Earlier this year, Marvel Comics introduced their newest superhero, a Filipina named Wave, who is part of the War of the Realms: Agents of Atlas series. Also known as Pearl Pangan, the Pinay hero resides in Cebu and has the power of hydrokinesis (water manipulation). Her main affiliation is with the Triumph Division, a group consisting of the Philippines’ finest superheroes who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting Southeast Asia.
According to Fandom, Wave’s main storyline revolves around saving Manila from the Fire Demons of Muspelheim. She is also working with the Shanghai agent Aero who can generate and control wind.
Based on photos shown by Marvel, Wave has morena skin and jet black hair.In fact, Mico Suayan, one of the artists who made Wave’s variant covers, shared that he took inspiration from Nadine Lustre. Likewise, War of the Realms artist Leinil Yu, who’s from Cebu, also told Angel Locsin that she’d be a good fit for the role of Wave if she gets a live-action movie.
As far as we know, the War of the Realms team that’s working on Wave are mostly Filipinos. So it’s clear that they want her to have accurate physical attributes and have a background that Filipinos could resonate with. Aero writer Alyssa Wong told Marvel Entertainment last month that Wave mostly draws strength from her community and her grandpa, something she could relate to as a Filipina.
That said, can someone explain to us why one of Wave’s promo photos for Marvel Future Fight showed her with lighter skin?
Wave was recently teased as one of the newest heroes in the game’s August update. According to gaming YouTuber Cynicalex, the key art, which showed Wave with lighter skin, was “accidentally posted.” Redditor u/blackbirdxd also said it was leaked on the game’s website.
Sure, Marvel was able to fix Wave’s look before the update rolled out. But the company still has a long history of whitewashing POCs, mostly in films.
The most glaring example of this was The Ancient One in Doctor Strange. The original character was a Tibetan born in the Himalayas, and all his photos show an Asian elder. Meanwhile, the MCU version was played by Tilda Swinton, a White woman. This was met with much criticism and Marvel Studios had conflicting claims as to why they made the character White.
A spokesperson told Mashable, “The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic.”
However, Doctor Strange screenwriter C. Robert Cargill explained that they cast Tilda Swinton so they wouldn’t lose the Chinese audience. In 1951, the Chinese Communist Party and its army occupied Tibet. Even though the country gained independence from all its colonizers, China still maintains that it’s part of their territory. So, by changing The Ancient One’s ethnicity, Cargill basically said they were trying to court one of the biggest moviegoing markets in the world.
This wasn’t the only incident wherein Marvel whitewashed characters and their circumstances. The Mary Sue pointed out that the comic versions of the Maximoff twins, Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and Pietro (Quicksilver), were originally created to shed light on the racism against the Romani people, aka gypsies. But in Avengers: Age of Ultron, that storyline was scrapped and they were turned into Hydra experiments.
It’s also important to note that Magneto in Sony’s X-Men franchise was a Holocaust survivor. But regardless if he was named the father of the twins in the MCU or not, it doesn’t solve the problem.
Bottom line: Marvel’s whitewashing problem doesn’t just start and end with Wave. They’ve done this to characters in the past, mostly in the expense of saving their moviegoing audience. Sadly, it’s too late to fix the whitewashing problems in Doctor Strange and the Maximoffs, but it doesn’t mean they can’t do better in future films.