Captain America Issue #1

Comic Books Change Characters In Name Of Diversity

Comic books always featured stories of characters changing from one persona into another, but relatively recent evolutions in the industry have comic book companies and creators increasingly focusing on having their characters going through changes of the diversity kind.

The Associated Press highlighted the new black Captain America in an article on December 16 but it also reported on all the different changes major comic book characters are going through under the guidance of the current guardians of the four-color world. “Mainstream comic book superheroes — America’s modern mythology — have been redrawn from the stereotypical brown-haired, blue-eyed white male into a world of multicolored, multireligious and multigendered crusaders to reflect a greater diversity in their audience.”

The AP spoke with Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, who talked about this diversity metamorphosis in comic books. “‘Roles in society aren’t what they used to be. There’s far more diversity,’ said Alonso, who has also shepherded a gay wedding in the X-Men, a gender change from male to female in Thor and the first mainstream female Muslim hero in Ms. Marvel.”

The article noted that Marvel isn’t alone in pursuing an emphasis on diversity in comic books. “An alternative black Superman, one who is president of the United States, is part of a team in DC Comics’ ‘The Multiversity.’ DC also brags of having more comic books featuring female leads than any other company, including Batgirl, Catwoman, Batwoman, and Wonder Woman, the longest-running comic book with a female hero.”

But is the emphasis on diversity in comic books a success? That depends on who you ask.

A recent issue of Batgirl came under fire for what critics deemed a negative portrayal of diversity. A writer using the name of J. Skyler at Comics Alliance criticized issue #37 for having a man pose as Batgirl.

“It’s with a heavy heart I’m forced to discuss this long-standing media trope within the context of Batgirl, the one area of geek life I considered to be a safe-zone. Within the pages of Batgirl #37 we come across an impostor posing as Batgirl who ultimately plans to kill her in order to assume her identity. As you might imagine, my eyes nearly rolled into the back of my head, accompanied by an aggravated sigh, when the would-be murderer was revealed to be an individual assigned male at birth.”

Bleeding Cool noted such criticism caused “the creative team (but not DC Comics)” to apologize. But the same Bleeding Cool article then noted that those criticizing the Batgirl plot were criticized by those who thought such criticism unfair.

And if success is defined by sales and reader interest, then advocates for diversity in comic books just received some bad news. Comicbook.com recently reported the cancellation of one title featuring a main character that epitomizes the diversity push. “The loss of Batman family titles is always unexpected, especially when one of them is a title like Batwoman, which has been ongoing since the launch of the New 52 and is DC’s only title featuring an LGBT title lead.”

The Inquisitr reported on how Marvel Comics changed its character Thor from a man to a woman earlier this year, which some speculated was done so in the interest of having more diverse characters in the Marvel line of comic books.

[Image via Marvel Comics]

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