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Entertainment Weekly

Books

Iron Fist comic creator downplays whitewashing controversy

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The creator of Marvel’s Iron Fist comic series says he has “little patience for some of the feelings that some people have” about the accusations of whitewashing that followed the new Netflix series based on the books before its release.

“Yeah, someone made me vaguely aware of that,” Iron Fist co-creator Roy Thomas said to The Inverse in a new interview when asked about the outcry. “I try not to think about it too much. I have so little patience for some of the feelings that some people have. I mean, I understand where it’s coming from. You know, cultural appropriation, my god. It’s just an adventure story. Don’t these people have something better to do than to worry about the fact that Iron Fist isn’t Oriental, or whatever word? I know Oriental isn’t the right word now, either.”

Thomas and Gil Kane created Iron Fist in 1974, and the comic book and its subsequent Netflix series focus on Danny Rand, a white hero who learns martial arts in the mystical city of K’un-Lun. Rand is played by Game of Thrones actor Finn Jones, who is white, in the Netflix series — though many argued that an Asian actor would have been better suited to play the character in the modern incarnation (in fact, Asian-American actor Lewis Tan, who appears in Iron Fist as a one-off villain, told Vulture he originally auditioned for Danny).

While Thomas had no part in creating the Netflix series, he did note that Rand was created “at a different time” in the interview with The Inverse.

“It’s very easy to second-guess anything. You can argue about Tarzan, you can argue about almost any character who came up then is bound to be not quite PC by some later standard or other,” he said. “Okay, so you can make some adjustments. If they wanted to kill off white Iron Fist and come up with one who wasn’t Caucasian, that wouldn’t have bothered me, but neither am I ashamed for having made up one who was. He wasn’t intended to stand for any race. He was just a man who was indoctrinated into a certain thing.”

The method Thomas describes has actually been put to use by Marvel comics in recent years: classic characters like Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and others have been killed or incapacitated, only to be replaced by a character of a different gender and/or race. While this has allowed Marvel to diversify its roster of heroes, the company has also been criticized for not just creating new characters — something Thomas suggested as well, while hitting back at those upset with Iron Fist.

“I just think some people have too much time on their hands, I guess,” Thomas said of the backlash. “They have an infinite capacity for righteous indignation. By and large, that tends to be misplaced quite often because if you’re becoming all upset over things that are just stories, and if you don’t like it, instead of trying to change somebody else’s story, go out and make up your own character and do a good job of it. That’s just fine, but why waste time trying to run down other people’s characters simply because they weren’t created with your standards in mind? Now if something is really racist or degrading to a sex or race, an ethnic group or something like that, that’s something else, but Iron Fist isn’t that and never has been. It’s all about a fictitious race, a fictitious place like a Shangri-La, and one person who happens to be its emissary. There’s no reason why he can’t be Caucasian.”

Read the full interview here, and start EW’s binge recap of Iron Fist season 1 here.

Marvel’s Iron Fist series, which debuted on Netflix last weekend, has been the worst-received of all Marvel and Netflix’s collaborations so far. EW’s own Jeff Jensen dinged it as “the wimpiest punch ever thrown by the world’s mightiest superhero factory.”

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