Friday 6th February saw both DC and Marvel make some pretty big announcements about the near-future of their publishing lines; DC is launching 24 new titles following the end of their summer Convergence event whilst Marvel will be publishing an all-female Avengers team book called A-Force. The relative diversity of characters of these new DC titles has already received a lot of positive coverage and has been welcomed by a lot of fans. Increasing the diversity of lead characters in comics is an unqualified good thing; we can only benefit from there being more stories about female and POC characters from all kinds of backgrounds; comics should be an inclusive medium where the exploration of gender, ethnicity, world views, backgrounds, life experiences, and heritages, can serve to entertain, educate, and inspire all of us.
It is great that we will see more characters that are unique and exciting because of who they are and what they do, and are not considered ‘interesting’ just because they have a different gender or skin colour to that of the majority of comic book superheroes. It is similarly essential that there is an effort to increase the racial, gender and sex orientation-al diversity of comics creators too. The more diverse the writers and artists are then the more diverse their stories and characters can be. The total number of female creators involved in the new DC books is still relatively small (13), but this is a considerable increase from the number of female creators that were part of the New 52 (2! ). There is also a scarcity of LGBT representation in the books being published at DC – LGBT Batwoman Kate Kane has had her book cancelled, but post-Convergence will see gay character Midnighter get his own series. It is a shame there wasn’t room for both in the new line up. There is still plenty more work to be done to recruit more diverse creative teams and launch books with more diverse leads if there is going to be anything like parity with male creators/characters (and really it would be great at some point if female/non-white characters out numbered white male characters as we have 60 years of their stories already).
All of that said, a small step forward is still a step forward. It is pleasing to see that there seems to be a concerted effort at both DC and Marvel to broaden their target demographic, engage with readers from a wider variety of backgrounds, and to offer stories that aren’t just white hero guys trying to stop their ‘women’ from being kidnapped or getting fridged. Recent series like Batgirl, Gotham Academy, Bitch Planet, and Ms Marvel have been wonderful in their representations of strong female characters that aren’t just defined by being women. These characters are diverse in age, attitude, aptitude, body type, and beliefs, and their settings and stories are similarly diverse. In this regard Marvel’s announcement, that they will be publishing a new all-female team series by writers G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett (drawn by male artist Jorge Molina) is very welcome. Not to mention that it will finally be an Avengers book without the seemingly unavoidable Tony Stark in it!
The more books out there that have diverse leads then the more potential readers that get a chance to see characters like themselves being the heroes in the stories they read. Comics shouldn’t just be the preserve of white men, they should be for everyone. Just because a character doesn’t look like you, or come from the same background as you doesn’t mean that you can’t empathise with them or find their story immersive and compelling – but it is a great thing when people from all walks of life can see themselves in the entertainment we all consume. No one should feel marginalised, or excluded, or be forced to read about how only the white men get to save the day with their awesomeness. The power of comics is that they can transport us to other worlds where fantastic things are possible – it would be great if one of those fantastic things was equality and diversity.