Matt is a South African Librarian that has been working in London for the past 13 years, he loves working with young readers and also enjoys working with adults when he has to.
Comics and Diversity
Historically comics have featured a lot of hyper-steroidal white men fighting other white men or (usually in times of war) evil minorities.
Finding diverse comics in the 21st century is slightly less difficult than it was back in the 1980s and ‘90’s and as Otis Redding sang back in 1965 ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ but it is coming extremely slowly.
So if you are struggling to find comics that do not feature straight whitesuperfreaks battling each other every month I have put together a list of some of the comics that I have enjoyed over the years that are a bit more than men in tights.
Growing out of the Blaxploitation craze of the 1970’s, Luke Cage aka Power Man was one of the first non-white super heroes. In the intervening decades Luke Cage has transcended his origins and can now be seen on Netflix as part of Marvel Entertainment’s growing television offer
The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the 21st century by Frank Miller & Dave Gibbons blew my young mind, it is a collection of a series of comics about the adventures of Martha Washington, a young black woman who fights her way out of poverty and joins an American peace-keeping force. This was my first introduction to satire in comics and remains one of my favourite series to this day! The trade collection may seem a bit intimidating so start with Give Me Liberty – the first story in the sequence.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew is an updated version of The Green Turtle – a comic that was created during World War 2 and just may have featured the very first Chinese super hero (seriously the afterword of this comic makes fascinating reading! Gene Luen Yang is one of my all-time favourite comics creators, his comic Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order was one of the first comics I read when I came to the UK.
Kamala Khan is a name that has been gaining a lot of attention in the comics world, she is (I think) the first Muslim American super-heroine, taking the mantle of Ms Marvel, Kamala has to juggle being a good Muslim teen with super-heroics and the trials and temptations of being a teenager in America. This is super-heroics with a sense of humour, and for many an introduction on what it means to be Muslim in America although that is not the focus of the comic it is an important aspect.
The Black Panther is famous for being the one of the first big name black super-heroes to feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther is also one of the best comic series being published today, written by amazing author Ta-Nehisi Coates, it really is worth picking up!
Not all diversity can be found in super hero comics, several years ago Archie Comics shocked the world by featuring their very first openly gay characters Kevin Keller, over the past few years Kevin has become one of the most popular and well-rounded characters in the Archie canon.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur has become a surprise hit for Marvel Comics, featuring 9-year old Lunella Lafayette canonically the smartest person in the Marvel Universe beating out Reed Richards and Tony Stark to that title, she acquires a time lost giant read tyrannosaur who decides he likes her and sticks around.
The first gay super heroes I encountered in comics was thanks to Warren Ellis writing Apollo and Midnighter, first in StormWatch and in the following title The Authority. Initially Superman and batman analogues Apollo and the Midnighter developed their own personalities and their relationship was one of the more interesting things in the series.
Wonder Woman is currently being written as a canonically bisexual character, this is not surprising as according to comics lore she came from Paradise island a place that was exclusively female until Steve Traynor crashed there and she had to return him to ‘man’s world’. Wonder Woman is an interesting character as she was created by William Moulton Marston a scientist who had an interest in bondage and domination. He created Wonder Woman as psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who he believed should rule the world.
Sidenote from Luna:
I’ve already started reading Ms Marvel & Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur – so good!