By Shanna Bowie
Even though I’m not above criticizing one of my favorite franchises for its shortcomings, I’m also not so petty that I won’t give credit where it’s due. Over the summer Marvel comics engaged in a complete overhaul of its universe with the Secret Wars story arc. The main storyline follows Dr. Doom, his allies and detractors as they try to figure out what happened after the collapse of the two Marvel universes. There have been a myriad of strong titles to come out of this event (believe me when I tell you that my wallet has suffered) and some of the highlights have been A-Force, an all-female Avengers team, Infinity Gauntlet, fronted by a young Black girl named Anwin Bakian and Secret Wars 2099, which features two women of color as Black Widow and Captain America.
And lest this seem like some sort of stunt, Marvel continues to double down on diversity with the announcement of their post-Secret Wars titles. In the All-New All-Different Marvel, there are more than 10 female lead titles, one of which features a pregnant superhero (I have no idea what’s going to happen but I’m excited). With the various superhero team-up titles, all of them prominently feature heroes of color like Miles Morales’ Spiderman and Monica Rambeau. Many of the popular female led titles such as Spider Gwen, Ms. Marvel and Thor are all continuing. As more announcements of new series continue to roll out, Marvel’s commitment to diversifying is evident. Recent announcements include November’s release of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur whose star is a precocious, bespectacled African-American little girl with afro-puffs and a pet dinosaur. Also Red Wolf, a Native American character coming out of the Secret Wars’ 1872 book will be getting a solo title in December.
Beyond gushing over what Marvel is doing, let’s talk about what this means. One of the two giants in the comic book industry is not saying that it is committed to diversity but rather diving head first into it. One thing I really give credit to Marvel for is embracing its history and radicalizing it. They are taking characters and racebending and genderbending them without ignoring the ramifications of it. One of the great things about the female Thor is that while she still kicks butt, the other characters openly discuss and address her gender. In the All-New Captain America, Sam Wilson has to defend his right as a Black man to be Captain America. It’s a subversive way to openly address the detractors who complain about Marvel opening up their universe to fully include women and people of color at the forefront. At this point, I’m kind of tithing to Marvel and I admit; I’m a fan. There’s lots of diversity in the smaller comic houses and I will always recommend them to first time buyers but having one of the majors take a running leap towards representing something beyond the standard superhero is affirming. Marvel recognizes that we are here and we want to see ourselves reflected back on the page. And that is empowering.