Marvel’s ‘New Warriors’ series draws criticism about diversity
Just a few months ago, Marvel announced the next incarnation of their New Warriors series.
Originally made in the 1990s, the team of superheroes known as the New Warriors were meant to appeal to the modern generation and embody current social trends and ideals.
Now 30 years later, a new generation of heroes is about to step up. Unfortunately, the reveal of Marvel’s “new” New Warriors has produced less than stellar results.
In fact, comic book and superhero enthusiasts throughout the Internet have banded together for a variety of reasons to do one thing: roast these new heroes meant to be diverse and appeal to the current generation.
Let’s take a look at these new New Warriors, the criticisms thrown at them, and why many forms of media seem to struggle with diversity.
Introducing a new generation of superheroes
In a similar vein to some other superhero storylines, the upcoming New Warriors series focuses on a young group of heroes who must deal with the responsibilities of becoming true superheroes.
Marvel has used this for much of their recent projects such as their movies Spiderman: Homecoming, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, and its Marvel Rising animated series.
One of the “New Warriors” main plot points will deal with the passage of what’s known as “Kamala’s Law,” which originates from Marvel’s “Outlawed” comic book. The law prohibits any superpowered individuals under the age of 21 to do any vigilante work unless they have a government-assigned mentor.
That’s where the New Warriors come in, at least the previous generation. The heroes that comprised the team from the 90s including characters such as Firestar, Rage, Night Thrasher, Speedball, Silhouette, and Namorita, are now presiding as mentor figures over the next incarnation of the New Warriors.
This new cast of heroes includes Trailblazer, a former foster kid with a magical backpack from an alternate dimension that can summon a variety of items;
Screentime, whose brain is wired into the internet after being exposed to his grandfather’s internet gas;
Snowflake, who can create icy shurikens, and also happens to be one of Marvel’s few nonbinary characters;
Their twin Safespace, who can create forcefields that can protect others but not himself;
And finally, B-Negative, who received an unusual blood transfusion from the vampire Michael Morbius, giving him vampiric powers in turn.
Yet this new generation of heroes has also caused an immense amount of criticism to be directed at Marvel, as well as writer and artist of this series, Brian Kibblesmith and Luciano Vecchio, respectively.
Reminds me of when comics really wanted to be woke. Marvel had the worse end of that stick and only realised this was a bad idea after they dropped “NEW” New warriors and a little from TikToker X kids. I feel like this all started with Kamala and Miles, but I’m not too sure. pic.twitter.com/7tIj39bLJC
— Katty Bone (@KattyBone3) June 27, 2020
The criticism of New Warriors
Many individuals across the internet have made their distaste for this new New Warriors series widely known.
People have claimed it lacks originality and inspired character designs, panders to SJWs or “social justice warriors,” and isn’t truly diverse or representative of marginalized individuals. Let’s break down these claims and delve into the meaning and reasoning behind these criticisms, as well as what the creative crew behind the series has given to the audience.
One of the foremost criticisms surrounding the series is in regards to the character designs, as well as what the audience knows so far of the main casts’ backstories. Let’s tackle each of the new characters and analyze these points.
The superpowered twins Snowflake and Safespace have generally received the brunt of fans’ criticism.
I have created a version 2 of my Snowflake and SafeSpace Redesign! “Hail and Haven” with an adjusted look (and slight color variant between the two images on Hail) pic.twitter.com/Y4yPLl2gDO
— SpyV (TLOU brainworm era) (@TheSpyV) April 7, 2020
“Snowflake and Safespace are the twins,” said Kibblesmith, “and their names are very similar to Screentime; it’s this idea that these are terms that get thrown around on the internet that they don’t see as derogatory. [They] take those words and kind of wear them as badges of honor.”
While the intent of this idea is noble, it’s arguably its execution that’s flawed. The idea of repurposing these mocking terms is noble, but many people have criticized their names as being tacky or unable to be taken seriously.
As for their designs, Kibblesmith mentions that “the idea was that they would mirror and complement each other.”
Their designs appear to do almost exactly that in terms of color, appearance, and even general silhouette. Just because they’re twins, however, doesn’t mean they need to be carbon copies of one another.
Perhaps a better idea to repurpose these terms would be to not use them verbatim, but instead, alter them into an empowering form to make them into new monikers that can truly be a superhero name.
Many people have also criticized Screentime’s superhero alias as well. “The word ’screen time’ is only ever used in a sort of restrictive sense, and because we’re doing a story about teenage rebels, a lot of the names are about teens fighting against labels that are put on them. So with Screentime, we liked the idea that he has infinite screen time,” said “New Warriors” writer Daniel Kibblesmith.
