X-Men comic fans have always hailed the series for its appreciation of diversity and its attempts to understand and undo bigotry. More than any other franchise both within and without Marvel, the X-Men’s blend of sci-fi and real-world prejudice makes it a true force in advocacy. I’m enjoying the X-Men movie franchise so far, but it’s past time that its creators take the necessary steps towards diversity that make the comics so popular. The “save the world” X-Men movies have been fun, but Deadpool proved that focusing on the spirit of a main character can be even more rewarding.
Here are ten characters of color from the X-Men comics that I would like to see done right in the movies. Note: I didn’t include my X-love, Storm, on this list because I already wrote my hopes for her in this previous article.
1. Forge (Cheyenne Native American)
This list must start with the fan-favorite Forge. Using his mutant ability to be really, really, really good with technology, he helped design S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Helicarrier in the comics. Forge could easily be a background player through much of X-Men’s sci-fi sets. Someone had to invent the Danger Room, right? If done with respect to Forge’s roots as a Cheyenne Native American, this X-Man has all the right elements for an original mutant story with heart.
Speaking of heart, Forge also had a fairly serious relationship with X-goddess Storm. (So much for leaving her off this list.) Personally, I’m rarely a fan of romance stories, but I’d pay good money to see the ups and downs of their relationship within a tumultuous, mutant-fearing world. The Kirk and Uhura kiss on Star Trek was revolutionary in its day, but isn’t it time we social justice-minded geeks had an interracial love affair to celebrate? Come to think of it . . . lightning and future tech . . . there are a lot of fun things you could do with that. So yeah, I think we need a Forge and Storm solo movie.
2. Dust (Afghani)
Sooraya Qadir is an Afghani woman who used to live under the oppression of the Taliban. She would be the first Arab X-Man brought into the franchise and would be an instant hit for Arab and Arab-American X-Men fans alike. Her ability to turn into living dust would also be fun to see in action. Imagine the Sandman from the third Spider-Man film – but with a much more compelling origin story. One other inescapable part of her story is her choice to wear the traditional abaya and niqāb as part of her devotion to Islam. I’m not a woman or a Muslim, but even I’m sick of hearing how often Muslim women have to defend their decision to wear or not wear whatever they want. An X-movie with Sooraya would almost certainly have her discuss that decision, and her answer onscreen could leave audiences with a greater respect for the challenges of being a Muslim woman in today’s global society.
3. G. W. Bridge (Muslim African-American)
This one might be a little tricky depending on whether Fox or Marvel Studios has the rights to use him. He is not a mutant, but he made his first appearance in X-Force, which would put him in Fox’s X-Men territory. But, he’s also a onetime S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, which would situate him with Marvel Studios. If Fox does have the rights to him, though, then they should consider commissioning G. W. Bridge as X-Men’s own version of Nick Fury (minus S.H.I.E.L.D., of course, although wasn’t that a Helicarrier in Deadpool?) The majority of government liaisons in the X-Men movie franchise so far have been mutant haters. Bridge could be that one, high-ranking officer fighting for mutant rights, and the films need some mutant allies to start showing up. Bridge also converted to Islam, but I don’t believe it has ever been mentioned which tradition of Islam Bridge follows. However, if he was a Shiite and if he starred opposite of Dust, we could be treated to two denominations of Muslims in a single comic book movie! Wouldn’t that be something?
4. Jubilee (Chinese American)
Jubilee has been in several roles to date in the X-Men movie franchise, including X-Men: Apocalypse. Sadly, however, no movie yet has fleshed out her potential. Being the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Jubilation Lee is as Chinese-American as they come. Have you seen the episode “Parents” on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None on Netflix? It poignantly highlights the disconnect between first generation Asian-American kids and their immigrant parents. That’s only part of what Jubilee can bring to the table, and that culture clash would be even more explosive (pun intended) when you throw in her mutant power to create plasma bombs from her fingertips. Jubilee’s comic book story begins with her parents being killed, but there is no reason why her being the daughter of immigrants shouldn’t still be part of her story and outlook.
5. Black Box / Commcast (Indian)
Even though Commcast has never been an X-Man, Garabed Bashur entering the mutant movie verse would bring the mutant phenomenon straight into the 21st century. Bashur is a mutant technopath and as such, his mere presence would have us question how the mutant phenomenon itself is evolving with the times, especially if he were to star opposite Forge. His ability to access every kind of electronic information that has ever been transmitted makes Bashur the digital equivalent of Charles Xavier.
As an Indian myself, I would love to see India’s culture, disparity, and strife explored through the mutant phenomenon. My pick for Garabed would be Bollywood actor Sharukh Khan, who has repeatedly expressed his fondness for X-Men comics and the X-Men movie franchise. Bringing in a famed Bollywood actor into the X-Men Universe would not only expand the X-Men’s story, but would be a monster hit internationally.
