Marvel Has Many More Opportunities to Diversify
Following years of criticism for a relative lack of representation in its films and TV shows, Marvel has made notable improvements on the diversity front. Black Panther led the way in this regard, presenting an almost all-Black cast and representing a clear break from Marvel’s disappointingly uniform past up to that point. The film starred Chadwick Boseman, who tragically passed in August of 2020 (and would win a posthumous Screen Actors Guild Award), and still stands as one of the most successful Marvel projects to date.
Nothing on the scale of Black Panther has come out since, from a standpoint of diverse representation. But the folks behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe have continued to make strides, which are perhaps most evident in a number of upcoming characters.
First up will be numerous characters from the cast of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. According to a write-up on Collider featuring quotes from Marvel creative boss Kevin Feige, this film will feature a “98% Asian cast” to be led by Chinese-Canadian Simu Liu (as the titular Shang-Chi) and beloved Asian-American entertainer Awkwafina, who has already won over audiences in films like The Farewell, Ocean’s 8, and Crazy Rich Asians. Meanwhile, just a few months after the Shang-Chi film is released, Marvel fans will be treated to a fresh ensemble cast in Eternals, wherein British-Asian actress Gemma Chan (also of Crazy Rich Asians renown) will play a key role.
Looking a little further down the lengthy line of upcoming Marvel releases, we see additional hints at broader representation as well. We know for instance that an announced Ms. Marvel series on Disney+ will feature Pakistani-Canadian actress Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan (aka Ms. Marvel). A Black Panther sequel in 2022 will expand on the Black representation we saw in the original. Guatemalan-American actor Oscar Isaac will play the role of Marc Spector (aka Moon Knight) in a Disney + series. And Mahershala Ali, an Academy Award-winning Black Muslim actor, has been cast in a reboot of Blade.
All of these casting decisions signify sustained progress in Marvel’s effort to be more inclusive, and it’s likely we’re even missing some characters that will pop up in larger ensemble projects such as Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, or Spider-Man: No Way Home. Even all of these examples though only cover a portion of the potential Marvel has to continue diversifying its films and shows. There remain a number of untapped characters from the comics who would provide excellent opportunities for the studio to highlight and elevate minority actors.
Doctor Voodoo, also known as Brother Voodoo, is a comics figure closely associated with Doctor Strange, and typically portrayed as a Black character. There have been rumors about the character being included in the forthcoming Doctor Strange sequel, but to this point nothing is confirmed, and there are certainly no concrete casting decisions that have been announced. But this is arguably one of the biggest no-brainer moves Marvel has left from a diversification standpoint.
Voodoo (real name Jericho Drumm) would introduce a new culture to the MCU, given his Haitian descent. He would expand on the developing magic branch of characters, with powers to rival those of Doctor Strange and Scarlett Witch. And while the Doctor Strange sequel is his natural entry point into the MCU, he also opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities moving forward, given his comic associations with zombies, werewolves, vampires, and plenty of other characters who have yet to make it into the MCU
Miles Morales is one of many versions of Spider-Man, and a character a lot of superhero film fans got to know in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. He’s also probably the non-white character fans have been most excited to see enter the MCU proper. At this stage it seems a virtual certainty that he’ll feature in Spider-Man: No Way Home and/or Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. But right now we don’t have confirmation.
As a comic book character, Medusa isn’t as well known to casual MCU fans as other flagship characters. She has, however, made some appearances in various video games that make her a bit more relevant currently than some might assume. The Marvel-specific version of the mythical character is a playable option in mobile games like Marvel Future Fight and Marvel Contest Of Champions, for instance. Additionally, among the new games on Gala Casino there’s a slot reel called Temple Of Medusa — not a direct Marvel adaptation, but a not-so-subtle nod. Disney has not allowed casino sites to use official materials, but given that this Medusa slot appears alongside similar titles relating to the likes of Thor and Odin, it’s clear the developers are doing what they can to allude to Marvel titles.
All together these game appearances reach millions of players, many of whom we know to have interest in the MCU. Thus, while she may not be a mainstream character to casual fans, Medusa’s entry into films or shows would likely be embraced. Now, the character is not specifically associated with any given real-world background or ethnicity. She is often portrayed as either white with red hair or green with green hair. But because of this ambiguity, Medusa represents a rare chance for Marvel to introduce a minority character with an original background story wholly invented for the present era of MCU entertainment.
Nova is not entirely unlike Medusa in that he’s perhaps not a well-known character to those who have gotten to know Marvel through films rather than comics. But he is one who’s also been featured in modern Marvel games, including the two mobile titles listed above (Future Fight and Contest Of Champions). Furthermore, this is also a character that Kevin Feige has discussed already regarding potential MCU roles.
This is exciting with regard to the MCU’s evolution on representation, because in ComicBook’s rundown of Nova rumors, it was noted that Feige has alluded to both versions of the character. The original, Richards Rider, is typically a white character. But the newer and younger version of Nova, Sam Alexander, was introduced to comics as a young Latino hero. Feige gave a fairly strong indication that both characters will eventually be seen.
Finally there’s Storm, who has been portrayed already in 20th Century Fox films by Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp (both Black actresses), and who figures to be part of the seemingly inevitable migration of X-Men characters into the MCU. Marvel fans were actually treated to some tantalizing teases by Hugh Jackman just recently, suggesting to some that the actor may be reprising his role as Wolverine in an upcoming project. If that’s the case, it’s possible we could also see Berry or Shipp welcomed into the MCU. One way or another though, it seems very likely that Storm will ultimately have her place in this sprawling franchise.
Ultimately, Marvel’s efforts to be more inclusive and representative are progressing. The MCU is far more diverse now than it was five years ago. The characters we’ve suggested above all represent logical opportunities to continue the progress though.
We don’t know if or when they’ll be included for certain yet, but you can rest assured any announcements will be big news. Screen Rant’s rumors tend to cover any hint of Marvel casting well in advance, and when a new role is confirmed and announced, the whole internet knows it!
Here’s hoping we hear about some of these characters soon.