Damian Wayne Isn’t White

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Damian Wayne Isn't White- But Why Tho?Recently, DC Comics announced more details about Super Sons: The Polarshield Project written by Ridley Pearson and illustrated by Ile Gonzalez for DC Comics’ new Zoom imprint for kids. The book features the Damian Wayne and Jon Kent in a similar to the DC Comic Super Sons and Adventures of the Super Sons. However, there is one major difference: Damian Wayne appears to now be white.

In the new book not only is Damian being drawn as a white boy with brown hair, he is also being called Ian.

For some context, Damian Wayne is the son of Talia Al Ghul and Bruce Wayne. While Bruce is a white American man born into extreme wealth, Talia’s origin is a bit murkier. Despite usually being played by white actors, the Al Ghuls are Arab. In Batman: Birth of the Demon Talia laments that her mother was of “mixed Chinese and Arab ancestry” while Ra’s was born to a tribe of desert nomads in the Arabian Peninsula some 700 years ago.

In most iterations of the comic, minus a few here and there, Talia and Ra’s are drawn with features that are more common for those of Middle Eastern and Asian heritage. When Damian first officially appeared – outside of being an unnamed infant in Batman: Birth of the Demon – in Batman and Son he was drawn with a similar skin tone as Bruce but over time he has been drawn with a more olive complexion that more closely resembles his mother. During Teen Titans: Rebirth, Damian was given an updated design and Jonboy Meyers throughout the run drew Damian with a darker complexion and clearly as a person of color. 

Many comic and media iterations of Damian have kept him close to his roots. The DC Animated movie Son of Batman shows Damian wearing garb traditionally consider to be of Arab origin. In the most recent Teen Titans Annual, Damian saves a Lebanese immigrant’s restaurant that he frequents because it reminds him of home.

Damian as a character is blunt, sometimes mean, and always in conflict with his own identity. He wavers between making his Father and Grandfather proud. So when DC Zoom announced in his new book he was going by “Ian,” many were understandably confused. Never in a comic iteration has Damian Wayne been called Ian and furthermore, no comic iteration of Damian has ever been drawn so white.

The name Damian is derived from the Greek Damianos, which is thought to be from damān (to tame). It is also a name that is listed in Muslim and Arab baby name sites, with examples of usage in Arabic, Urdu, and other South Asian languages. The name Ian, on the other hand, is the Scottish form of John.

Changing Damian’s name to one of a more Western origin is the most egregious form of whitewashing the character has ever experienced. Furthermore, anyone who knows the character would also know he isn’t prone to nicknames. He calls Bruce Father and calls his brothers by their given last names. It is hard to imagine that the character would give himself a new affectionate nickname let alone let someone call him that.

Super Sons: The Polarshield Project is out April 2019, but considering how Damian looks from the preview, I am greatly concerned about this line and the character’s future.

14 Comments on “Damian Wayne Isn’t White”

  1. I always thought Damian was of Aramaic descent as well as Caucasian

  2. This is so upsetting. You can see that there is a black girl on the cover who will most likely be a new main character. Its like the writers are scared of having two people of color. Damian deserves better.

  3. A fascinating insight considering DC fans’ recent upheaval over a black actress playing orange alien Starfire. Certainly the current political climate isn’t helping, but I’m starting to wonder if there’s something in the work cultures or development of DC and Marvel that so deeply impact their approaches to diversity.

  4. I am disgusted by Ridley Pearson’s whitewashing of Damian Wayne. This is simply unacceptable. There are no genes of even allowed Damian to have brown hair, since both of his parents have black hair. And changing his name? Damian, a boy who speaks formally, calls his brothers by their last name and his father, “Father”, will never have a nickname. Even if he has one, its not some dumb white name.

    1. Talia Al Ghul was depicted with brown hair in her first appearance in Detective Comics #411, and although sometimes depicted as black, it has been drawn as brown more often than not.

  5. Is this really that disquieting to people? Do we need to attribute identity politics to what color an artist chooses to use in their art? I’d go on but it’d mean nothing to those who center their lives around what color skin they have or seek to gain political points from the lowest common denominator.

    As for the nickname Ian it makes sense even if it is gimmicky (damIAN) and I would like context for that nickname (like is it for undercover use?) Secondly Ian is just a variant of John which has its roots in Hebrew (I AM is gracious) is what Ian/John means. Is it a a capital offense that hebrew can’t be used considering it’s right there in the middle east.

    Can we even make this into an objective argument instead of a subjective argument?

    1. Lol buddy I don’t know where you get your Hebrew from but there’s nothing resembling the Ian=I am=gracious thing. Closest is the Hebrew name Ilan (pronounces EE-lan) which is a kind of tree. There’s also the fact that while Hebrew and Arabic come from the same family tree they aren’t interchangeable as you seem to be implying. Never mind that nothing in Damian’s heritage is Hebrew.

