Nate Moore’s Heroes
Here’s the thing you have to remember about diversity: It’s not just about numbers.
It’s not about trying to have one black man for every five white ones. It’s not about including a token woman in your film cast to hit the right demographic appeal. It’s not about trying to play a numbers game of “inclusion.”
It’s about what it means for a disabled child to know that Daredevil, a blind superhero, can kick ass with the senses he does have. It’s about a little girl seeing Black Widow and imagining that that could be her, too.
It’s about a young black boy growing up in California, so happy to read comics that had heroes who had the same color skin he did.
That boy, Nate Moore, grew up to become a Marvel Studios producer, and now he’s leading the push for diversity in the world’s biggest super-hero blockbusters — creating similar reflections for millions of young boys and girls worldwide. Currently, he’s scouting locations for a forthcoming film, followed by a stop in Hawaii for a meet-and-greet appearance at 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at Bar 35 in conjunction with the ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase (7 p.m. Sept. 2 at Hawaii Theatre), for which he served as a judge to select this year’s lineup. (For more on ‘Ohina, see the sidebar below.)
“It’s really comforting to have reflections that look like you in the media, whether that be comic books or film or television,” says Moore, who most recently served as executive producer on Captain America: Civil War. “You feel like you’re represented to the rest of the world.”
Moore grew up in Clovis, a small town in Fresno County. He liked watching movies and reading comics, as any kid does. But his special joy was following the latest adventures of the likes of Black Panther, Falcon and Luke Cage — black heroes fighting their own battles.
“Growing up African American in a predominantly white city is not always easy,” he says. But seeing these heroes in action made him feel, well, normal. “Reading those stories and seeing those characters brought to life, even characters like Storm in the X-Men, it felt like I had a place in that world.”
So, he followed it. After bouncing around the film industry, Moore ended up at Marvel in 2009, where he led the company’s in-house screenwriting program designed to churn out the next hit, a la 2008’s Iron Man, on film.
But Moore pushed to look at heroes other than Captain America, Iron Man and Thor — not just your standard big, buff white guys, in other words.
“One of the benefits that Marvel brings is a pretty big roster of characters of all ethnicities, ages, genders,” he notes. “We can tell stories about all kinds of people.”
He helped bring Guardians of the Galaxy — definitely an unorthodox crew — to life before jumping on to produce Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War.
One of his first moves was introducing fan-favorite Falcon, Captain America’s long-time partner, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Winter Soldier. Then he brought the king of Wakanda himself, Black Panther, to the big screen in Civil War.
Now his goal is to make one of those heroes the star of the show.
Currently in pre-production on Black Panther, Moore thinks Marvel has barely scratched the surface of the character.
“He is a king of an African nation, and that continent has been so loaded with a lot of different controversy and humanitarian missteps,” he says. “He exists in our world. He has problems that are recognizable.
“I think these characters are most successful when they feel like they have families and they have friends and they deal with issues that you or I deal with on a daily basis.”
See, that’s the thing about diversity. It’s not just about telling stories that happen to include diverse characters. It’s about telling good stories, period — stories that could not otherwise be told without that perspective.
“There’s something aspirational about superheroes that people respond to,” Moore muses. “That idea of people who, through self-sacrifice and a sense of ethics and morality, overcome evil — these stories are always universal. They’re stories that go as far back as cave paintings.
“They’re all stories about men and gods trying to do what’s right.”
And Moore says Marvel is telling these diverse stories not for the sake of it, but because these are stories worth telling.
He points to TV series like Luke Cage, premiering on Netflix this fall, about a bulletproof black man in a world where black men get shot every day, and The Runaways on Hulu, about the children of supervillains trying to defy legacy and find their own heroism (led by the Japanese-American sorceress Nico Minoru).
“Superheroes are just the next in a long line of those kinds of stories,” Moore declares. “While the stories and themes are familiar, the trappings seem so fresh … I don’t think it’s a fad. I think it’s something that’s going to last a long time.”
MARVELS NEVER CEASE
It feels like there’s always a new Marvel film on the horizon, but there’s just one left for this year: Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, hits theaters Nov. 4.
TV fans can get their fix sooner, though, since Power Man, aka Luke Cage, premieres Sept. 30 on Netflix.
After that, things get a lot more nebulous, though 2017 promises an onslaught at the theaters in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5), Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7) and Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3). TV fans should also look for Iron Fist, The Defenders and Cloak and Dagger.
And then, of course, in 2018, you can expect Black Panther (Feb. 16), Avengers: Infinity War (May 4) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6), plus Captain Marvel and more in 2019.
Then there’re a million more titles that Marvel’s only just teased (The Runaways, The Punisher, more Daredevil and Jessica Jones), plus all the ones they just haven’t told us about yet.
Moore tells us that he’s pretty hyped for the new perspectives Carol Danvers would bring, but we persuaded him also to confess that he’d personally love to see Sentry and the Thunderbolts in the MCU, though no such plans currently are in motion.
(If that’s still not enough superheroes for you, well, there’s always DC.)
‘OHINA SHORT FILM SHOWCASE
This year is poised to be a big one for the annual ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase. Not only did Marvel Studios producer Nate Moore act as a judge to help select the films, but it’s also moving to a new, larger venue at Hawaii Theatre.
“This is our first year at the Hawaii Theatre and a giant leap for us — going from 300 or so seats to 1,000-plus,” says ‘Ohina executive director Gerard Elmore.
And that’s not even mentioning the lineup they’ve got planned — which includes 12 films, all created by local filmmakers.
“We have a couple of premieres that we are really excited about,” Elmore says. One premiere that he is anticipating is called Holdout (pictured), which centers on a Japanese lieutenant during WWII who never gets word that the war ended and continues fighting.
“But I’m excited about all of them,” Elmore adds. “Judging from the scores from the judges, every film is going to be great. Films from different genres, all with unique voices and stories. Something for everyone. That I promise.”
‘Ohina was founded by film-makers Jeff Katts and Jason Suapaia in 1999 as a way to highlight works by local artists.
“The goal of ‘Ohina is to provide a venue for local talent to showcase their work, but ultimately we are actively trying to help build careers and connections for local filmmakers which, we hope, will help build our local film community,” Elmore explains.
The ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase takes place at 7 p.m. Sept. 2 at Hawaii Theatre. Doors open at 5:30. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit ohina.org.
Nate Moore’s Q&A is at 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at Bar 35. It’s free and open to the public.