Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Peter Parker. These are the first names that come to mind when superheroes and comic book franchises are mentioned. All of these characters have several things in common: they all share the same gender, sexual orientation and race.
Marvel and DC both have a history of racism and sexism in some of their publications.
When it comes to A-list superheroes in Marvel and DC Comics, coming up with a solid list of characters that are female, queer or colored isn’t the easiest task. Surely, there’s Wonder Woman, Black Panther and Cyborg, but these are just big-name characters that happen to be members of underrepresented groups. For every Black Widow there is in Marvel Comics, there’s roughly 10 characters that can all be played by Zac Efron or Leonardo DiCaprio.
Marvel and DC both have a history of racism and sexism in some of their publications. For example, in DC’s “America’s Greatest Comics #2,” readers can see Shazam (formerly Captain Marvel) walking into his residence to be greeted by his very own slave– stereotyped with an abnormally large mouth and speaking ebonics. In addition to this, DC’s “Brave and Bold #78” included two powerful superheroines, Wonder Woman and Batgirl– fighting each other for Batman’s love and attention.
It’s because of this that for the past few years, Marvel and DC Comics have been emphasizing a need to represent minority groups in their publications. For example, in 2011, Marvel Comics created Miles Morales, a biracial Spider-Man who has a movie set to release in December 2018. They also introduced character Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel in 2013, a Muslim-American teenage girl from New Jersey that has the ability to shapeshift.
For any avid comic reader that’s a minority, this is great news: they’re finally getting more characters they can identify with. The problem is that these new characters are only being created to meet diversity quotas and aren’t really genuine, sometimes resulting in mediocre storylines and writing. Not only this, but a lot of these characters are just spin-offs of already popular characters, and aren’t really original.
And if comic companies think sacrificing creativity only to meet diversity quotas is okay, then why create these characters at all?
In the ‘90s, a small comic company (which became a DC subsidiary) decided to take representation into their own hands. Founded by the late Dwayne McDuffie, creator of fan-favorite “Static,” and the more obscure “Icon and Rocket,” Milestone Media created an entire universe of characters that represented racial minorities and females alike. Despite incredible storylines, DC, unfortunately, pulled the plug on Milestone Media in 1997, likely due to low sales.
“I’m much more interested in dealing with the stuff that’s going on now: more green characters with their own monthlies than black characters, a criminal lack of people of color in writing and editorial positions on mainstream books,” McDuffie said. “The last time I tried to write about that stuff in a mainstream book, my story was bounced (by the same people who asked me to write about it, mind you), and my editors wanted to replace it with clichés from 20 years ago.”
Milestone Media was the epitome of how diversity in comic books should be done— carefully written and articulate storylines by writers who actually show fidelity in the characters they’re writing stories about. Diversity quotas don’t make for great art, it’s
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