Recently, DC Comics announced more details about Super Sons: The Polarshield Project written by Ridley Pearson and illustrated by Ile Gonzalez for DC Comics’ new Zoom imprint for kids. The book features Damian Wayne and Jon Kent in a similar to the DC Comic Super Sons and Adventures of the Super Sons. However, there is one major difference: Damian Wayne appears to now be white. But, Damian Wayne isn’t white.
In the new book not only is Damian being drawn as a white boy with brown hair, he is also being called Ian.
For some context, Damian Wayne is the son of Talia Al Ghul and Bruce Wayne. While Bruce is a white American man born into extreme wealth, Talia’s origin is a bit murkier. Despite usually being played by white actors, the Al Ghuls are Arab. In Batman: Birth of the Demon Talia laments that her mother was of “mixed Chinese and Arab ancestry” while Ra’s was born to a tribe of desert nomads in the Arabian Peninsula some 700 years ago.
In most iterations of the comic, minus a few here and there, Talia and Ra’s are drawn with features that are more common for those of Middle Eastern and Asian heritage. When Damian first officially appeared – outside of being an unnamed infant in Batman: Birth of the Demon – in Batman and Son he was drawn with a similar skin tone as Bruce but over time he has been drawn with a more olive complexion that more closely resembles his mother. During Teen Titans: Rebirth, Damian was given an updated design and Jonboy Meyers throughout the run drew Damian with a darker complexion and clearly as a person of color.
Many comic and media iterations of Damian have kept him close to his roots. The DC Animated movie Son of Batman shows Damian wearing garb traditionally consider to be of Arab origin. In the most recent Teen Titans Annual, Damian saves a Lebanese immigrant’s restaurant that he frequents because it reminds him of home.
Damian as a character is blunt, sometimes mean, and always in conflict with his own identity. He wavers between making his Father and Grandfather proud. So when DC Zoom announced in his new book he was going by “Ian,” many were understandably confused. Never in a comic iteration has Damian Wayne been called Ian and furthermore, no comic iteration of Damian has ever been drawn so white.
The name Damian is derived from the Greek Damianos, which is thought to be from damān (to tame). It is also a name that is listed in Muslim and Arab baby name sites, with examples of usage in Arabic, Urdu, and other South Asian languages. The name Ian, on the other hand, is the Scottish form of John.
Changing Damian’s name to one of a more Western origin is the most egregious form of whitewashing the character has ever experienced. Furthermore, anyone who knows the character would also know he isn’t prone to nicknames. He calls Bruce Father and calls his brothers by their given last names. It is hard to imagine that the character would give himself a new affectionate nickname let alone let someone call him that.
Super Sons: The Polarshield Project is out April 2019, but considering how Damian looks from the preview, I am greatly concerned about this line and the character’s future.