With solicitations for October being released, and plans for the next year coming into the spotlight due to next week’s San Diego Comic-Con, it seems one hot thing in comics is becoming clear, making diverse comics, for a diverse audience.
Publishers are acting on what’s been clear in indie and small press, that the tastes and wants of the comic reading audience is varied and diverse, just like the readers consuming them. At the beginning of the month I reported that those who self-identified themselves on Facebook as interested (liking) comics was almost 41% female. For some time now, women have made up between 40% and 47% of that population in my reports. They are here and they are legion.
This move towards diverse characters, and diverse voices, began years ago, with webcomics, digital comics, and a resurgence in independent comics. Technology like new social media tools, and Kickstarter has democratized what gets out there, and finds and audience. With the rise of digital comics, we’ve also seen publishers, outside the big two, diversifying their comics, and the creators behind them. BOOM! Studios with their expansion of KaBOOM!, BOOM! Box, and Archaia, Image Comics, and more are seeing success in many voices. BOOM! especially has mined web creators, giving them a stage in print to create, which has given us modern classics like Lumberjanes, The Midas Flesh, and more. Their success is most likely due to their diverse team of creators, and those behind the scene.
Archie Comics has been a leader in the charge as one of the most progressive publishers out there. They’ve moved out of the Pollyanna world the Riverdale gang lived in, and expanding the cast to include a diverse cast, the break out being Kevin Keller. Keller is such in the spotlight that Archie himself takes a bullet meant for the character in this week’s Life With Archie #36, creating media interest much like when Kevin first appeared. Archie has also dipped their toe into mature comics with their successful hit Afterlife With Archie, diving into the horror genre, which gets a sister publication in a similar take on classic character Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Today Archie went further and announced the initial line up of their Dark Circle Comics. In that announcement a new The Shield by writers Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig and artist Wilfredo Torres was part of the line-up. But, when I say “new Shield,” I literally mean a new Shield. What was once a male character is now female, a first for the character. It’s the latest example of the positive gender-swapping trend that’s not just limited to Archie alone.
Marvel has clearly noticed the shift, as they have launched (or announced) a total of 8 female led series. Elektra, Black Widow, Storm, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Thor, Ms. Marvel, an all-female X-Men team, and a female majority team in All-New Ultimates. Ms. Marvel even features Kamala Khan, a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey (when being from Jersey is the diversity, we’ve seen improvement) This week Marvel went on The View to announce the new Thor, with a woman taking over the role. Writer Jason Aaron says it best:
This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.
But an increase in estrogen isn’t the only change for the House of Ideas. On last night’s The Colbert Report Marvel’s Joe Quesada announced that Sam Wilson, The Falcon, will be suiting up as the new Captain America, in November’s All-New Captain America. That follows the company’s introduction years ago of Miles Morales as the new Ultimate Universe’s Spider-Man, and Miguel O’Hara’s recent push in Marvel’s 616 universe as Spider-Man 2099, with his own series debuting last week. The company is diversifying its stable of characters, and has gone so far as to jettison it’s house style of art, embracing new styles and looks, that have given many of their new books a unique voice in many ways.
Dynamite Entertainment has gotten in on the action with their relaunched Solar: Man of the Atom. The classic Gold Key character has had its gender swapped, switching from the classic/original one, to his daughter. She’s absolutely her own person, tackling issues in a completely different way than her father handled it.
Not to be outdone DC Comics has made steps in the right direction. Their announcement of Gotham Academy brings what sounds like a tween focused series, perfect as sister offering to this fall’s television show Gotham. The publisher has a new direction for Batgirl, giving the series and character a new lease on life, with a new down to Earth look that has received praise, and might be the best character design of the year. And behind the scenes, with their recent series announcements, DC has expanded their female creative team, adding new voices and styles to comics like Batgirl, Catwoman, and more. The company has stated diversity is a priority and we’re seeing it come to fruition. We also are seeing that in their offerings in television, with this fall’s iZombie, and soon on the screen with the likely rumored Wonder Woman movie.
Go to a convention, and walk through Artist’s Alley, and for years you’ve seen what’s starting to hit comic shop shelves, a diversity in characters, the creators behind them, and most importantly the fans excited about it all. While most discussion around comics is focused on the big two, this movement, and shift has been in the making for quite a while now thanks to the work and persistence of many. It’s taken a bit, but it looks like diversity is going mainstream. Today there is truly something out there in comics for everyone. And for that we should take a moment, recognize it all, and let it sink in.