One of the new additions is fiery mutant Sunspot, who will be played by Gui Agustini and is the subject of Marvel's latest casting controversy.
Tackling the X-Men '97 Controversy
X-Men '97 producer Beau DeMayo took to Twitter to address the controversy surrounding one particular casting in the upcoming animated series.
@LuvLife289: “Soooo you’re whitewashing now”
DeMayo: “Don’t even. Look who you’re talking to. Moving on.”
This comes as some fans took issue with the casting of voice actor Gui Agustini as the biracial Brazilian mutant, Sunspot. Despite Agustini also being from Brazil, the actor has a lighter skin tone than his character, which is where the "whitewashing" comment comes from.
Following up on DeMayo's blunt response, another Twitter user pondered why the producer would have such a visceral reaction to what they called "valid criticism," to which the Marvel showrunner retorted, "It’s not a valid criticism. It’s an uninformed one:"
@ChampagnePuthy: “It’s unfortunate that this is how you choose to respond. I was looking forward to this show but your behavior and response to this very valid criticism means I won’t be tuning in. I’ll be sure to my friends that’re X-men fans dont watch either.”
DeMayo: “It’s not a valid criticism. It’s an uninformed one and I will defend my decisions and my crew — which includes several POC who have experienced the same hate and hardship that the X-Men do. They are not toys for you to debate. And I will not indulge fans believing that they are entitled to be the arbiter of someone else’s identity, and whether or not they are 'this' or 'that' enough. It’s ignorant and a violation of that individual’s personhood and I will get in your way. Such behavior swaps class for disrespect.
DeMayo added "at the proper time, there’ll be plenty of insights into what decisions we made," and "when Marvel gives [him] the go, [he] will be very frank and transparent:"
"At the proper time, there’ll be plenty of insights into what decisions we made and why. When Marvel gives me the go, I will be very frank and transparent. But now I smell the same scent of enraged engagement that’s too common in our culture — where we myopically spot a single fallen leaf we don’t like for some reason and then demand the whole forest be burned down to satisfy our riled-up indignation.
Save yourself some stress and just wait. You may just be surprised.”
Another fan levied their concerns at the X-Men creative as well, telling him to "get it together." DeMayo noted that he "get[s] people’s concerns" but thinks fans should know he doesn't "tolerate people attacking someone’s identity:"
@unc4nny_xmn: “Beau girl imma be fawkin frl I been on your side for a minute defending you but it’s giving y’all need to get it together- cause i feel like you feel like your being attacked at all sides- which is true, but I just hope y’all see how you look rn…a mess”
DeMayo: “Look, I get people’s concerns. I truly do. But anyone who follows me also knows I don’t tolerate people attacking someone’s identity, and I believe in — let’s call it creative due process. You wait until the product is out and we will chat. I won’t get everything right. I can promise you that, but I will try my damndest too. Now I gotta get back to writing Season 2.”
One commenter brought up the idea of "Brazilian [not being] a race" as there are " white Brazilians, black Brazilians, mixed Brazilians, indigenous Brazilians etc." Because of this, the X-Men '97 producer admitted his "[responses were] poorly worded:"
@SpideParker: “Brazilian Is not a race tho. there are white Brazilians, black Brazilians, mixed Brazilians, indigenous Brazilians etc. Roberto is a Black Brazilian, and the dude u cast is white”
DeMayo: “I get what you’re saying and my response was poorly worded. Again, a lot of this is me dancing around what I can and cannot say”
After dozens of messages and one response using a leak from the series in their arguments, DeMayo closed with a lengthy message remarking that his Twitter account "will be going dark for a bit:"
“Well, guys, sad to say. This page will be going dark for a bit. Could be a week. Could be a year. I haven’t slept. Advocation matters. I value fan’s opinions but the sheer amount of vitriol in the last 24-hours is truly taxing, and actually risks working against what you’re trying to do as it’s now closed off an access point because I have to protect myself."
He reiterated, "Those of you who have spoken respectfully" will "be heard:"
"I have said several times, those of you who have spoken respectfully, I promise. You will be heard. There were many of you who got emotional and impassioned. I did too. It’s an emotional topic. I apologized. It happens. You definitely heard."
But DeMayo called it "disheartening" to see himself labeled a "race traitor" amongst other things over a "leak [he] can’t really discuss at the moment:'
"But those who attacked my body, lifestyle, intelligence, or who call me a race traitor over a leak I can’t really discuss at the moment. I am not the typical person you see in this position with this sort of property, and when users start trying to report me or get me fired, it’s disheartening."
Finishing his statement, DeMayo opined, "Part of what I champion about representation is the individual’s chance to finally tell their story in their voice:"
"Now, just because I’m this race or that identity doesn’t mean we’ll always agree. We value individualism. Part of what I champion about representation is the individual’s chance to finally tell their story in their voice. So if I don’t particularly like The Quiet Council, it’s not a litmus test die the end of the world and attacking or mocking me about it actually functions against the core of elevating and inspiring new creators.
Anyway, we can get this train back on teach but until then…"
What's the Big Deal With Sunspot's X-Men '97 Casting?
This is not the first time an X-Men character has been embroiled in a casting controversy.
The same sorts of comments were levied at the creative behind Fox's The New Mutants movie when they cast Henry Zaga as the live-action Sunspot, an actor with a significantly lighter complexion than his comic counterpart.
With the character traditionally being a Black biracial Brazilian in the comics, seeing his lighter skin, there are probably some legitimate critiques to be made when it comes to the look of the character in the X-Men '97 animated series.
Another instance came with the castings of Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp in the live-action Fox X-Men franchise as the iconic mutant Storm.
On the page, Storm's skin tone is quite dark, something that has yet to be captured on-screen.
When it comes to Sunspot, DeMayo seems to remain adamant the character's look and voice casting will all make sense when he can talk freely about the show. So fans may have to wait to get any sort of closure on this issue.
X-Men '97 is expected to release sometime this year, but recent reports revealed that date could be pushed.