With rumours appearing recently that Lewis Tan was cast as Batman on DC Universe's Titans, debate began to stir online over whether or not a non-white person could play Bruce Wayne/Batman. It was a very similar discussion to the one that occurred when it was rumored that Michael B. Jordan was being courted for the role of Superman after Henry Cavill was reported to be departing the DC cinematic universe.
As expected, this new argument has brought forth vocal fans who don't want DC to tinker with the traditional depiction of Bruce being a white philanthropist, the same character we've known since 1939's Detective Comics #27, and in the plethora of comics, cartoons, animated films, video games and live-action movies since.
There are actually many solid reasons why Titans, at very least, could have been a fertile testing ground for such a change to a major superhero. After all, ethnicity doesn't really matter as long as the character is done justice, does it?
Seriously, why not? Bruce Wayne has been a white crimefighter in most Batman comics, using his millions of dollars as a vigilante to safeguard the world. So too has Tony Stark, not to mention Danny Rand (Iron Fist) and tons of other characters from both Marvel and DC.
It's about time we get someone under the cowl who reflects another perspective into the world we live in today -- a multiracial, melting pot where rich dudes aren't only white. While we're on the topic, one could make the same case for Superman. There are, after all, black farmers in Kansas.
To integrate race in such a way to iconic mainstream superheroes is a great way of getting more buzz around the topic of representation. People of color often don't get considered for big superhero casting because when the characters were created, the industry was run by white people making white characters, and the drive to change hasn't typically been strong.
Luckily, though, that has been changing. In comics, we have seen many different Superman of many different races, like the recent New Super-Man of China. We have also had a black Captain America. In films, everyone from Valkyrie and Electro at Marvel to Catwoman at DC have been recast with actors of color. as seen most recently with Warner Bros. casting Native Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa as Aquaman.
While an exploration of "The Other" might be more ingrained in the Aquaman mythos, a similar casting into the Batman role wouldn't just be a bold experiment, it would also afford the character new avenues of narrative exploration. If nothing else, the potential for fresh storytelling with that new perspective would be enticing for many fans of the character.
At the same time, there is precedent for Batmen of color within DC Comics continuity. Take Luke Fox, aka Batwing, for example. He is the rich, scientific genius son of Lucius Fox, armed with a cutting-edge suit of armor. There is also the French-Algerian Bilal Asselah, also known as Nightrunner, the Batman of France, and Jiro Osamu, aka Mr. Unknown, the Batman of Japan.
Stories about these heroes -- or any of the other international Batmen of color introduced in Batman Incorporated -- would be fantastic, but putting a person of color in the main Bruce Wayne/Batman role would be the most impactful, and it could be done easily.
Television Offers The Perfect Testing Ground
Right or wrong, the decision to cast Batman as a person of color would be immense, especially on the big screen. Michael B. Jordan as a black Superman would be fantastic, as would having a female Captain America, but perhaps the best place to test such a move with an audience is on television.
More than film, television audiences are already used to swaps of race, gender, creed and sexual orientation, as seen with characters like Jimmy Olsen on Supergirl or the West family on The Flash. So far, ethnicity changes haven't damned any of these shows, other than the usual conversations that always permeate these steps. Moving the markers up a character tier, from a Kid Flash to a Batman, seems to be the next logical step for exploring the possibilities of representation in on-screen superhero stories, and Titans would have been a prime testing ground.
The show is clearly an alternate universe take on the team, so the opportunity is there to buck tradition and start pushing Hollywood out of its tunnel vision. The fact this conversation still has to happen in 2018 is telling, but all it takes is just one big move to get the ball rolling. Once that happens, it's just a matter of time before the big screen follows suit.