Tag Archives: Marvel Studios

For Your Consideration: Ned Leeds/Ganke in the Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer

Welcome to another installment of “For Your Consideration”, every one of which thus far has covered comic book and video game movies [and this week’s is no exception]. The point of this particular feature was to present just the facts, allowing readers to come to their own conclusions, as well as to cobble together a short post due to a lack of time to devote to a longer piece. The latter is less applicable this time around as this required a lot of research and was not at all published in a timely manner.

Thursday night marked the premiere of the first ever trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, as well as the international trailer online. What caught my eye watching it, and what I’m going to detailing below, is the appearance of Ned Leeds, played by actor Jacob Batalon. Below I’ve compiled a timeline that tracks the history of that character, another character named Ganke from the comics, as well as the film franchise’s track record with diversity.


asm18November 1964Ned Leeds debuts in Amazing Spider-Man [Vol. 1] #18. His character is a field reporter at the Daily Bugle, where he meets Peter Parker and Betty Brant, the titular hero’s ex-girlfriend who he will one day marry. In later years Leeds went on to become the villain Hobgoblin for a spell, and was later killed [though you know what they say about death in comic books].

Ned Leeds is, as so many comic book characters at the time, a White man with brown hair and blue eyes.

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Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man  (Vol. 2). Written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Sara Pichelli.

November 2011: Ganke Lee debuts in Ultimate  Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man [Vol. 2] #2. His character is the best friend of Miles Morales, a half-Black/half-Latino teenager and the new hero headlining the title.

As pictured on the left, Ganke is of Korean descent and a larger kid. The character is also shown to be a fan of LEGO blocks, or whatever non-copyright-infringing alternative can be found in the Marvel universe.

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April 30th, 2014
:
 IndieWire former chief creative officer for Marvel entertainment and founder of Marvel Studios Avi Arad is interviewed by Indiewire. When asked if “Spider-Man in the cinematic realm [would] always be Peter Parker” [in reference to Morales ever taking the role] he responded: “Absolutely.” I further covered his comments a week later.

February 9th, 2015: After a two failed Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield it’s announced that Sony Pictures would be partnering with Marvel Studios to produce a new film for the character that takes place within the latter’s cinematic universe. President of Sony Entertainment Motion Picture Group Doug Belgrad cements which iteration of the superhero will be webslinging across the silver screen, saying [emphasis added]:

“This new level of collaboration is the perfect way to take Peter Parker’s story into the future.”

barbieriJune 6th, 2016: It’s revealed that fourteen-year-old actor Michael Barbieri has been cast in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming.
ComicBook.com reveals that, according to its sources, Barbieri’s character will be new, and “based off the Ultimate Spider-Man character Ganke.”

As seen on the left, Barbieri is currently not particularly heavyset, and is also not Korean or of Asian descent at all. It’s also worth noting that Peter Parker and Ganke Lee do not currently have any kind of relationship within the Marvel universe as the latter is a stalwart part of Miles Morales’ supporting cast.

June 15th, 2016Likely in response to an article making the rounds that directly states “Marvel Casts Michael Barbieri as Ganke in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming'” director Jon Watts goes on record to deny claims of whitewashing in a couple of tweets:

July 25th, 2016: At Marvel Studio’s film panel at Comic-Con International: San Diego this year three cast members are confirmed for Spider-Man: Homecoming. One of the three is Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds. The actor describes the role he’s playing as being Peter Parker’s “best buddy.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKivPFzgg-K/?taken-by=lifeisaloha&hl=en


EthniCelebs
, while likely not the most reliable of sources, notes that Batalon was born in Hawaii and lists his ethnicity as “Filipino, possibly other”.

November 15th, 2016: In addition to the Comic-Con announcement made several months earlier, Batalon reveals on KHON 2 News, a Hawaiian program, that he will be playing Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He reiterates that Leeds is “Peter Parker’s best friend in the film.”

December 8th, 2016: As mentioned,  the first Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer premieres on Jimmy Kimmel Live!; the international trailer likewise makes its way onto YouTube.

December 8th, 2016: A number of top comments in a thread dedicated to the newly released trailer on /r/comicbooks focus on Leeds’ similarities to Ganke.

basicallyganke

“So Ned Leeds is basically Ganke?”

December 9th, 2016: Comic Book Resources publishes an article titled “No, That’s Not Ganke In The Spider-man: Homecoming Trailer”. The second paragraph reads:

“Admittedly it’s a very easy mistake to make. As we see in the trailer, Batalon plays Spider-Man’s best friend and one of the only people to learn his Spider-secret. Ganke Lee, a supporting character introduced in 2011’s “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #2, is also the best friend of a Spider-Man and also knows his secret identity. And yeah, both Batalon and Ganke are of Asian descent (Batalon is Filipino American and Ganke is Korean American). To be honest, maybe Batalon should be playing Ganke. But he’s not — he’s playing Ned Leeds.”

The final line hammers that point home, with columnist Brett White writing, “So right now, Spidey’s best friend looks and sounds a lot like Ganke — but he’s not Ganke. He’s Ned Leeds.”

December 9th, 2016: Inverse, the website responsible for the article Watts was likely responding to back in June, publishes another titled “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Appears to Have Jacked a Miles Story”. Their coverage includes tweets from comic book fans who find the inclusion of Ned Leeds as he appears particularly damning, with one noting:

The article also highlights a moment within the trailer, drawing comparison between it and a moment in the comic books.

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Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man (Vol. 1). Written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by David Marquez.


To summarize, Jacob Batalon will be appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming as Ned Leeds, Peter Parker’s best friend. He bears a very heavy [no pun intended] resemblance to Ganke Lee, Miles Morales’ best friend in the comics. While the appearance of an Asian character in a major role certainly backs up Watts’ desire for the Queens depicted to reflect being “one of—if not the—most diverse places in the world” what may need to be addressed, by Watts or whoever else, are some fans’ concerns about poaching a POC character from another POC character’s story.

