The news of today reported by the journalists of tomorrow

The Beacon

The news of today reported by the journalists of tomorrow

The Beacon

The news of today reported by the journalists of tomorrow

The Beacon

Explaining the hate towards legacy characters in comics

Why do some comic fans detest character changes?
Lara Mullen

Recently it seems like every piece of superhero media has been playing with the idea of “passing on the mantle.” The “Marvel Cinematic Universe” is a prime example of this. Within the last three years alone, we have seen the characters Sam Wilson, Shuri, Kate Bishop and Riri Williams toss aside their previous identities and pick up the roles of Captain America, Black Panther, Hawkeye and Iron Heart respectively. 

The previous four heroes I listed are what is known as “legacy characters.” The concept of “legacy characters” has existed in the realm of comics for quite some time. “The Phantom” is the earliest example of the character type, dating all the way back to the 1950s. It has always been a beloved part of the comic medium with a lot of fans liking legacy characters more than the original. With that being said, why does it seem like so many people have problems with the newer characters?

Before we get into everything I just want to make a quick note. The comic community is split into many different parts and is incredibly diverse. There’s something for everyone. Whether that be in the books, movies, video games or animated series, it’s quite rare to find someone who doesn’t like anything superhero related. What I’m going to be discussing in this article applies to every aspect of comics, but I will have a focus on the books and films since that’s where the problem is most rampant.

So, what problems do people tend to have with the new legacy characters? If you were to ask someone this question, they’ll probably give you one of the following answers. “They didn’t earn the title,” “the original was better,” and “it was an unnecessary change,” “just make new characters.” Personally, I don’t really tend to take any of these answers seriously. In fact, I believe that these are all used as cover for their true reasoning. 

Let’s quickly go over some of the problems with these answers. Starting with the idea that the character “didn’t earn the title.” I never understood what people meant with this. How does a person “earn” the title of a certain hero? 

There are a few heroes that this argument makes sense for, such as the Lantern Corps of DC Comics. To become a lantern you must embody a specific emotion, such as anger, fear, willpower, hope and love. There is a set way in becoming a lantern. However, what makes someone worthy of becoming a hero like Captain America? 

Most legacy heroes share the same powers as their predecessor, but apparently that’s not enough for some people. There’s “something else” that makes them worthy. What that “something” is tends to be a mystery. It doesn’t seem like they need the blessing of those who came before them, for example Barry Allen is widely accepted as The Flash even though he didn’t get permission from Jay Garrick to use the name. So what exactly is needed?

Next is the most common answer “the original was better.” I don’t think I have to tell you guys the problem with this one. This is an extremely subjective answer. There isn’t really a way to judge the quality of a character. There isn’t a specific personality trait that instantly makes a character better. 

Let’s compare and contrast the first and second characters that took up the Ant-man persona. Hank Pym is a brilliant scientist who’s constantly trying to push mankind forward into a bright future. Meanwhile, Scott Lang is a witty ex-con who’s trying to do right by his daughter and make up for his past actions. While one character may seem more interesting than the other, that doesn’t make the other bad.

“It was an unnecessary change” is an answer I have mixed opinions on. While I can see it as a valuable response, I can’t think of a story where this applies. Most writers build up to the change; it never just happens. When a person says this I usually just blame it on them not keeping up with the universe.

Jane Foster was the focus of much backlash in 2015 when Marvel made her the new Thor. Countless “fans” complained about the change and how it didn’t make sense for such a random character to become the new god of thunder. In reality, the event was being built up for about two years. I understand that not everyone has the time to keep up with multiple monthly series, and I do believe that there is a conversation to have about how that is harmful to the overall reader experience. However, these writers tend to know what they are doing, and I think a person has to actually experience the story before making comments about it.

Lastly we have the infamous “just make new characters.” I purposely saved this one for last because it plays well into my main point. When a character shows up donning the uniform and power set of an old hero you tend to hear people complain about the publisher being out of ideas and pandering to a crowd. As much as I hate to admit it, the comic community is full of some truly awful people. There’s a select group of comic fans who seemingly hate change, especially when it comes to getting rid of straight white male protagonists. I’m sure you know the group of people I’m talking about.

Whenever one of the big comic publishers makes a post online announcing that a new character will be taking the role of an old one, there’s a high chance that the comment section will be filled with people complaining about it. These complaints can vary depending on the gender, race and sexual orientation of the new character. However, in the end it mainly boils down to grown men crying about “wokeness” and “white erasure,” two things that don’t actually exist. 

Miles Morales sadly tends to be one of the characters these people love to talk about. Ever since he first debuted almost 10 years ago, he has been the subject of nonstop hate. As of recently, his haters have taken to saying the phrase “Peter Parker is Spider-man and Miles Morales is Miles Morales.” This is strange to me because no one really said anything when Ben Reilly took up the Spider-man mantle back in the 90s. In fact, they welcomed him with open arms. Ben Reilly is a white man by the way. 

I know I’m writing an article about them, but I truly believe that the worst thing you could do is show these people attention. They make up a small percentage of the community, and I promise you that real fans do not share the same opinion. If they truly understood the heroes they claim to love so much then they would know that reputation matters.

About the Contributor
Shawn Carey, Contributing Writer