The opportune release of the very highly rated Black Panther has us all talking, isn’t inclusion and diversity in comic book/superhero movies rather overdue? With the topic in mind, over the past few years, diversity has become not a gimmick, but rather a necessity as more and more entertainment mediums are trying to embrace diversity more proactively. In myriad forms, executives at these major comic book publishers have pushed this agenda through a) turning an existing comic book character into a minority group (i.e, turning Iceman from X-men gay), or b) creating and bringing new, diverse characters into the existing comic book continuity (i.e, having a new female character take the mantle of Thor).
Most of these decisions were met with a lukewarm response. However, occasionally, DC, Marvel, or Image would hit a goldmine. Exploring a minority protagonist or cast allowed publishers to add a robust dimension to their storytelling, as well as benefits for character building. While there are numerous diversity characters in the world of comics, here are five times mainstream comics got diversity right.
“I’d know him anywhere. He moves like jazz” comments the badass, homosexual, ultra-violent vigilante, about Nightwing on Tim Seeley/Tom King’s run on Grayson for DC New 52. Midnighter was co-created by the highly acclaimed comic book writer Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Planetary), for DC’s imprint ‘Wildstorm comics’.
Although Midnighter is not the first LGBTQ superhero in comic books, he’s one of the first to be openly gay, and married to another gay character, Apollo. Being more in the veins of The Punisher, Midnighter sadly had been relegated to the sidelines of DCU for much of his existence, but recently got his own series ‘Midnighter and Apollo’ as a part of DC Rebirth.
Another LGBT addition to our list, Batwoman got revamped for DC’s New 52 as a lesbian character. Mainstream comic book fans may be familiar with her recent appearance on a Batman animated film, Batman: Bad Blood.
Recently, during DC’s new 52 relaunch, DC Comics refreshed the character for modern audiences, with writer Marguerite Bennett (a queer themselves) writing the series, bringing a newfound LGBTQ sensitivity into the storytelling.
One of my personal all time favourite comic book characters. When Grant Morrison is writing, you know you’re in for a psychedelic joyride. A core cast member from the 1990’s comic, the Invisibles (basically the X-files meets the Matrix with a dash of 1984 on the highest quality DMT).
What can be trippier than badass Brazilian transvestite Shaman, drawing powers from a myriad elements of Mayan cosmology. Her gender identity and her traumatic past makes her a compelling character, and a formidable force within the Invisibles Universe.
Breaking into the mainstream in 1998 as a trilogy of superhero horror films directed masterfully by Guillermo Del Toro, Blade would pioneer what would later become the modern superhero movie boom at Hollywood. Although making his first appearance in comics in the 1970s, Blade was an iconic black character, a stand out among others such as Black Panther and Luke Cage.
What made Blade so compelling was how he handled, trapped between both worlds, being a vampire and retaining his humanity. A predicament not very different from what minority groups suffer. The acute identity crisis, the feeling of being neither here, or there.
One of the most iconic colored characters in memory, Ororo Munroe took the comic book world by storm, appearing as a member of the X-Men in 1975.
Hailing from a tormented past as a thief from the ghetto, to becoming the queen of a nation, Storm carved a niche for herself in the world of comics as one badass femme fatale. Being an Omega level mutant with command over weather, Storm has inspired numerous memorable comic book heroes and heroines over the years.
Honorable mentions: Spawn, Luke Cage, Miles Morales (Spider Man), the Mandarin (a formidable foe for Iron man, and considerably more interesting a character than his arch nemesis), Spawn.
Are there any diversity comic book characters that you feel deserves a mention? Please let us know!