Affirmative Action Legacy

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Minute Man: I'm black?
Cosgro Toys Exec: We decided to take a multi-cultural approach.
Minute Man: But, I'm not black.

Cosgro Toys Exec: I think you have vaguely African features...

So, the Big Two comic publishers have a couple of issues. The first: brand new characters not heavily tied to already existing characters and continuity have a hard time becoming popular and long-lasting. The second, the eras when characters could stick (the Golden and Silver Ages) produced heterosexual white males almost exclusively. The solution to both? Take a preexisting character, and pass their superhero identity to a Token Minority character!

Trouble is, the legacy characters often don't stick very well either; in 2009-2010, DC Comics depowered, marginalized, or outright killed almost all of the Legacy Characters established in the Post-Crisis era and replaced them with their Silver Age counterparts. It also doesn't help that sometimes, these new characters don't catch on and fall out of a regular role, occasionally resulting in another trope entirely.

On the other hand, several of these characters have gone on to be popular and enduring heroes in their own right; it's worth noting that the aforementioned DC Comics purge was met with a storm of angry criticism from many fans, and the decision had more to do with a desire to bring back the Silver Age lineup than a rejection of the minority characters. The move was so unpopular that DC partially reversed it by restoring the legacy versions of Blue Beetle, Atom, and Firestorm in their controversial 2011 relaunch.

See also Gender Flip, Race Lift, She's a Man In Japan.

Examples of Affirmative Action Legacy include:

