Comic-Con in San Diego was nearly shut down this weekend by a mob protesting the creative license mainstream authors have been taking with their own intellectual property. Protesters took issue with the “forced diversity” they say has resulted from minority interests’ pressuring the authors into needlessly changing trademark characters.
Recent changes include traditionally male characters, such as Thor, the Norse god of thunder, taking on a female incarnation. Fan opinion has been mixed.
“They changed it. Now it sucks,” says thirty-three year-old Comic-Con veteran Paul Owens. “Thor was always a dude. How am I supposed to relate to some Viking chick swinging a hammer that shoots lightning? I just can’t.”
“They only did it so they could make money,” argues Bailey Stewart, supporting the cause with her “Peter Parker is Alive!” T-shirt. “They don’t need two Spidermans. What about all the history behind the Parker saga? It’s not like they haven’t been able to keep it relevant.”
To maintain or not to maintain the status quo has been long a heated subject in online superhero forums. Moderators for discussion-thread-based websites like Reddit and TV Tropes actively discourage “flame wars” and shut down threads when the comments become too inflamed.
Harder to suppress are the voices and opinions of irate protesters willing to make their grievances public. At Comic-Con, for the most part, protesters were peaceful, while at the same time, barricading entrances to the venue.
After several hours of the blockade, the growing crowd of ticketholders managed to force their way past, some brandishing Dollar Store their laser weapons while others wielded far more menacing and pointedly authentic katana. A few of the protesters, holding their own model weapons with varying degrees of realism, swung at the ticketholders, who passing by, sustained minor injuries.
“I mean, grow up!” cries an exasperated Darth Vader. The cybernetic Sith Lord held his cracked helmet in one hand, waving frantically with the other. “This stuff isn’t worth anybody getting hurt over. Who cares whether Spiderman is black?”
“They’re crazy,” says Luke Skywalker in agreement. (The two attendees asked they be named as their characters, both for privacy and for comedic purposes.)
At the heart of this divide between protesters and attendees lies the fundamental question: what difference do these changes make in the lives of comic book fans?
“I understand that people are upset,” says Charles Liven, bow and quiver slung across his shoulder. “And that’s their right. It’s when people get carried away and start breaking things and making a scene that it gets to be a problem.”
Sci-fi fans normally agree to disagree, but problems of race and gender strike a nerve for fans who want political discourse about their fantasy kept silent—on both sides of the comic aisle.
But I think we can all agree that the world would be a much better place if everyone took a moment to appreciate having Comic-Con in their lives and all the superhero-related joys it brings. Because not everyone lives in a country that has Comic-Con.