The long-awaited sight of a person of color headlining a film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe came in 2018 Black Panther. The DC Extended Universe has yet to follow suit, which will change upon the release of Black Adam, a comic book character initially introduced as Egyptian, starring Dwayne Johnson in the title role.
Furthermore, Anthony Mackie will finally get top-billing, alongside Sebastian Stan, in The Falcon and the Winter Solider, an upcoming MCU-canon series exclusive to Disney+, which is also where Ms. Marvel will debut as her current incarnation (Pakistani-American, Muslim practicing teen Kamala Khan) in her own self-titled series. Not to mention, Zoë Kravitz will star in Matt Reeves’ The Batman as one of Gotham’s most beloved morally questionable characters.
So, as you can tell, diversity in the superhero subgenre seems to be reaching the peak of its strength, but we have barely even scratched the surface as to how. The following are 10 of the costumed people of color we are most anticipating to see graze the screen (big or small) in upcoming live action adaptations from Marvel and DC alike.
When he made his DC Comics debut, Teth-Adam came from Egypt, but was later reimagined as having come from the fictional country of Kahndaq, which he would eventually come to rule by a tyrannical takeover. Best known as an archenemy to Shazam despite occasionally using his god-like abilities for good, Black Adam will make his big screen debut in his own self-titled film (slated for late 2021) as portrayed by the half-black, half-Samoan Dwayne Johnson.
Before Carol Danvers took over the Captain Marvel moniker, she was known as Ms. Marvel: an alias currently held by Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan, an Inhuman with a cool myriad of powers who became the first Muslim superhero to ever headline her own comic book in 2014. Kamala will also make her live action debut in her own TV series on Disney+, which has yet to be cast.
If you grew up with the animated Justice League series in the 2000s, then you probably know the Green Lantern as John Stewart, whose still-awaited live action debut was preceded by Hal Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds in the ill-fated 2009 movie. For years, there has been talk of a Lethal Weapon-style team-up between Stewart and Jordan in a reboot called Green Lantern Corps, which sounds like a golden opportunity, or, at least it will be once it moves past the early stages of development.
The screen debut of Shang-Chi, a Marvel kung-fu master who pays homage to Bruce Lee, will also mark another first - in this case, the first MCU film headlined by an Asian character. Simu Liu, born in China and raised in Canada since age 5, will play the title hero of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, also starring Golden Globe-winner Awkwafina, which is expected to release in May 2021.
The only thing talked about more than Robert Pattinson as the lead in The Batman is the upcoming solo film's boost in the diversity department by casting Westworld's Jeffrey Wright as Commission James Gordon and Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman. The actress, whose real-life stepfather is Aquaman, will be the first woman of color to play Bruce Wayne's on-and-off lover and, more often, adversary, since Halle Berry in 2004 and the third overall, after Eartha Kitt in the 1960s TV series.
Wesley Snipes, when he was already well into his 50s, actually expressed interest in reprising Blade, the more adult-oriented Marvel role he originated in three earlier films. Instead, for their upcoming reimagining, Marvel Studios chose two-time Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali to play the badass vampire hunter, who is actually half-bloodsucker himself, which Snipes took very well, thankfully.
Someone who chose to no longer play the superhero role they originated for live action television is Ruby Rose, who opted to leave The CW's Arrow-verse spin-off Batwoman after one season in 2020, prompting the creation of a brand new character to fill Kate Kane's shoes. Ryan Wilder will be played by black actress Javicia Leslie, who, like her DC character, is an open member of the LGBTQ+ community as well.
Speaking of which, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will also be debuting its first openly gay superhero in Eternals with Phastos. While the ageless superhero's sexuality in the upcoming film is a change from the comics, he has always been traditionally depicted as a person of color and will portrayed by Atlanta star Brian Tyree Henry.
One fellow Eternals character whose ethnicity will be updated for the upcoming film, expected to be released in Februrary 2021, is Kingo Sunen, who prefers his samurai skills, which he learned in 16th-Century Japan, to his superhuman abilities. The character will be reimagined as Bollywood movie star played by Pakistani-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who surprised the world by his commitment to getting ripped for the role.
Yes, Monica Rambeau did indeed make her live action debut, as played by 11-year-old Akira Akbar, in Captain Marvel, but what we did not see was her debut as one of her many superhero aliases, among them one she has shared with her "Aunt Carol." Based on reports that she will appear in the upcoming Disney+ series WandaVision, played by Dear White People's Teyonah Parris, we have no confirmation, but would like to believe that we may see her reemerge as, maybe, Photon, Pulsar, Daystar, or, perhaps her current identity, Spectrum.
What do you think? Are you overly excited or maybe just cautiously optimistic about the forthcoming debuts, or reinterpretations, of these beloved comic book characters? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for additional information and updates on the latest in superhero fiction, as well as more about the lesser-heard voices in media, here on CinemaBlend.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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