DC Comics

  • Batgirl: Barbara Gordon (white) replaced with Cassandra Cain (half-Chinese half-white) who was replaced with Stephanie Brown (white, lower-class), replaced with Barbara Gordon.
  • The Question: Vic Sage (white male) replaced with Renee Montoya (Hispanic gay female, a Threefer), a Canon Immigrant from Batman the Animated Series who had previously starred in Gotham Central. She assumed the title in 52 upon Vic's death from lung cancer.
  • Green Lantern: Guy Gardner (white) replaced with John Stewart (black) and later Hal Jordan (white) with Kyle Rayner (originally white, later retconned to be half-Hispanic). However, the fact that the Green Lanterns are a police organization with 7200 members makes this more believable. Currently all four serve as equal members of the Corps.
    • The Green Lantern Corps members also include squirrels, a robot, a planet, alien smallpox, a living math equation, and are led by blue space midgets. Having a black guy and a white guy is downright boring by comparison.
    • Kyle's Hispanic ethnicity is a Retcon introduced when he found his father Gabriel Vasquez (who was undercover as Aaron Rayner when Kyle was born.) Outside of Judd Winick, no writer has so much as mentioned this retcon ever since.
      • His dad did actually reappear in one of the Halloween anthologies DC puts out every year, and he was indeed Latino.
    • Justice League and Justice League Unlimited were criticized by some fans for using John Stewart (black) rather than Kyle Rayner(white), the current GL at the time, and the one already established in the DCAU. Other fans were pleased to see John finally get some recognition, though.
      • Despite the initial outrage, John's appearances on the cartoon led to a greatly increased level of prominence for the character within the comics.
      • And the usual seventh, Aquaman, was recovering from a laughable legacy, so they needed a seventh and decided to add a second woman, Hawkgirl, while they're at it. They did later introduce Hawkman as a minor character, albeit with their own twist on his origin. That, and any attempt to add Hawkman at that time would've run into a few issues.
    • Kyle Rayner did eventually appear as a background Lantern, having previously been featured in Superman: The Animated Series. Hal Jordan was relegated to a Shout-Out - his name painted on a fighter jet at an airbase - and a five minute cameo when some Time Travel shenanigans caused him to spontaneously take Stewart's place.
  • Firestorm: Ronnie Raymond (white) replaced with Jason Rusch (black). Ronnie was eventually resurrected, and now they both share control over the composite Firestorm entity.
  • Judomaster: Rip Jagger (white male) replaced with Sonia Sato (Asian female)
  • Holly Robinson, who briefly replaced Selina Kyle as Catwoman, is a lesbian.
  • Katherine "Kate" Kane, the current Batwoman, is a Jewish lesbian. Interestingly, she is not a legacy within the comics themselves, as her predecessor (The original Batwoman) was retconed out of existence in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and she is a reimagining of the same character instead of an inheritor of the title.
    • Retcon! Batman Incorporated has established that Kathy Kane was the first Batwoman, for about a year early in Batman's career. Her relationship, with Kate is that she is Kate's aunt.
    • In addition, Kate Kane passed on the Batwoman mantle to the above-mentioned Cassandra Cain in the alternate future Titans Tomorrow....Today! storyline.
  • The Atom: Ray Palmer (white male) replaced by Ryan Choi (Asian male). Choi's run in The All-New Atom ended in a thudding tonal shift around the time Ray Palmer returned from a self-imposed extradimensional exile.
    • And now un-replaced with the return of Palmer and the death of Choi, which sparked a sizable outrage, and was even covered on some non-comic websites.
    • Choi is coming back in the new relaunched DC universe, though. He'll have a starring role in the new Justice League of America series.
  • Blue Beetle: Ted Kord (white male) replaced by Jaime Reyes (Hispanic male).
  • Starman: Ted Knight (white male) replaced by Mikaal Thomas (bisexual blue alien).
    • To an extent... Mikaal wasn't bisexual in the seventies stories where he was the Starman; that was a later Retcon by James Robinson. And while Robinson later wrote Mikaal as a Justice League of America, the Starman name belonged to Thom Kallor (straight white male alien) at first, so he was simply referred to as Mikaal. Once Thom left to return to the future, Mikaal began the be referred to as Starman again.
  • Mr Terrific: Terry Sloane (white male) replaced by Michael Holt (black atheist male). Though Terry had been gone for a long time when Michael came along which probably helped produce the especially positive response Holt has gotten from readers. He'll be getting his own series in 2011, something his predecessor never managed.
    • Similarly, there's Johnny Thunder's successor, Jakeem. Though this may owe more to the fact that DC seems to have a thing about black guys with electric powers.
  • Stargirl: Female legacy of both Star-Spangled Kid and Starman.
  • The Spectre: Hal Jordan (white male) replaced by Crispus Allen (black male). Though Crispus is really more of a successor to Jim Corrigan (also white male.)
    • Not to be confused with the Jim Corrigan who killed Crispus Allen. That was a totally different white male.
  • Wildcat: Ted Grant (white male) was replaced for a while by Yolanda Montez (hispanic female.) She died and he's back as a Retired Badass.
  • A villainous example for DC: The replacement Rogues featured an African-American Captain Cold. The original white one took back the identity pretty quickly though.
  • The half-white, half-Latina Kendra Saunders was introduced as the new Hawkgirl in the 90's, but like many of the others on this list was eventually killed off to make way for the return of her white predecessor. It seems she has gotten the last laugh though, as she will be the Hawkgirl in The New 52.
