Marvel Tries to Diversify With Red Wolf
Hyper-masculine, all-white superheroes are no longer the norm in the world of Marvel. To diversify its cast of comic characters, the Disney-owned entertainment company is introducing a new fall lineup of culturally diverse superheroes—one of which is Red Wolf, a Native American superhero who will make his modern-day debut.
The character first appeared as William Talltrees in the Avengers No. 80 comic book in 1970 and starred in a nine-issue series that ran from 1972 to 1973. He is being revived for a new comic series set to release in December, Mashable reported on Tuesday.
Though Native American characters have been written into comic books for decades, only a handful—including Red Wolf—have been featured in primary roles, and many have been rooted in racist clichés.
Major comic book publishers including Marvel and DC Comics have come under fire over the years for illustrating stereotypes, often depicting Native American characters as savages in traditional feathers and loincloths. Apache Chief, who was introduced in the Super Friends TV series that ran from 1973 to 2011, wears traditional buckskin clothing and can increase his size and body mass by speaking the words “Enuk chuk.”
Modern-day Red Wolf is facing similar criticism thanks to Marvel's "All-New, All Different" campaign teaser art, which shows the superhero wielding a bow and arrow while wearing 17th-century Native American clothing and war paint.
"Red Wolf is dressed like the most problematic stereotype you have ever seen of an aboriginal person. He’s holding a bow and arrow. He’s wearing buckskin breeches. He’s wearing a loincloth on top of the buckskin breeches. He has a bone necklace and a warpaint. He’s not wearing a shirt," wrote Comics Alliance critic James Leask in June. "The only thing missing from the Injun Stereotype Bingo Card is a feather in his hair. It’s hard to make this more suspect-looking.”
After this latest announcement, however, Leask wrote on Tuesday that it was "encouraging to learn" that the book’s cover artist and designer is of indigenous descent. Indeed, although Native American misrepresentation continues to be a problem for Marvel and the media alike, a member of the Red Wolf creative team, Jeffrey Veregge, is a part of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe that's based in Kingston, Washington. The artist is responsible for illustrating the comic book's covers and designs, which reimagine the superhero as a modern, Western warrior.
“As a native, I’m really excited to see that he can do things, he can figure out things and stand with Captain America, and hold his own in this universe,” Veregge told Mashable. “That’s what’s awesome about it: You have all these characters of different nationalities and ethnicities, but it’s not all about their culture. It’s about them being a hero."
In the new comic book, Red Wolf will fight bad guys in the American Southwest, as opposed to his previous location in the Old West. Though it’s not yet confirmed whether the superhero will keep many of his original supernatural abilities, including the power to talk with wolves, the character is said to be a gritty crime fighter.