Revane wields green magic to summon forth massive elementals,
bringing the land to life in order to defend the natural world and
Revane was born on Zendikar. Once a warlike Joraga elf, Nissa Revane
has left the old ways of her tribe to return to her roots as an
elementalist and druid. She knows the Multiverse needs her power if
it is to be made safe for life to flourish. Plane-threatening
catastrophes like the Eldrazi titans have brought her to this new
understanding, and now, as a powerful Planeswalker, she must use her
magic to warn, protect, and defend what she holds dear.
Some more amazing Magic: the Gathering artwork featuring Nissa Revane.
“Your friendship has brought glorious technicolor to my life. It’s been there even in the darkest of times and I’m the luckiest person
alive for that gift. I hope I didn’t take it for granted.. maybe I did.
Because sometimes you don’t see that the best thing that’s ever
happened to your is sitting there, right under your nose. But that’s
fine, too. It really is. Because I’ve realized that no matter where you
are or what you’re doing, or who you’re with, I will always, honestly,
truly, completely love you.”
The Illustrated Guide to Taylor Swift’s BFFs, from Hipsters to Homecoming Queens
At this point, there is nary a female celebrity who hasn’t made an appearance in a Taylor Swift Instagram. The 24-year-old superstar is friends with all kinds: models and movie stars, moms and teenagers, fellow musicians and felines. She lunches with Reese and crafts with Hailee; she FaceTimes with Selena and parties with Jaime. This weekend alone, Swift stopped by Lena Dunham’s Saturday Night Live after-party the night before roaming the streets of N.Y.C. with Lorde. (And this was just a few days after road-tripping in California with Karlie Kloss!)
In order to make sense of the Swift-ian social web, we decided to break things down, high-school-cafeteria style. We present:the illustrated guide to Taylor Swift’s BFFs. We have our Homecoming Queens: the prim, proper, gorgeous stars whom Swift can count on for an emergency cupcake-baking session or a spontaneous dance party. We have our Rebels, whom Swift turns to when she’s feeling dangerous (keep in mind: for Swift, “dangerous” just means, like, wearing a beanie). Then there are the Hipsters, with whom Swift can confidently rock her aviators and plaid. Miley, J. Law, Katy, Carrie, and Tina comprise our Frenemies, all of whom—to varying degrees—have had icy relationships with Swift. And lastly, we have our Cool Moms, none of whom has ever had a lunch that didn’t involve a second glass of sauvignon blanc.
I am, in general, very in favor of racebending. When used properly - and, though difficult to fuck up, there are ways to do it badly - it can be one of the best ways to add diversity to an old and predominantly white franchise.
I find it especially useful in superhero comics, where most of the heroes are “white by default” - that is, they have no real clear ties to any European ethnic heritage, or any real reason to be white beyond the biases of the time. For some of them, being white actually actively adds problematic aspects to their backstory that other ethnicities might not (I’m looking at you, Roy Harper, Iron Fist, Richard Dragon…)
The fact is, at this point in time, we are so saturated with heroes that introducing a new one is incredibly hard. This is a problem, because our existing heroes are predominantly white cishet non-disabled men (with some women).
One way to solve this is via legacy heroes. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve probably heard me speak on how incredibly essential legacy heroes are as a way to add diversity to comics. Characters like Kamala Khan, Cassandra Cain, Jaime Reyes, John Stewart, etc., who are now popular amongst fans got a huge boost from their legacy status. If they hadn’t been tied into existing beloved franchises, they would have been much, much harder to promote.
Unfortunately, now that the older generation of heroes - who happen to, of course, be even less diverse than more recent iterations - have displaced many legacy characters (Batgirl being the first one that comes to mind, as the decision to revert Babs to the identity displaced not only three women, one of them a woman of color who has still not returned to main continuity, but also two disabled women) - many of whom are often whitewashed regardless (see Connor Hawke), it becomes clear that there is just not a real editorial dedication to protecting legacy heroes.
One solution to this is to double down on protecting and promoting legacy heroes. I have spoken at length about the importance of this. But another solution - one, I might add, that should be used in conjunction with legacies, not as a replacement - is racebending.
By racebending entrenched characters, the type who always come back in one form or another, it is possible to diversify the DCU in such a way as to avoid the endless cycle of - honestly, of tokenism, as characters of color are killed off or erased in big events, only to be replaced with new ones hitting similar demographic marks after fan outcry. No matter how good these characters are, it becomes difficult to get attached to them when companies have so consistently proven they give no fucks about them.