  • Mark Richards was the third villain to call himself Tattooed Man, and was the first African American to hold the mantle (the original two were white guys).
  • Mister Miracle, Scott Free (Human Alien resembling a white male) and his protege Shilo Norman (black male teen). As a bonus, Shilo Norman is Ambiguously Jewish.
  • The criminal Toyman, Winslow Schott, and the heroic Toyman, Hiro Okamura (and I know what you're thinking, but this Hiro appeared four years before a similarly-named character on Heroes)
  • In the pages of Animal Man Bwana Beast (a Mighty Whitey) was replaced by a black man from Africa who renamed the hero Freedom Beast.
    • The final issue of Justice League of America vol. 2 had one of the heroes returning to Africa to find a successor for the Freedom Beast mantle much later in the time line.
  • Green Arrow II Connor Hawke is the son of the White Green Arrow Oliver Queen and a half Black, half Korean woman. For a while his skin seemed to go back and forth from issue to issue.
    • It looks like he's gotten more white over time, and that he was darker at birth, canonically. A lot of colorists have messed it up over the years, though.
  • Doctor Mid-Nite was originally Charles McNider, a white man. He was replaced by Beth Chapel, a black woman, who was later replaced by Pieter Cross, another white man.
  • Superman: John Henry Irons, one of the four would-be Supermen in Reign of The Supermen before adopting the code name "Steel". He was probably an invocation of this trope as much as the other Supermen invoked other trends in superheroics[1] at the time.
  • Lee Walter Travis, the white male Crimson Avenger was followed by Jill Carlyle, a black female Crimson Avenger.
  • Speedy: Green Arrow's white male sidekick Roy Harper changed his code name to Arsenal and later Red Arrow, and Mia Dearden, an HIV-positive, female, former teen prostitute became the new Speedy.
  • Greg Weisman has created a new, black Aqualad named Kaldur'ahm for his Young Justice animated series, and the character was recently brought over into the comics as well. However unlike most characters who exemplify this trope, Kaldur's predecessor had not gone by "Aqualad" in well over a decade.
    • It's also worth noting that in the show's continuity Garth was never Aqualad, presumably making Kaldur the first.
  • In the alternate future depicted in JLA: Rock of Ages, the white male Aztek had been killed off by Darkseid, and his costume and codename had been passed on to a black woman known as Azteka.
  • The alternate future depicted in the final issue of Manhunter had two major examples. Jade, a white[2] female superhero from the current timeline had been replaced by her brother Todd's adopted Asian daughter, while Kate Spencer's gay son Ramsey had succeeded her as the new Manhunter. As a woman, Kate herself qualifies since each of the previous bearers of the Manhunter mantle were white males.
  • Two examples in the Milestone Forever series. Curtis Metcalf passed on the Hardware identity to the female Tiffany Evans, and it was implied that Raquel Erving (Rocket) had succeeded Augustus Freeman as the new Icon.
  • Kingdom Come is chock full of this, as it takes place in a future where many classic white male superheroes are either dead or retired. Lian Harper (who has a white father and Asian mother) has become the new Red Hood (the original was a white male), the new Star Spangled Kid and Stripes are both black, Johnny Thunder's genie has been passed on to a black male, the new Judomaster is an Asian woman, Cyborg (a black male) has become the new Robotman, and Iris West (who has a white father and Asian mother) has become the new Kid Flash.
    • Too bad Alex Ross failed to do his research and drew both Kid Flash and Red Hood as ginger white kids.
  • In the mainstream DC Comics continuity, Iris West (who as mentioned above, is half white and half Korean) has become the new Impulse. Bart Allen, the original Impulse, was a white male. However, Iris West IS the daughter of Wally West, another holder of The Flash mantle.
    • Bit of a failure in biology as she doesn't look the least bit Asian.
      • While relatively rare, it is not impossible for half-Asian children to be born with light eyes and hair.
  • Johnny Quick, a white male hero, was replaced by Jesse Chambers, his daughter. She now fights crime while using his costume and the slightly modified moniker of Jesse Quick.
  • Several examples pop up in Judd Winick's Justice League: Generation Lost series. The future iteration of the Justice League features Damian Wayne (Bruce Wayne's mixed Chinese/European/Arabic son) as the new Batman, an unnamed African-American woman as the new Black Canary and a Middle-Eastern woman named Sahar Shazeen as the new Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel would count as a Twofer, since the original Cap was a white male named Billy Batson.
  • The aforementioned Damian Wayne is the new Robin, a role which has traditionally been filled by white males.[3] Damian-as-Batman has also featured in a couple of Grant Morrison future tales - in one story he's the Retired Badass "Mr Wayne" who trains Terry McGinnis.
  • Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe does this several times. Batman is now black, and Wonder Woman is now a Peruvian Indian. Also, the Flash is a girl.
  • The trend was parodied in the JLA Presents: Plastic Man one-shot, where two children claim that Plastic Man is lame because he was never replaced by a minority like many of the popular heroes of the 90's were.
  • The original Element Girl was Caucasian, while her successor Element Woman is Korean American.
  • Final Crisis does this briefly. Readers are shown a number of alternate universes, one of which features black versions of Superman and Wonder Woman. The black Wonder Woman is revealed to be Nubia, Wonder Woman's largely-forgotten "sister" from the 1970's. Meanwhile, the black Superman is the president of the United States.
  • Lanford and Ray Terril, the first two holders of the Ray identity, were white. Stan Silver, the third Ray, was African American while Lucien Gates, the current Ray, is Korean American.

