What's The Future Of Diversity At Marvel?
As Marvel is honored with the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Vanguard Award for its portrayals of LGBT characters, BuzzFeed caught up with Cort Lane, VP of Animation Development, to talk about the evolution of Marvel and the Scarlet Witch contreversy.
Tell us how it feels to be honored for excellence in diversity by the Los Angeles LGBT Center on it's 45th anniversary.
Cort Lane: It's professionally and personally pretty awesome. For Marvel this is tremendous recognition that we worked very hard in half a decade to tell stories about real people who are relatable; I know they have fantastical costumes and powers, but they have real struggles, they feel different, and they have a great nascent side that comes out. As gay man growing up and reading these stories, it was tremendously inspirational and encouraging to me, and I hope we've done that for kids and young people and adults, for new generations.
Is there a character you identified with in particular and hope to see on the big screen?
CL: I was a huge fan of the Scarlet Witch as a boy. The thing that was amazing to me was that she had this really cool love story with Vision and their love was considered an abomination and even her own brother rejected her for it — that's the kind of love story I think really resonates. That's a character I'm really excited to see in Age Of Ultron next year because I've had a special connection to her. And it's so wonderful to me that we finally get to meet her teenage son [in comics], who is gay and a superhero and has a teenage superhero boyfriend!
Now, there's been a bit of backlash in terms of her character. Marvel doesn't have the movie rights to X-Men, which means in Age of Ultron Scarlet Witch isn't Magneto's daughter, subsequently stripping her of her Roma and Jewish origin. That fact in combination with Elizabeth Olsen's casting have led to many critiques of whitewashing being leveled at Marvel.
CL: You know, that's always a creative challenge because, truly, the core fans are so passionate about the characters that every time we tell a new story or have to update the story that we tell for a new audience today, things get adjusted, and they are furious a lot of the time. But what we work hard at, and I think this is true of the Scarlet Witch as well, is staying true to the core attributes of that character; you know, the core relationship with her brother and the fact they are very different and they're outsiders and they're socially surrounded by villains, all of those elements are there. And we're gonna see her character grow over multiple films. I really can't say more than that, but I think people will love how Scarlet Witch plays out across the films.
What would you say the diversity is like amongst Marvel employees?
CL: Oh, that's an interesting question! Because all kinds of people are Marvel fans and a real majority of Marvel employees are core fans, they really represent that as well and that is very true. I could speak to my development team — it's very diverse. It's not something I think about; I don't hire based on diversity, I hire based on ability and passion for the properties and characters, so that comes through in all kinds of people. It's talent first. Writers, artists, and everybody that we work with — I think that's why you get such diverse points of view: Those people come with their own perspective and their own experiences and bring all that to the table.
How does Marvel scout for talent that they think will bring new, fresh, diverse points of view?
CL: Well, I can't truly speak for publishing people, but they reach out to comic cons throughout the world — we have this one amazing guy, C.B. Cebulski, who literally travels the world looking for new Marvel talent. So that is part of the equation for us all the time; we're always open to meeting new people at cons, and of course you get people at all walks of life at cons. [In my own department, animation,] it's very interesting reaching out and finding new writing talent. I'm very proud, I think we've been very successful in finding new talent in the last few years; it's really about going to events, going to writers group meetings, exposing yourself to people. That's really the way it happens.
Where do you think Marvel can improve in terms of diversity?
CL: I can't identify any specific areas, but I'd say, you know, the world changes and Marvel has both a great power and great responsibility to represent the world around us, so it's something we're constantly evolving towards. Diversity means all characters, including LGBT characters, changing the world around us, and Marvel needs to represent that in the kinds of characters that we introduce. I think the stories that we're telling with our LGBT characters today are very much of the moment. I particularly am a big fan of the love story between Wiccan [Scarlet Witch's teenage son] and Hulkling, and that's the story that's very relevant to gay teens today. A lot of teens are out and have relationships, and we continue to represent new kinds of experiences as the world accepts them and projects them.