So the latest comic book property to catch the eyes of Hollywood execs is a little ditty called "The Weapon" from Platinum Studios. Never heard of it? Well, neither have we. Apparently, the comic's about a martial artist/inventor/businessman named Tommy who is able to create solid objects out of light--like Green Lantern, I suppose--and creates the superhero persona of "The Weapon" to market and promote his product. (For what it's worth, you can read the entire four-issue run here.)
The comic came out in 2007 and is now moving forward as a major motion picture. Granted, Platinum Studios' entire raison d'être is to create licensing opportunities for its comic properties, so it isn't a shock that there's a movie deal in place. What's shocking is who has been tapped to play the lead character--who, by the way is an Asian American guy named Tommy Zhou. The Hollywood trades are reporting David Henrie, star of Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place, has been cast in the lead as Tommy.
Since I've never seen an episode of Waverly Place, I can't speak to Henrie's acting ability. But having just read through the first issue of The Weapon online, it's pretty obvious that Tommy Zhou is an Asian American guy. And it's pretty obvious that David Henrie is not an Asian American guy. But more than that, Tommy is a character whose ancestry is a pretty major component of the book (for instance, the backstory he creates for his newly invented products is based on old Chinese myths his grandfather used to tell him as a child).
In the wake of casting controversies in movies like 21, The Last Airbender and Dragonball Evolution, it's a punch in the gut to see yet another Asian/Asian American character become whitewashed in the live action adaptation. (And unlike Avatar and Dragonball, the whole "the story doesn't take place on earth" argument doesn't even apply this time). More on this from Angry Asian Man and channelAPA.
On the one hand, we created Secret Identities to fill a void in the superhero comics world. (One of the things we do when talking on college campuses is to ask the audience to count how many Asian American superheroes there are). The reasoning is that seeing more diversity in comics will translate to other forms of media since comics seed so much of what is popular in entertainment. So it's even more troubling to see a wholly original Asian American superhero character be portrayed by the kid with no lines on How I Met Your Mother.
I guess we're wrong. Maybe Tom Cruise will play The Nisei Kid in the 9066 movie adaptation after all?