Marvel Comics

  • In the Ultimate Marvel version of Spider-Man, the third volume introduced thirteen-year-old Miles Morales, of Latino and African-American heritage, who took up the mantle of Spider-Man. He is currently the page image. As expected Peter Parker doesn't stay dead.
  • Phyla-Vell, the new (and now former) Quasar is a lesbian alien.
    • In addition, the character started out in an AU where she shared the Captain Marvel identity with her brother Genis.
  • Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes became the new Iron Man; eventually Stark became Iron Man again, and Rhodes became War Machine.
    • During the Secret Wars, Reed Richards got to see the man under the armour while repairing it. Jim asked him if he was surprised that the man under the armour was black; Reed just said that actually he had thought that Iron Man was a robot.
    • Reed actually responded that he just knew that 'there was a man in there', reacting more along the lines of 'what's race got to do with anything?' and as unconcerned about the race of who was in the armor as he's always been about everyone else.
  • Psylocke: Started as white female but had a body swap making her an Asian female. The Asian body has since become her most famous iteration, and some adaptations in other media havel just used it without the earlier backstory(Though she is born and raised in Britain) in all adaptations. The exception was the 90's X-Men cartoon, which had her in original form. Her brother Captain Britain is remains caucasian even in the adaptations that have her of mix decent.
  • Playing with the trope: Ms. Marvel started off as a Distaff Counterpart of Captain Marvel but has since surpassed him in terms of screentime and popularity, and he was dead and she was a solo heroine for quite a long time. Basically, she started out as the Alternate Company Equivalent to Supergirl and developed into the Alternate Company Equivalent of Wonder Woman.
    • Also done straight up with Carol as she becomes the second Captain America in the Marvel Mangaverse.
  • Marvel's second Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, was a black female. Like all the Marvel Captains Marvel since Mar-Vell, she has undergone several name changes, and now goes without a Code Name.
  • Hawkeye: Clint Barton had his alias adopted by Kate Bishop.
    • Barton has recently returned to his old codename, but it doesn't appear that Bishop will be giving up her use of it anytime soon.
  • Ronin: Inverted Trope. Originally held by Maya Lopez, a deaf Hispanic woman, then passed on to white male Clint Barton.
  • The original Black Panther (African male) was replaced by his sister.
  • While not intended to replace the original Wolverine (who remained active), the original's son Daken operates with the Dark Avengers using the name Wolverine, and is half-Japanese and Bisexual.
  • Marvel retroactively declared that there was a black Captain America (comics), Isaiah Bradley, who substituted for Steve Rogers, the original, white Captain America, for a mission during WWII. Isaiah has his own modern day legacy: his grandson Eli Bradley operates as Patriot.
    • Which is also a legacy name. The first Patriot Jeffrey Mace (white male) also substituted for the original Cap. Also retroactively.
  • Rikki Barnes took on Steve Rogers' briefly used alias Nomad.
    • She was also initially a female version of Bucky, Cap's sidekick from the 40's.
  • Doctor Strange was succeeded as "Sorcerer Supreme" by Haitian-born Jericho Drumm, aka Brother Voodoo. It seems that this was meant partially as a response to those who saw Strange as a Mighty Whitey. The name "Doctor Strange" did not pass on because that is his real name (Stephen Strange) and title (neurosurgeon). Brother Voodoo is also a doctor in his own right (psychologist).
  • Marvel's relaunch of Cross Gen's Sigil replaces future soldier Samandahl "Sam" Rey (white male) with Ordinary High School Student Samantha "Sam" Rey (white female).
  • Marvel's 2099 line had a Spider-Man who was Miguel O'Hara, half-hispanic, half-irish.
    • Similarly, the video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions introduces a new version of Spidey's nemesis Doctor Octopus for the 2099 era. The new Doc Ock is Serena Patel, an Indian-American woman.
  • Combining this with Canon Immigrant, the miniseries Battle Scars introduced, Marcus Johnson, whose real name was releaved to be Nick Fury, Jr., an African-American man based on the Ultimate Marvel version of Fury and son of the original Fury.
  • While Namor, for unknown reasons, has always been drawn with somewhat Asian features (despite neither of his parents being remotely Asian), his Ultimate Universe version (who has unknown parents) is definitely Asian.

