Comics Newsletter

Marvel’s Missed Opportunity: Gail Simone’s Domino

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S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

Are you excited about Deadpool 2? I am. The first one was a filthy innuendo-fest chock full of blood spatter, naked fire-battles, creative curse words, International Women’s Day, goofy in-jokes, fourth wall breaking, a unicorn, and, most importantly, a meditation on the importance of found family, even when members of said are uber-polite, ex-Soviet killing machines and surly teenage girls. And this time, we get Domino.

I was even more excited when Zazie Beetz was cast as mercenary Neena Thurman/Domino, especially considering Marvel’s (and Fox’s) recent track record of erasing female and POC characters from their lineup. Hiring a biracial, bilingual actress to play a traditionally white (like, actually painted white character) felt like a step toward the right path—the path upon which all fans are acknowledged and included, can find themselves represented among their heroes in any media.

A few days ago, Marvel announced a new Domino comic.

I was briefly ecstatic.

Because Marvel has altered the appearances of a bunch of their print characters to match screen looks in the decade since Iron Man was released and maybe, just maybe, they’d make an effort to undo a tiny, itty bitty bit of the damage they’ve done cancelling America and Hulk and so many other books featuring female and POC leads in the last few weeks by giving us an all-new Domino.

Examples? Yes. I have several.

Comic Loki of the last five or six years looks unquestionably like Tom Hiddleston in several of his incarnations:

I mean…

And this guy even has the same brow furrow as Chris Evans:

So, you can see why I thought Domino, especially as penned by beloved author Gail Simone (Birds of Prey), might continue the adaptive look-alike trend. That Marvel may see their way clear to boost the more inclusive universe they claim will be a part of the next phase of films (Sam Wilson has, for example, canonically carried the mantle of Captain America—though so has Bucky Barnes) but have, at their comics division, so recently torn to hell.

I should probably just give up.

Because this is Zazie Beetz in costume for Deadpool 2:

And this is a preview of the titular mercenary in print:

And, come to think of it, does this Falcon:

Look anything like Anthony Mackie? Not so much. I mean, maybe if you inflated Mackie and poured him into spandex, but that’s never what the film version of Falcon has been about, is it?

Not even swings and misses.

Marvel has remade (some of) its white male characters but it has made no effort to do so with it’s female or POC characters. Is it intentional? I’d like to think not but with all the recent announcements, it’s hard to believe otherwise. It seems, at the moment, that Marvel is using female and non-white characters, some of whom have been around almost as long as Cap and Iron Man and Loki, to put out the PR fires that seem to plague them every other day, and then pointing at low single-issue, pre-order sale numbers and saying, “Well, we tried” and “you should be happy with what you got” before flouncing back to the world of well-groomed facial hair and blonde coiffure.

They can go ahead and keep that pattern up if they like. I’m down to two non–Star Wars Marvel books on my regular pull: Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Black Bolt by Saladin Ahmed. Do my individual purchases mean anything to the Marvel Juggernaut? Nope, and I’m not so naive as to think they might. But I have a lot of friends who are moving in the same direction, if not already so disgusted as to be indifferent to any new Marvel Comics news.

One person is screaming the void. But my friends have friends who have friends. And most of us aren’t very happy at the moment.

Marvel claims to know their market. I think they’re wrong. I think they know a part of their market. The part that fears change, the part that has resisted “other” for so long, treated women and POC characters so badly, they’re terrified allowing anyone else a voice will lead to them being treated the same way. If Marvel thinks they’re giving the majority of readers what they want, they are on the wrong side of history.

The world, thank goodness, despite the current trend in the US government, is never going back to what it was. We won’t let it.

Comics won’t either.

Oh, and Deadpool? He’s canonically bisexual. Two years ago, Marvel let Ben Acker and Ben Blacker write a series where he and Gambit (also canonically bisexual) spent a good number of panels scoping out one another’s butts. With great joie de vivre and no apologies.

That was, as odd as it seems, important for so many of us.

Representation really, really does matter.

If our voices aren’t enough to get your attention, we’ll have to say it some other way. If enough of us do that, it will make a difference.