Robert Kirkman said that the "real lack of diversity" in the Invincible comics pushed him to prioritize representation centered around the main characters in the animated series.
Some fans criticized Invincible Season 1 after William Clockwell's story arc about coming out as gay from the comics was cut down when the series immediately established the character as gay.
This led to concern among the fanbase that representation was not being pushed to the forefront in Invincible, but this changed as the show progressed.
Invincible Creator Explains the Importance of Representation
In an interview with TV Guide, Invincible creator Robert Kirkman explained why they decided to race-bend the show's main characters and why representation matters in the series.
In the series, Mark Grayson is Korean American while his race is ambiguous in the comics.
Mark's girlfriend, Amber Bennett, is African American in the show while she is Caucasian in the comics.
Meanwhile, Debbie, Mark's mother is Korean in the series instead of being white like in the comics.
Kirkman first said that representation has been "really important" to the team:
"[Representation is] something that’s been really important to us. We have to recognize that a couple of dumb white guys made this comic book in the early 2000s. And there was a real lack of diversity in that series."
The Invincible creator then said that the fact that Mark's race in the comics is ambiguous made sure "everyone identified with [the character]:"
"And also, with the Invincible character himself, we talked to fans at all the conventions and places we would go, and because his ethnicity was ambiguous in the comics, everyone identified with him. We would have Filipino fans come up and say, I’m so excited that you made Mark Filipino, we would have Mexican fans come up and say, we’re so excited that you made Mark Mexican."
Kirkman continued by saying that being able to push representation in Invincible by doing things like race-bending helps fans to see themselves in a more meaningful way:
"And it was just amazing to see how important representation is on a personal level when you’re face-to-face with a person. Because I grew up at a time where I went to see 'Rambo,' and 'Die Hard,' and 'Terminator,' and every movie that came out when I was a child, and I watched a bunch of tough white guys do cool stuff. And I was like, this is a lot of fun. And you end up being in this bubble where you have no awareness of what it’s like to live in a world where you’re not seeing yourself reflected and all of these other things. So to be able to, in any small part, work against that is a tremendous honor."
This isn't the first time that Kirkman emphasized the importance of representation, with him telling Comic Book Resources (CBR) in April 2021 that the concept matters in the world of superheroes:
"I think representation matters -- not to get on a soapbox or anything -- especially in the world of superheroes. You don’t start getting non-white superheroes regularly until the ’70s and, even then, through the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, they’re still somewhat rare. There’s not a lot of these characters, to this day, that are different races."
Kirkman also said that representation "actually benefits projects:"
"Anytime something can be changed to bring more representation into it, I think it’s very important because there’s a tremendous amount of people out there who don’t see themselves in what they consume. But it’s also very important because there’s an audience hungry for this stuff; it actually benefits projects. So aside from being the right thing to do, it actually helps projects these days, which is a really great thing."
The series creator then noted that Mark's race could "literally be anything" since it is not essential to the character, noting that it would be a "responsible thing to do" to "do something with his race" in the show:
"And in the 'Invincible' comic, there is at no point in the comic book series where we say Invincible is white; his race is, more or less, ambiguous. There’s nothing about his race that is essential to that character, his race could literally be anything. I think because we were in that position, we decided it’d be a responsible thing to do, and a really cool thing to do, and do something with his race that was interesting in the animated series, and that’s why we decided to go down that road."
Why Invincible's Representation Elevates The Series
Invincible creator Robert Kirkman's strong comments about prioritizing representation for the series are crucial to its continued success.
The fact that the show race-bended its main characters allowed fans to connect and relate with them in many ways while also pushing its story forward.
Given that Mark Jackson falls under the umbrella of being an immigrant, it creates a big change from the comics that the show utilized well (so far) despite not directly mentioning it.
In the Season 1 finale, a clash between father (Nolan) and son (Mark) ensued. The pair's fight was eventful yet emotional, but it ultimately ended with Mark reminding his father about his love for his family.
Some would argue that Mark's compassion is rooted in his love for his human mother, thus addressing why he decided to fight back with compassion instead of a full-blown fistfight.
This essentially shows that Debbie's influence and shared Korean heritage with Mark acted as an anchor for him to make the right decision in the end.
Although Season 1 did not fully incorporate story arcs centered around Mark's biracial background, Kirkman's promising remarks may hint that Season 2 could push these representation stories into the forefront.
Invincible Season 2 is set to debut on Amazon Prime Video on November 4.