      I think it would make more sense to you why this sort of thing is disquieting to people once you stop looking at it as an isolated incident and start seeing it for the pattern it is. it happens once, twice? Fine, it’s artist preference.When it happens consistently and a lot more than it happens to white characters something starts being fishy. Combine that with a history of successful PoC having their heritage and whatever else makes them different “erased” from their public persona and there’s an awful trend of which whitewashing is only a symptom.

    2. ‘English form of Iohannes, the Latin form of the Greek name Ιωαννης (Ioannes), itself derived from the Hebrew name יוֹחָנָן (Yochanan) meaning “YAHWEH is gracious”, from the roots יוֹ (yo) referring to the Hebrew God and חָנַן (chanan) meaning “to be gracious”.’

      behindthename.com

      John and Ian come from the same root, as the Greek iota and eta split into a consonant and vowel each. The name with J and H became John, and with I and A became Ian.

  6. For skin tone, well, he has been seen in multiple skin tones. It is ok to me. I mean, I am not sure how it works in America, you guys have the crazy for racial purity, but Damian is not “Arab” in an ethnic sense, he is mixed. As it happens, both europeans and east asians have light skin colours, an the the al-Ghul family seems to be in the lighter/olive skin tone. Damian having white skin in one instance is not really that suprising. What seems a sin is his brown hair now, where did they get it?

    That being said, olive skin Damian looks far better. And he being lighter skinned than Jon is double strange. That being sad, what happened to their noses? They are so point they can poke someone’s eye.

    And, Ian? As in, Jonian? Seriously, DC?

    1. As an Arab, I know for a fact that not all of us have darker skin.

      The people of the Sahara desert in Morocco have blond hair and blue eyes. While the people from Berber descent, have black hair and caramel colored skin.

      Honestly even if he was just Arab, without the Chines and American mix, he still could have turned out any skin color. I have a cousin with red hair and white skin (who is just Arab), but I have dark hair, eyes, and caramel skin (half Arab, half Berber).

      However, considering the genetic of his parents, he shouldn’t have brown hair. It literally should be genetically impossible. And it defiantly doesn’t make sense for his skin color to be lighter than Johns.

      But, what was wrong with his name???? Damian is perfect for him.

      It honestly feels like they wanted a new character, but were too lazy to design one.

      My personal favorite is his design in the teen titans rebirth. His look enhanced his character, and made him unique.

      1. Talia has often been portrayed with brown hair herself. She apparently has something in her genetic background that allows for her hair to be brown (unless she dyes it).

        Also, this isn’t the DCU, but a very different world. We don’t even know if Talia is Damian’s mother in this story.

    2. While he is mixed, DC kind of forgets his Arab/Chinese side a lot, so when people are upset that he’s more European looking or something it’s partly because half of his racial identity is erased often. Some people can’t tell he’s POC unless it’s spelled out clearly and that is a problem if you’re trying to write a nonwhite/mixed character. As a mixed kid, who is half European, I have identified with my non white side more often and I sure as hell am not as pale as “Ian” is. Mixed kid culture is all about acknowledging and embracing our heritage so it doesn’t really make sense that he’d be portrayed as “white” only. It’s less of a racial purity thing based on what I know. People not liking him having different skin tones is related to DC’s issue with continuity/consistency with his character. People do tan and get darker when it’s summer but with DC one day he’s got snow white skin and another day he’s like the tan on the crayola crayon but a little darker maybe. I don’t know about you personally but most people don’t have their skin color change so drastically. It’s fine he has lighter skin, it’s possible, but again he’d probably have more olive skin or darker given he’s probably spent a lot of time in deserts + his family. DC forgets this a lot. (See “Nightwing #1”. I was reading it, Damian made an apperance, and I was like “wtf”.)
      People wanting him to have darker skin seems to be a representation thing.

      This “Polarshield Project” is the actual worst, you cannot look me in the eye and tell me “Ian” is half Arab/Chinese.

  7. Different artists have varied his skin tone in different appearances, varying from average Caucasian white to what it called an olive complexion. His hair has previously been portrayed as black, but this is more likely inherited from his Caucasian father, who also has black hair, than his non-white mother, who is usually depicted with brown hair.

    However, this is a very different world from the main DCU, with a very different history. There are a lot of significant differences:
    – Countries and cities are very much different from the main DCU or the real world. For example, the US is known as Coleumbria there.
    – It is apparently set a few years futher in the future than the main DCU. Global warming has continued to the point where there is major flooding over much of the Earth. And Alfred has since passed away.
    – Damian is 13 and Jon 12. There is a three year age difference in the DCU (or was before Bendis made Jon 17).
    – Perry White is black in this world, as he is in the movies, and Jimmy Olsen is a woman (Jill Olsen).

    Considering all these differences, and further considering Damian’s mother isn’t mentioned in the story, who’s to say his mother even is Talia?

  8. I wish DC put more effort into making his character better. He has potential. DC has a lot is issues and I can’t really defend them when they got problems such as whitewashing…

    Unrelated, but does anyone know where the second picture in the last photo is from? The one where the author compares Ian to Damian? I’m trying to find that comic, it’s a really nice drawing style imo

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