At first look, Injustice 2 consists of a great roster of memorable characters such as the Holy Trinity (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman), the Flash, Green Lantern and Black Canary etc. It even features some of the more prominent younger heroes such as Cyborg, Blue Beetle and Firestorm. If you’ve realised, the last three heroes we mentioned are actually representatives for the ethnic minorities in America. Cyborg and Firestorm are African American, while Blue Beetle and Bane are of Hispanic descent.
However, it bothers me that there are no Asian characters (aside from Sub Zero but he originates from Mortal Kombat so he will not be taken into account) in their roster. So why this lack of Asian (i.e. Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Malays, Vietnamese, Thai etc.) characters? Why has DC focused on other ethnic minorities but have neglected to feature any Asians in Injustice 2?
To start off, it would be terribly unfair for NetherRealm to include characters that weren’t substantially as popular with fans since it could potentially run the risk of their sales dipping.
For DC comics, their most popular Asian characters would probably be Katana and Cheshire. However, both are still relatively unknown compared to DC’s big shots. They may be remembered visually by the public who watched the Suicide Squad movie and the Young Justice series but name-wise, not so much. Their contributions to the series when compared to other non-Asian characters were not relatively substantial enough for them to be terribly memorable.
Hence, given these Asian characters’ lack of popularity, it made sense for NetherRealm and DC Comics to utilise their non-Asian characters instead as they would then be more recognisable to fans and casual players alike.
If that was so, why would DC include other non-white races (such as Firestorm and Blue Beetle) even though some of them may not be as prominent as their white counterparts? Also, why are the prominent characters usually white instead of any other race?
The Birth of DC Comics
DC Comics was born in 1934 under the name National Allied Publications in USA. Many of its early writers and artists tended to be of European ethnicity due to the racial segregation and discrimination against most non-white races. The latter would then be stuck doing menial jobs due to their lack of education, and were hence not able to climb up the social-economic classes or get other higher-level jobs.
Given that people usually tend to interact more with others of the same social-economic class and ethnicity, it is no wonder that the social milieu surrounding these predominantly white artists and writers would be filled with other whites. Hence, these artists and writers would then go on to represent the people and phenomenons they see around them.
This is reflected in how Superman was an American icon to battle the evils of World War 2, to give American people hope after the war that their country could be strong and great again. Wonder Woman was also created in response to the issue of women’s rights and she then became a feminist icon.
Civil Rights Movement
From 1954 to 1968, many African Americans and other non-African Americans who believed in the movement fought to end racial segregation and discrimination against the former. By participating in many acts of nonviolent protests and civil disobediences, they sought to convince the American government that African Americans deserved equal treatment and the same rights as their white counterparts.
This phenomenon has also inspired several instances of literature like How to Kill a Mockingbird as well as X-Men and Magneto.
However, in the case of DC Comics, this spurred writers into realising they needed more racial representation. They needed heroes and villains to be of different races instead of just having them play side roles that could be easily forgotten.
Negative Stereotypes of African Americans and Hispanics
To start with, let’s define what a stereotype is: a fixed generalised belief about a particular group or person.
In America, African Americans and Hispanics tend to have negative stereotypes surrounding them such as being lazy, poor or uneducated etc. Do note however that we at Akiba Press do not endorse or entertain such horrid stereotypes but they have to be analysed as part of this article.
As such, with the evolution of the civil rights movement, writers decided to develop more well-rounded, fleshed-out superheroes and villains of various ethnicities instead of casting them as minor roles. This resulted in the creation of Cyborg, Aqualad, Blue Beetle (the second one), Firestorm, and two Hispanic Green Lanterns as of late.
Positive Stereotypes of Asians
In America’s context, Asians (more specifically, the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese) tend to have a positive connotation to them and are lauded as intelligent over achievers.
This is a large contrast to the negative stereotypes regarding African Americans and Hispanics — AKA why there was a much more dire need to include the latter into comics than the former. Given the relatively ‘good’ reputation fairer-skinned Asians had compared to African Americans and Hispanics, there wasn’t much of a reason to make the former prominent and more fleshed out.
While the roster so far features minorities as well as aliens, we do note that as of late, more Asian representation has appeared — we now have a Korean Hulk (Amadeus Cho) and a Shanghai Superman (Kenan Kong). We do hope that future Injustice instalments will include other Asian DC characters as well and that comic books will continue to represent minority races in their pages.