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Marvel brings diversity to the fore - and it's about time

ANTICIPATED: Mahershala Ali

IN 2018, we were dancing to the tune of Marvel, as they rolled out the diversity carpet for the predominantly BME cast of Black Panther.

A record-breaking feature, which grossed an estimated $1.73 billion, it has not only excited the dedicated Marvel followers but also, introduced a whole new wave of fans to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Flash-forward to the present day and Marvel has expanded their universe both intergalactically and in terms of diversity. It was refreshing seeing a predominantly all black cast in Black Panther and Marvel seeking to continue this trend by bringing another BME lead superhero to the mix.

Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, announced at San Diego Comic Con last weekend that Blade will be making a comeback, but will this time star Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali.

Blade is a half-human, half-vampire superhero that battles modern day vampires in their quest to take over the world. Ali will be reprising the role previously played by Wesley Snipes.

The character first appeared in 1973 as a supporting character in Marvel Comics and was modelled on 1970’s black actors and NFL player-turned-actor Jim Brown.

You would think this was a masterstroke by Marvel Studios in choosing a well-rounded and accomplished actor in Ali - but the truth is, Marvel Studios was contacted by the Green Book star and it was he who pitched the idea for making Blade at a time when the production powerhouse were considering a way to re-ignite the character. Talk about perfect timing.

Marvel fans will remember that Ali has already been introduced into the Marvel Universe as the voice of Uncle Aaron in the Animation feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Adding to the seemingly unending announcements was the casting of Brian Tyree Henry, alongside Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek in the feature film The Eternals.
With roles under his belt from Spider-Man: Into Spider-Verse, Widows and If Beale Street Could Talk, Marvel appears to be adding acting pedigree to a universe of superheroes.

The event also gave Marvel the opportunity to flex their already bulging muscles in the streaming world by announcing exclusive content to their Disney+ channel.

At the end of 2018, Marvel pulled the plug on any renewed series from popular shows such as Daredevil, Luke Cage and The Punisher and announced new shows that would sync with their successful feature films.

One of these shows is WandaVision, which will be a spinoff from The Avengers films. As titled, the story is about Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch) and Vision. Not content with including a diverse cast in films, this series will include the powerful character Monica Rambeau (also known as Captain Marvel or Photon) played by Teyonah Parris.

These announcements brought a lot of excitement and jubilation to an already overwhelmed audience both at the convention and the world of social media. A new direction of including more diverse characters is truly welcomed across the board; and Marvel continued to wow fans with more BAME additions to the Marvel universe.

For the first time, Marvel is bringing an Asian superhero lead to the big screen in Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. Played by Simu Liu (known for starring in Taken the TV series), the character is described as the ‘Master of Kung Fu’ and first appeared in the Marvel Comics in 1973.

There is no doubt that the success of Black Panther opened the door for more BME characters especially in leading feature films. It just goes to show that not only is diversity in film popular amongst consumers; it is also good for business.

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