Is this list definitive? I don’t think so. I just felt it needed to be made. Maybe because green is my favorite color.
9. Triton / Mike Moh – INHUMANS (2017)
Mr. Moh played the Inhumans’ version of Aquaman in full sea-green splendor. Unfortunately, INHUMANS was not a very good show, although it deserves credit for the racebending casting of Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon (whose name sounds green, doesn’t it?) and Ken Leung as Karnak, who is canonically not Asian nor green-skinned, although his costume is green (usually).
8. Killer Croc / Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)
Sure, Killer Croc traditionally is a Batman villain, but that was the whole premise of SUICIDE SQUAD, villains as heroes. Mr. Akinnuoye-Agbaje also played Kurse in THOR: THE DARK WORLD, but you may have missed him because he wore a full mask, and/or because you, like the entire world, didn’t see THOR: THE DARK WORLD. To be sure, SUICIDE SQUAD had plenty of POC actors in it (Will Smith, Karen Fukuhara, Jay Hernandez, Viola Davis), although they killed the one Native American character (Slipknot, played by Adam Beach) in like two minutes…and that was the least of that film’s many shortcomings.
7 & 6. Leonardo and Michelangelo – TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990)
OK, so Leonardo was voiced by Brian Tochi and performed by David Forman. Brian Tochi is a veteran character actor, voicing characters in animated series and video games ranging from JOHNNY BRAVO to BIONIC SIX to SAINTS ROW 2, and appearing physically in three out of the four REVENGE OF THE NERDS films. Michelan Sisti, a Puerto Rican actor, performed Michelangelo but didn’t do his voice, perhaps because Mike’s trademark surfer-dude-accent required the voice of authentic Southern Californian-born actor Robbie Rist? IMDB is inconclusive on the matter, although it says that only Sisti went on to the 1991 sequel, TMNT II: SECRET OF THE OOZE.
(P.S. if all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles look alike to you, don’t fret, you’re not racist. You’re just not a huge geek.)
5. Beast Boy / Ryan Potter – TITANS (2019)
TITANS doesn’t premiere until this Friday, but we’re already sure of one thing: Ryan Potter is green. Beast Boy/Changeling is arguably the most beloved green person in the DC Universe, owing to his snarky personality and the imaginative usage of his MANIMAL-esque power set.
4. Drax the Destroyer / Dave Bautista – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
Mr. Bautista has always done fine work in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY franchise, and I am totally shipping Drax and his non-green-but-partly-Asian teammate Mantis (that’s assuming I’m using the term “shipping” correctly, which I rarely do).
Also, Mantis IS green in the comics, but I guess they figured that would be one Green Guardian too many.
3. Hulk (honorable mention, because HULK)
Look, the point of this list is not to ignore white people who have played green people, nor POCs who have played blue people. I’m not trying to make you angry, because I wouldn’t like you when you’re angry. But I do like you when you’re Hulk. Part of Hulk’s broad appeal is, we’ve all got a Hulk in us. When he turns green and huge, he could be anybody. Like Spider-Man, his identity is fully disguised, yet his costume is his body and the color of his skin.
To my knowledge, Hulk has been played in film and TV by Lou Ferrigno, Eric Bana, Edward Norton, and Mark Ruffalo, all excellent actors. I don’t believe any of them would claim to be a Person Of Color. But they all have played the character who must control their anger and occasionally make themselves a pariah, because otherwise the Green Guy Will Smash. And I would like, someday, to see Amadeus Cho’s version of Hulk show up in the MCU.
2. Martian Manhunter / Phil Morris / David Harewood – SMALLVILLE (2006) and SUPERGIRL (2015)
Martian Manhunter is one of the most powerful members of the Justice League, with two different TV incarnations thus far. He’s a unique case because he’s a shapeshifter, and on Earth he morphs his natural green form into a human guise: sometimes a white guy, sometimes a black guy. In SMALLVILLE, we only glimpsed his green-ness once (as far as I know?) and for the most part appears as John Jones, an African-American man played by Phil Morris.
In SUPERGIRL, we get to see Martian Manhunter about equally in his human and alien form. The racial dynamics of Martian Manhunter’s option to appear as a human of any color or gender has been explored I think, but I couldn’t track down the storyline, so some true J’onn J’onzz fan please edify me.
1. Gamora / Zoe Saldana – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, INFINITY WAR, ETC.
Zoe Saldana elevates every geek film she’s in. I believe she may be, based on pure geek cred, the nerdiest actor in the universe.
Saldana is a great actor, but she’s also The Geek Actor, because whatever weird superhero-science-fiction-cat shit she’s called upon to do, she fully commits to the act: whether it’s speaking Klingon, embodying a feline alien warrior, or providing the welcome surprise of an emotional core in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. And of course, she wins this list with a bonus power-up gained from also being blue in AVATAR.
Which other green POC superheroes might we look forward to in the near cinematic future? I’m rooting for the Jessica Cruz version of Green Lantern to appear in whatever the next Green Lantern thing is, Cruz being one of the few definitively Latina characters in the Marvel/DC universes.
AND YEAH, I KNOW, Green Lanterns are not technically green (except for the ones who are). But their ability to make literally anything green demonstrates that green (like superhero fantasies, and racial divisions) are just a construct of the mind. And someday, HULK WILL SMASH PUNY CONSTRUCT.
P.S. Although she looks green-ish in a certain light, I’m pretty sure Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) in the upcoming CAPTAIN MARVEL is, as she is in the comics, blue. Perhaps in a future listicle, I’ll tackle the Blue and Purple Superhero casting choices.