According to series co-creator Robert Kirkman, the decision to race-swap a number of core characters in Amazon’s animated adaptation of Invincible was borne out of his personal belief that he and artist Ryan Ottley failed to make the original comic sufficiently diverse – particularly by modern standards.
As can be confirmed by audiences who engaged with both iterations of the hero’s story, a total of three members of Invincible‘s cast were subjected to Hollywood’s favorite method of virtue signaling.
First and most apparently was Amber Bennett, the first love interest of the series’ eponymous protagonist. Making her proper debut in the Image series’ eighth issue, Amber was originally depicted as a blonde white woman.
However, in the animated series, Amber’s appearance was instead inverted, with the character now sporting raven hair and black skin.
(Not only that, but in a move completely counter to their supposed intention of endearing this ‘more diverse’ version of the character to audiences, the animated Amber was also given a whole new personality.
Rather than the Amber who, though always fearful for his safety, was always understanding of her one-time-boyfriend’s super hero lifestyle, Amazon presented audiences with a version of the character who took outright offense to the fact that Invincible did not reveal his secret to her after just a few weeks of dating.)
And though not as apparent thanks to the somewhat racially-ambiguous nature of their depiction in Ottley’s original artwork, both series protagonist Mark Grayson and his mother, Debbie, also had their identities altered in the leap to the small screen.
Where their comic book selves were both white (half-white and half-Viltrumite in Mark’s case), their animated incarnations have been explicitly confirmed as being of Korean descent.
Speaking to TV Guide ahead of the Amazon series’ upcoming second season, Kirkman revealed that despite the backlash these changes had received – much of it borne from fans’ disappointment that the series’ first foray into a new medium would be less-than-accurate to the characters and stories they had loved for nearly two decades – they believed the result was a net positive for the ‘representation’.
Asked by the outlet’s Kat Moon how much this concept of representation was “on your mind when you were working on Season 2?”, Kirkman asserted, “That’s something that’s been really important to us.”
“We have to recognize that a couple of dumb white guys made this comic book in the early 2000s,” explained The Walking Dead creator. “And there was a real lack of diversity in that series. And also, with the Invincible character himself, we talked to fans at all the conventions and places we would go, and because his ethnicity was ambiguous in the comics, everyone identified with him. We would have Filipino fans come up and say, I’m so excited that you made Mark Filipino, we would have Mexican fans come up and say, we’re so excited that you made Mark Mexican.”
“And it was just amazing to see how important representation is on a personal level when you’re face-to-face with a person,” he continued. “Because I grew up at a time where I went to see Rambo, and Die Hard, and Terminator, and every movie that came out when I was a child, and I watched a bunch of tough white guys do cool stuff. And I was like, this is a lot of fun. And you end up being in this bubble where you have no awareness of what it’s like to live in a world where you’re not seeing yourself reflected and all of these other things.”
“So to be able to, in any small part, work against that is a tremendous honor,” the writer concluded.
As of writing, it is unknown whether or not Invincible‘s second season will feature any further race-swaps to the series’ cast.
The answer to this question will make itself known when the new season hits Amazon Prime on November 3rd.