That having been said, it’s posible to do racebending wrong.
The first, and most egregious way, is to use racebending as a smokescreen for other problematic aspects. This is the shit shows like Arrow pull, racebending one or two characters (Iris West and Slade Wilson are the only ones I can think of), milking the good press they get for it, and then proceeding to whitewash even more characters (Sin Lance, Ra’s al Ghul, Brick, Sandra Hawke, probably Connor Hawke…). This is something I would absolutely consider “tokenism” - it’s shamelessly exploiting the fact that, due to racism, racebending gets more attention than whitewashing, in order to appear committed to diversity while actually actively stripping out the diversity of the source material.
The second way is to racebend a character… and then proceed to suddenly import problematic tropes associated with their new race. (I’m looking at you, everything I’ve heard about nuWally.) It’d probably be fair to call this “tokenism,” as the racebent character falls into the same trap as most other instances of tokenism.
The third way is the most common way, and also the easiest one to work with. It’s something I like to call “shallow” racebending - changing a character’s race without considering any ramifications it may have on the character. Depending on circumstances and the character themselves, this may be a trivial change (Does the society of the Legion of Super-Heroes still have modern racial classifications? No? Then it doesn’t matter if a white character is suddenly Black, does it?); a neutral but nontrivial change (Lois Lane would have different experiences and ties to an additional cultural background as an Indian woman, but the core character and personality remains entirely intact); a change that actually makes a character work better or removes a problematic aspect (Roy Harper as Navajo? Richard Dragon as Filipino? Or, to move over to Marvel, Iron Fist as Asian-American?); a change that requires significant reworking of a character’s background (the Waynes are old money - if Bruce Wayne is racebent, how does that affect things?)
I wouldn’t, however, consider this “tokenism.” I’d call it more a failure of character design - you’ve introduced a new aspect to a character without carrying it through to the logical conclusions.
But here’s the thing. Even when you fuck up racebending… the solution is to do it properly, not to call the entire concept a failure. The failures I listed above can all be salvaged one way or another, and do not condemn the enterprise to failure.
I have, for a very long time now, subscribed to the headcanon that Jason Todd is mixed Asian on his father’s side (specifically, ¼ Taiwanese and ¾ white). I’m quite fond of this change - I think it helps flesh out Jason’s pre-Robin background, which is often sparse, helps diversify the Batfamily, and helps explain a lingering canon point, which is that Lady Shiva was at one point considered a candidate for Jason’s mother.
There are a lot of characters I like to racebend. Like I said, I’m a fan of the concept. But I’m bringing this one up specifically because I’ve managed to spread it to a few friends, one of whom recently listed it in a list of racebending headcanons… and got an anonymous message about how “racebending is icky if it only serves to tokenize a character” and “wtf at jason todd being taiwanese”.
Literally all she did was list racebending headcanons, after she was asked about them. She did not go into detail about implementation. And one of the racebending headcanons with the most canon support and potential was decried as “tokenism.”
Literally what the fuck.
When you use a character of color to mark off diversity checkboxes without fleshing out the character… when you use them as a smokescreen for whitewashing… when you use them to perpetuate harmful tropes… that is very much tokenism. But there’s nothing wrong with diversity for diversity’s sake. And racebending is one of the better ways to accomplish that.
So my friend harshcutieszoos got an anon mentioning that they were uncomfortable with me referring to Iris West’s racebending as “tokenism,” especially since I’m not Black (and am in fact white).
And they’re… well, they’re completely right. That was not a thing I should have done. I was so pissed off by the thing about Rena “engaging in tokenism” that I totally slandered a really cool character in the unfortunately-associated-with-Arrow Flash TV show, one who has received both a huge amount of support from Black female fans and a huge amount of racist bullshit from a large portion of fandom.
Arrow has a history of whitewashing, and I suspect that it is trying to promote itself as a diverse show while covering up its own whitewashing. It shouldn’t be allowed to get away with that. But that doesn’t change the fact that Iris’s casting is incredibly important, and I apologize for referring to it as “tokenism.” I was specifically trying to talk about how racebending like this is valuable, and in attempting to condemn Arrow’s whitewashing I completely undermined that point, and contributed to the completely unfair shit that Iris West gets.