent ethnic groups in China. Several times have I discussed with friends about how fictional kingdoms from early Marvel portrayed pre-existing world powers. You have the Russians in the heat of Cold War, yes. But also Latveria, with Doctor Doom acting as a European dictator, both related to Dracula and Ceaușescu. And what about the Atlanteans as an unstoppable naval power ruled by an emperor with Japanese looks? Namor even attacked United States at the same time that Pearl Harbor was assaulted by the army commanded by Imperial General Isoroku Yamamoto.

Moreover, Wakanda represented the Africa’s potential in a time in which Marvel started to open to the world, looking for more diversity. Then, why did Jack Kirby establish Inhumans' origins in the North of the Atlantic Ocean when he told it back in 1967? Was it easier to make the Inhumans have a flying island that moved from the Atlantic Ocean to the Himalayas –and, by chance, develope some kind of Asian culture– instead of making them some Asian super-people? Was a Tibet thing, or could it just be that the “Inhuman” name may prove to be problematic if associated it with an existing collective? Perhaps they didn't want to have anything to do with China at a time in which Mao's revolution was making the relationship between both countries very difficult

Marvel superpowers
Japan on the wrong side 
But, why did nobody try to use this potential to make the Inhumans a Chinese-market-friendly franchise after that? Not even with Paul Jenkins’ Marvel Knights or Hickman/Fraction/Soule’s recent relaunch did anybody make an attempt to wash off the White crust and show the Inhumans’s true face in greatness. This year, Chinese movies like The Mermaid and Monster Hunt have taken a seat among the fifteen most successful movies of 2016. American films like Warcraft or Kung Fu Panda have caught their breath at the Chinese market. And the same happened on the previous years with The Monkey King or the box-office breaking of Transformers 4. Then, is it really the answer to keep pushing Inhumans as some kind of space mutants, instead of trying to find a connection rooted in their origins as a fantastic kingdom in central Asia

Think of the X-Men. Their success didn't come from putting them in a lot of places or creating a massive number of new characters. X-Men success was based upon readers who found themselves related to characters that represent minorities and people facing an adverse situation. Similar to Spider-Man, the first teen hero for the outcasts. Or Black Panther and the work of McGregor, Priest, Hudlin and Coates. Or Kamala Khan. However, I don't know if Marvel, in the Inhumans’ case, is trying to appeal to the same people that were following the X-Men from the beginning of time. But if not, who are they appealing to?

With big companies like Marvel or DC investing a lot in enlarging their audience with diversity and attempts to reach the Asian market with creations like The Great Ten, The Totally Amadeus Hulk or The New Super Man, why don't get back to the original basis of the Inhumans as a futuristic kingdom of Asian metahumans, and forget all about the North Atlantic? Perhaps it is too late for comics, because a change that alters the view we have about an entire race of characters, with half a century on their backs, could be very hard without making an inflection point, like the ones they did with Iron Man in Extremis or Thor after Avon Oeming's Ragnarok. But I don't think it's impossible considering how little has been said about Inhumans being a totally white skin race (and characters like Kamala, Lineage or Mosaic could be explained by the mix-up with Inhumans who left Attilan millenia ago).

Despite all of this, it's in a potential film where I think the “ancient dynasty of Asian metahumans” theme can offer the most. I can totally see The Inhumans as a Zhang Yimou kind of movie. An epic tale about the loss, the strength of family and the retrieval, with the royals exiled from their hidden city by The Unspoken and Maximus plotting to unite them and demanding their right to the throne by the power of Terrigenesis. I can also see a big Chinese actor, wearing the cowl of Boltagon, becoming their own Superman, with the power to crush mountains with his voice and punch Hulk in his face. I can see two red-haired Chinese girls surviving on a big city of the country, with the younger of them not knowing their true heritage. I can see a massive bearded brute with more muscles than good temper working as a goon for the highest bidder. I can see a mythical martial artist with the skill to find any fault on his opponents, and whose brother is the only one of them previously exposed to Terrigenesis. A kind of hybrid of sea dragon and human that his brother has been keeping alive without anyone knowing of him except Maximus

If politics don't become a problem, I can see it all in a movie launched as a Marvel Studios production oriented to Chinese market, and I think it will probably work better than selling them as an X-Men's cheap imitation. Mainly, because nobody else is going to find any other franchise with the same potential to create a big, colorful, inventive superhero team inside China's culture such as The Inhumans were in their time. 

Thanks to Ander Luque for the help. You can find the Spanish version of the post here 

1 comentario:

  1. I have to agree you here, and this movie franchise will be a gigantic crash in to China Market. Reasons
    . Inhumans are based on Journey to the West. We got spider demons, rat name a Chinese myth creature,its already listed.
    . CHOW YUN FAT!! Tim Burton and the director of the Monkey King are the co directors of the franchise
    . Emma Watson. Emma Watson will already smash in the Bollywood market by starring in an upcoming block buster Bollywood film.And Vhinese market is massive.With that, imaginr all the legacy she`ll have. Oh and in China, Emma is the only celebrity that is the only celebrity as flawlessly beautiful.
    . America and China serve as the best doppledangers. Once upob a time, Branagh nailed perfectly the cultural mirrors between Viking and Mongol, both of hunting races who are famed for their battle skills. Now it is America vs China, both are extremely diverse abd cultural societies with hypocritical realities (racism, corruption, etc) and there are dozens of problems behind the glittering exterior.In this, it is humans and inhumans