At this point we’ve all heard the rumors that Zendaya is maybe Mary-Jane in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, and already there’s both praise and resistance to the unconfirmed casting choice. Part of the reason is it brings up the age old question; when translating a visual medium like comic books, how important is race, skin tone, and hair color to the visual design of these characters?
I wrote an article about it for Kulture Shocked. Racial representation is important, especially in a media still utilizing characters created during a time period when non-white people were not particularly welcome, on the page or off. Character design in comics represents a series of conscious choices meant to help tell the reader about the character before words even come into the picture. So where do you draw the line? Spoiler: it takes thought and open mindedness.