Similar to the idea behind Snowflake and Safespace’s names, Kibblesmith also applied a similar concept to Screentime. Despite the motivation behind his name though, it seems the execution and what Kibblesmith thought the expectations the audience would react are what’s flawed here.
Realistically, it seems unlikely someone would want to reclaim that term as a screen name, much less a superhero one. Many fans have also directed critiques at Trailblazer’s seemingly-weak role due to having her abilities solely being the product of a backpack.
The character of B-Negative has also been criticized as a stereotypical goth and a carbon copy of Marvel’s living vampire character Michael Morbius. Even Kibblesmith refers to B-Negative as “the goth kid” in Marvel’s trailer announcing the upcoming “New Warriors” comic series.
Within this wide web of fan criticism however, many of them have taken to going beyond just offering their two cents and have even created re-designs of the characters. Snowflake and Safespace have been among the most popular re-designs since they have generally received the most criticism out of the other characters.
Some people have done complete redesigns of the whole team, including new art and even backstories for them.
The difficulty of diversity in comics and media
The New Warriors have always been an embodiment of the current generation and the trends at the time, and this new incarnation of them is no different.
“We wanted to have big colorful characters, personality clashes, romance, a diverse cast, which is something that the New Warriors titles have always strived to make a priority,” said Kibblesmith. “Every New Warriors comic has always felt like a reflection of the year that it came out. And I don’t think we’re worried about being dated. I think we’re way more interested about being now.”
Ironically enough, being dated and out of touch with modern trends is exactly one of the things Daniel Kibblesmith and artist Luciano Vechhio are being criticized about. This is particularly in response to their attempts at creating a diverse cast for the upcoming series.
As mentioned before, the characters of Snowflake and Safespace have been the main targets of this critique, with both of them being Black twins, and Snowflake being nonbinary.
One key issue here, however, is that the two of them being twins seems to be one of the main factors that define them. The same issue could also be said of Snowflake, where so far the only defining trait fans know about them is that they’re nonbinary.
This raises a key issue not just in this new “New Warriors” comic series, but media as a whole: the way they try to tackle diversity. Kibblesmith and Vecchio’s goal of trying to create a diverse cast that resonates with the modern generation is noble, but as with many of their design choices, the execution is where the problem lies.
Black Panther as a character that’s arguably a very empowering icon for Black people. The movie is also extremely diverse in that it consisted of a mostly-Black cast and crew and had multiple, well-done, empowering characters of color in it.
The key feature here is that even though most of the characters in it are Black, it’s never the exclusive trait that defines them. In fact, it’s not even brought up. It’s simply a part of their characters.
This is what well-done diversity looks like. Diversity doesn’t mean making people stand out as “special” and “different.”
Diversity is not checking off marginalized groups or traits like a shopping list and throwing them into a story. Diversity is all about taking people from underrepresented groups and incorporating them into a story as regular people.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what they are: people. And just like regular people, what defines these diverse characters should be their personality and their actions, not what makes them different.
An uncertain future for the New Warriors
Kibblesmith and Vecchio’s goals of creating a modern and diverse cast for the next incarnation of the New Warriors is an admirable and ambitious goal, but unfortunately, it suffers from a disconnect between what they believe fans want and what fans actually want.
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Reddit leaks possibly dealing with that unannounced series for ABC (assuming that it ends up happening) a couple of words that stood out from the leaks included “warriors” and “comic accuracy” and talk of scripts from some scrapped projects being used. Only thing that makes sense would be a secret warriors spinoff from #agentsofshield or a revival of #newwarriors Honestly i just want more mainstream stuff I’d rather not have everything just be on Disney plus and in theatres #moonknight #msmarvel #shehulk #avengersendgame #mcu #disneyplus #abc #savedaredevil #jessicajones #tonystark #spiderman #dceu #stargirl #batwoman #theflash #blacklightning #eternals #thefalconandthewintersoldier #wandavision #doctorstrangeinthemultiverseofmadness
The fans’ criticism has already taken a heavy toll on the comic series’ production, however. Where it once was supposed to have a release date of April 15, many online comic shops are now saying they’ll have the first issue available starting around October 27.
However, perhaps the first issue’s release and the rest of the series will improve due to fan critiques, and it may even leave a better impression on them than the initial trailer did. Either way, it seems the future of these new New Warriors is uncertain.
Until the first issue of the comic series comes out, if it comes out, who knows what lies in store for this new generation of superheroes.