This week Marvel announced the lineup of their newest Mighty Avengers team: Luke Cage, She-Hulk, The Blue Marvel (please look this dude up, he is awesome!), White Tiger, Power Man and Spider-Man. The team has two African-American characters, an Afro-Dominican character and a Latino character. Years ago this would not have been possible and would have been viewed as diversity being “shoved down people’s throats”.
This roster, as well as the overall diversification of the Avengers, is inspiring because it breaks the rule of three, that “if there are three black people in it, it is a black product… You can have two black guys, although it is a stretch; if you have three it is a black show”. It’s impressive that Marvel’s fan base has not made this an issue. Although most writers of the diverse titles have been white, there is no doubt that if they had been black or Latino, many fans would have felt more threatened by the diversification. Here are three brands showing refreshing progress related to race and diversity in comics.
The Avengers titles have seen the most changes to integrate their membership. Brian Michael Bendis made Luke Cage a star attraction in New Avengers. Cage is one of the deepest characters in comics and one of the only to balance his life as a hero, husband and father (recently leaving the team to spend more time with his wife and child). He was the heart of the New Avengers, and his acceptance as their leader influence the push for more diversity within the other Avengers titles. Jonathan Hickman’s main Avengers title has a diverse cast including Eden Fesi (Aboriginal Australian), Sunspot (Brazilian), the new Captain Universe (African-American), Cannonball (country boy), Shang-Chi (Chinese), the Falcon (African-American), and more joining each day as the team expands. Hickman’s New Avengers has put Black Panther center stage and gave the character much needed direction after he got lost during his run as the Man Without Fear (still pissed about that bullcrap). Young Avengers features a Latino Miss America, as well as one of the best couples in comics, Hulkling and Wiccan.
Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers directly deals with issues of the integration of the mutant and human population which have always been an analogy for race relations. The title had a lot of potential but Remender has shown no insight or sensitivity to the race issues it deals with. While Remender is a talented writer, his insensitivity towards minorities has led to me boycotting his work. I felt uneasy with the team’s creation when it was deemed the “unity” squad; portraying integration under the control of a non-mutant Captain America as the way to peace (please do not debate that Havok is the leader, he is the token “good mutant” chosen by Captain America).
Compared to X-Men, Avengers is still a man’s team, filled with hyper-testosteroney muscle heads. One cannot refer to the Avengers without mentioning the big three- Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, but Black Widow is quickly become one of the major players. On the other hand, Young Avengers has done a wonderful job creating strong, memorable female characters.
The X-Men have historically been a radical analogy for diversity, race, religion and sexuality. In the past, most tales have been the integrationist X-Men vs the ignorant racists vs the “evil mutants” who believe in mutant solidarity and power. Over the past few years, many X-Men have matured and taken on different views. No longer are there “good mutants” and “evil mutants” within the X-Men mythos, instead there are differing ideologies, some more extremist than others, but all are portrayed with empathy.
In the 1990’s when I first started reading comics, fans were compelled to choose between Marvel and DC; Today, fans chose between the Cyclops’ mutant separatist and mutant power themed Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine’s integrationist team, and the view point of the ignorant oppressive Avengers(AKA the machine).
The X-Men recently had a bestselling launch of a self-titled series starring an all-female cast. The success of Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Psylocke, Jubilee and Rachel Grey shows the marketability and potential of strong female characters.
Ultimate Comics: Spiderman is the best written series in the Marvel Universe. Miles Morales is the star of the series; a multi-racial, half black, half Latino Spider-Man who juggles family, school, friends and heroics with the same guilt, neurotic-ism and anxiety that everyone loves about Spidey. Morales learned that “with great power comes great responsibility” due to the guilt of seeing Peter Parker die while he did nothing due to fear. His title is an emotional roller coaster featuring a supporting cast that is both relate-able and realistic. He added much needed diversity to the mythos of one of the major players in the Marvel Universe.
I believe that, in a few years, if Marvel sticks with Morales as Spidey, he will be an iconic hero, hopefully headlining the Spider-Man reboot we should have gotten last year.
Marvel is definitely moving forward. We still do not have much religious diversity. As a whole, most females are always drawn with the same body (oy). The Northstar wedding seemed to highlight the lack of gay and homosexual characters more than anything, but we are making progress. (Granted, I haven’t mentioned many other demographics still lacking in representation.) We fangirls and fanboys represent diverse demographics. We are united by our love for the mutants, freaks, heroes and villains of the marvel U; A marvel U that is looking and feeling more like us.
Jay Deitcher, LMSW(
@mrdeitcher) embraces the term MUTANT and proudly represents his MUTANT brothers and sisters. He is an educator on comic history and runs successful Free Comic Book Day events yearly. You can see a listing of his incredible articles at JayDeitcher.com.