Studios increasingly diversifying lead roles in superhero films

Global Business

Superhero movies have gone from niche interest to multi-billion dollar franchises with enormous global reach. Yet, many of their leading characters don’t reflect that multi-national appeal and don’t often cast ethnic minorities. But that appears to be changing. CCTV America’s Owen Fairclough reported this story from Washington D.C.

A remake of the “Fantastic Four” out this summer stars Michael B. Jordan as the fire-wielding Human Torch. The original character was white.

Fans have taken to social media to demand the next Spider-Man who swings across the big screen is a black hispanic successor to Peter Parker. They say broadening the palette of what’s supposed to be a multifaceted universe can’t come soon enough.

“Superheroes are the stories of people who didn’t feel like they had any power option. And so the superheroes came in and saved the day. And if that’s not America’s story to a certain extent… then I don’t know what is,” Esther Kim, manager of Fantom Comics in Washington D.C. said.

Casting an ethnic minority actor in a leading superhero role isn’t new. Halle Berry played Catwoman, however that movie bombed. But the Blade trilogy, starring Wesley Snipes, did much better, making more than $400 million worldwide.

But those movies were more than ten years ago.

The lucrative blockbusters of recent years such as “Captain America” and “Iron Man” feature ethnic minority stars as sidekicks rather than leading men.

But there are signs this is changing. In two years, a lesser-known character, the Black Panther, hits the big screens, with Chadwick Boseman, an African-American in the lead role.

“The market and the demographic have changed. I know for our store in particular, we see a large percentage of our subscribers being women, being women of different ethnicities,” Raven Smith of Fantom Comics said.

One new leading lady in print is Ms. Marvel – a Muslim-American of Pakistani origin. There’s also another Asian-American hero: Tony Chu.

If superheroes are opening up to ethnic minorities, another famous franchise is also under pressure to diversify. James Bond fans are demanding the next 007 be played by Idris Elba, a Briton of African ancestry.