Miles Morales ever making an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has yet to be confirmed, but the question many have been asking since Thursday’s trailer dropped was if Ganke showing up is even possible now that this Ned Leeds exists onscreen.

Captain Marvel Pushed Back Again, Company Apologist On Verge of Giving Up

In the beginning, I could not be more excited for Marvel Studios’ upcoming slate of comic book movie offerings. While I noted [and mourned] Black Panther’s absence from their list of Phase 2 films in 2012 I was forced to eat my words a couple of years later, when they announced solo films for both him and Captain Marvel [a female hero!] at a special event.

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Yes, as you can see from the mock-ups they released on the right both were slated to drop on November 2017 and July 2018 respectively, with a good number of years ahead for casting, finding directors, pre-production, extensive post-production for VFX, the whole deal. Like I mentioned, I was ecstatic for what was to come and by no means worried that they were rushing things.

Sure, both films were being released after Captain America: Civil WarDoctor StrangeGuardians of the Galaxy 2, and Thor Ragnarok, three sequels, two of which are the third for their respective franchises, but I could wait! Things were changing for ol’ Marvel Studios, and for the better.

And then the announcement early this year that Sony was willing to cut a deal with Marvel, allowing the latter to use Spider-Man in their cinematic universe! This news was met by much of the internet with a long drawn out finally. Fans had been waiting to see the webswinger alongside other such heroes as Iron Man and Thor and it was all coming to pass! The comic book movie gods smile down upon us!

Except that that wasn’t the announcement in its entirety. Over on their website Marvel revealed that Peter Parker’s induction into their lineup would result in schedule conflicts, namely [emphasis added]:

Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” will hit theaters November 3, 2017. The following year, Marvel’s “Black Panther” will make its way to theaters on July 6, 2018, and Marvel’s “Captain Marvel” on November 2, 2018. Finally, Marvel’s “Inhumans” will now debut in theaters July 12, 2019.

Over at tumblr bookerdewitch summed it up more perfectly than I ever could:

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe Moves On [Without The Black Panther]

We all saw The Avengers; let’s not lie to ourselves here. It’s the third highest grossing film of all time, and we are the reason for that. As of earlier this month Joss Whedon was confirmed as returning to direct the sequel, with the film due to hit theatres on May 1st, 2015.

With a bit of a wait between movies, a buffer of films is currently in the works, including sequels Captain America: The Winter SoldierThor: The Dark World, and, probably the most highly anticipated, Iron Man 3. Also on the docket is the spacefaring super-group Guardians of the Galaxy.

All of this news pleases me. What’s problematic is that when researching this article I found out that the Marvel Studios have a model of “releasing just two films per year.” So let’s see what we have here:

  • Iron Man 3 – May 3rd, 2013
  • Thor: The Dark World – November 8th, 2013
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier – April 4th, 2014
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – August 1st, 2014

With those four films taking up the next two years a horrifying fact emerges:

Marvel will not be making or releasing a Black Panther film before the next Avengers movie comes out.

Let me back up a little. Black Panther is, as comic book fans know, T’challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. It is an extremely technologically advanced country, and the character himself has a PhD in physics, as well as being a master hunter, martial artist, inventor, and politician. On top of that he wears a suit made of vibranium, the same stuff Captain America’s shield is made of. He’s like if Batman were also the president and he is awesome.

Adding the Black Panther to the Avengers’ roster is not only has precedence in the comics, but it would also add the much-needed diversity that the first film was so sorely lacking. Marvel Studios co-president Louis D’Esposito discussed the possibility of a film starring the Wakandan king by admitting that:

“He has a lot of the same characteristics of a Captain America: great character, good values,”

Which is true. But he doesn’t stop there, going on to say :

“But it’s a little more difficult, maybe, creating [a world like Wakanda]. It’s always easier basing it here. For instance, ‘Iron Man 3’ is rooted right here in Los Angeles and New York. When you bring in other worlds, you’re always faced with those difficulties.”

Cue outrage from fans everywhere. The general argument against the statement above being that a sizeable portion of Thor took place in Asgard. Asgard, the mystical dwelling of the Norse gods. But playing devil’s advocate, as I try to do, perhaps Marvel execs are afraid of portraying Africa badly. Counterpoint: Wakanda is a pretty well-to-do place. Point: maybe they’re afraid of portraying the continent insincerely? Counterpoint: it’s a comic book movie. Point: but, but, but . . . Counterpoint:

Those eyes sneer at D’Esposito’s claims.

Djimon Honsou is a number of things. An immensely talented Beninese American actor is one. The guy everyone wants to play the Black Panther is another. Honsou actually voiced the character for a short-lived TV series on BET which was essentially a motion comic.

Honsou himself has said in a 2010 interview with MovieWeb.com that:

“It is true that I have said certain things about it some time ago and that I would love to play the Black Panther. Also the opportunity came to do the voice over for the animation so I did that, maybe in the hopes that one-day they would finally get around to doing a movie. We have so many super heroes, but none that really defines the African American. I thought it could definitely happen and I have tried to push that envelope before.”

And if that wasn’t enough, Stan Lee himself is on the record as answering the question “What obscure characters would you like to see adapted into a big budget film?” in an AmA [Ask Me Anything] on reddit. His answer was this:

“Black Panther. He’s not too obscure, I hope.”

If the fans, the actor, and Stan “The Man” Lee [who also co-created the character] are all pushing for this there’s really no reason it should not or cannot happen. All that’s standing in the way are a bunch of executives too willing to take the way that’s “always easier.”