Other Comics

  • Astro City has Cleopatra, a Wonder Woman Expy who in the present day is a dark-skinned woman. Stories set earlier in the Astro City universe, however, show a previous Cleopatra who was a blonde Caucasian woman.
  • Women have donned the mantle of The Phantom, though so far only temporarily (the oath made by the Phantoms specifies 'sons'). The 21st and current Phantom's children consists of twins, a boy and a girl, and should he ever kick the bucket (yeah, right) it has been implied that the two of them might end up sharing the duties of the Phantom.
  • The original Fighting Yank eventually died, and his daughter Carol decided to carry on his legacy as the Fighting Spirit. In addition to being a female (the original Fighting Yank was obviously male), Carol was eventually revealed to be a lesbian as well, making her a twofer.


  • Parodied in the above quote from The Specials. Especially funny considering James Gunn, who plays Minute Man, doesn't look even remotely like anything other than white.
  • In Catwoman African-American Patience Philips is established as the latest successor to the Catwoman name.

Web Original

  • Less Than Three Comics' Brat Pack had mention of the future descendants of Uncle Sam (II). Sam married the daughter of black superheroine, Talon, and their children went on to become Uncle Sam III, and Miss Liberty II (after Uncle Sam II's mother (The original Uncle Sam was his grandfather, a WWII hero, and the <3-Verse's Captain America analog, a power which continued along the family line)).
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the original Stonewall (an invulnerable, super-strong superhero active in the 1970s and 80s) was a white man from suburbia. His successor, who has the same power set, is a black woman from the inner city.

Western Animation

  • The Young Justice cartoon has a Black Aqualad named Kaldur'ahm, created for the show. In the show's continuity, Garth (the original Aqualad) refused the joint (with Kaldur) invitation to become Aqualad.
  • Batman the Brave And The Bold tends to use minority legacy heroes in favor of their predecessors, despite the show being primarily influenced by Silver Age comic books. The Jaime Reyes version of Blue Beetle, the Ryan Choi version of the Atom, and the Jason Rusch version of Firestorm are all used in major roles on the show. The only white legacy hero on the show so far is Dinah Lance, the second Black Canary, the two exceptions being the Vic Sage version of the Question rather than Renee Montoya, and B'wana Beast instead of Freedom Beast.
    • Brave and the Bold is essentially Modern Age comics with a Silver Age flair. Note that the originals often appear as well. For example, Two entire episodes dealt specifically with Ted Kord (Blue Beetle II).
  1. Anti-Hero Substitute for the Eradicator and the Cyborg, for instance.
  2. Well, ethnically white. Actually green.
  3. No need to talk about Stephanie "Spoiler/Batgirl" Brown, who was briefly Robin, depending on who is doing the counting.