6. Omega Sentinel (Indian)
Not veering from either the Indian sub-continent or technology is the X-Woman Karima Shapinder. Karima is not a mutant, but was once a Prime Sentinel—a cyborg programmed to kill mutants on sight. That concept alone would highlight the seemingly insurmountable evil of intolerance. Creating giant, killer, purple robots (as Bolivar Trask did in X-Men: Days of Future Past) is one thing, but using nanotechnology to turn regular people into soulless mutant-killing machines is quite another. Fortunately for Omega Sentinel, that part of her programming was fixed by Professor X and Magneto before she joined the X-Men. An individual who’s dealing with some rather unique body identity issues and has nowhere else to go, yet is welcomed to join the team is in itself what X-Men is all about. And besides all that, where else will we ever see a cyborg, Hindu, vegetarian super-heroine? She’d be like Iron Man, except not at all.
7. Karma/X’ian Coy Manh (Vietnamese American)
Sadly, a Catholic, French-speaking Asian-American might seem like a mutant power all its own to folks who are used to the uniformity of current superhero movies, but that barely scratches the surface for some refugee families from the Vietnam War. As someone who lost friends and family to hatred, Karma has plenty of reasons to fight for justice and a better world. We often don’t consider how refugees are part of America’s fabric, which is why Karma’s superhero story would go a long way. Karma’s power is to take control of other people’s minds. It comes with a Rogue-like curse, where her host’s personality and habits can over take her own. Each time she uses her power she faces a possible identity crisis, though her identity is already fractured after having to leave her war-torn home. It’s not the kindest power to have, for either Karma or the people she controls. Her decision to use it would be painful to see on screen, so painful that we wouldn’t be able to look away.
8. Bishop (Aboriginal Australian-American)
Lucas Bishop had a throw-away role in X-Men: Days of Future Past. As the resident time traveling X-Man, it’s a shame that he has already been overlooked for the X-franchise’s first time-traveling adventure. Bishop is an Aboriginal Australian-American refugee, who hails from a future where mutants are being hunted and put into death camps. Let me spell that out: a black mutant slave from an American concentration camp comes back through Time to stop the horror from ever happening . . . how has his story not already been told in cinema?! After all, the entire X-Men movie franchise began with a scene from a concentration camp where we see Magneto first use his powers as a child. Lucas Bishop’s story brings that trauma right back by saying “this can happen again if we don’t act now against prejudice.” Oh, and his power? Bishop can absorb all kinds of energy and redirect it into powerful blasts, so not only is his origin compelling, but he’ll whoop ass on any super-powered battlefield.
9. Sabra (Israeli)
This one would be controversial, which is why it needs to happen. Have you ever met someone for the first time and asked,”So, what’s your take on the conflict between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East?” Of course you haven’t. It’s not something we ever talk about, even though it’s been a part of both world and American history for decades. As a mutant and a super soldier for the Israeli army, Ruth Bat-Seraph would bring the realism of this life-wasting conflict right to us. Using her superhuman strength, agility, and reflexes, Sabra would also give us a glimpse into what war would be like in a world with super-powered beings. It wouldn’t be the superhero escapism that we’re used to (and I’m sure that there are fans who wouldn’t want to go there), but merging escapism and real-world issues to understand and combat hatred has always been what sets X-Men apart. A Sabra done right with respect to the horrors of war would have lasting effects on all of us.
And speaking of war . . .
10. Warpath (Apache Native American)
The great and beloved Hugh Jackman is on his way out of the X-franchise. The upcoming Wolverine movie will draw heavily from the “Old Man Logan” storyline, and it might just put the Ol’ Canucklehead out to pasture. Jackman has been the point X-Man on the team since the first movie in 2000. He’s gained quite a following, but Fox’s reliance on Wolverine’s popularity is also what has prevented them from exploring other X-Men lore. Still, if Fox wants to stick to having a main mutant who is rugged, a skilled combatant, possesses keen animal senses, and the ability to heal rapidly, they only have to look back to re-doing James Proudstar from Days of Future Past. Wielding a pair of Bowie knives (that could easily be made of adamantium instead of vibranium), Warpath is Wolverine 2.0. Did I mention he also has super strength and speed? He’s more than just a cheap knock-off, however; Proudstar has had a long history in the X-Men, stemming from his first appearance in 1984 when he almost single-handedly took down the entire X-Men team. If Fox studios would dare to be forward-thinking enough to have Warpath take over for Wolverine as the main character of the franchise (and cast an Apache or at least a Native American actor in the role), it would not only shake comic book movies and Hollywood to its core, it would grant a great character of color some well-deserved fandom.
There is so much diversity within the X-Men comics that this list could have gone on and on. Which X-characters would you like to see on screen who would help the franchise celebrate our collective humanity?