In the last year or so, we've seen a lot of innovative changes in comics and announcements about future comic movies that have led the internet fan-boy nation to declare this a new age of diversity; diversity both in terms of races as well as sexes. We've seen one time sidekick Sam Wilson aka the Falcon take on the iconic stars and stripes and become Captain America in his own right. Thor’s hammer is now in the hands of a woman. And Tony Stark is…well…Stark is still an arrogant douche bag; just worst than usual. But we've seen Ms. Marvel become Captain Marvel. And we've seen a young Muslim girl become Ms. Marvel and bring us to rethink our heroes.
I mean, after decades of white male hero domination, we've finally entered a new age of true diversity…
WHAT? AW HECK NO! DON’T YOU REMEMBER THE 60S AND 70S?
PROBABLY NOT…WELL I DO…
SIT DOWN KIDDIES! IT’S STORY TIME!
Ok, kids, I’m gonna try real hard to not sound like the old guy in the room here, but I’m sure, for the most part, I am. You think we've just now risen out of our racist past in comics? Finally getting the diversity in comics and the promise of characters of color and, even, women in our comic related movies? So, you think this has just happened in the last few years? That your generation is the one who made all of this happen?
Ok, let’s take a walk down memory lane. I mean, at least for me, because most of you who are talking this way have no idea where we’re headed. Let’s start at the beginning; the beginning of the modern age of comics themselves. A small company takes a chance on some amazingly innovative titles. A handful of men bring us stories about real people dealing with superpowers; totally changing the way we look at heroes. As world changing as these comics were, there were still about a bunch of white guys. And I guess this is because men like Stan ‘the Man’ Lee, Jack ‘King’ Kirby, Steve Ditko among others were just full on racists, right. By the way, I dare you to go to Wizard World and call Mr. Lee a racist. I DARE YA!
No, of course, it wasn't because these men were racists. But they were working of a budding comic company and knew they had to take baby steps. First, totally change the paradigm of comic writing forever. Once you make history and have the world eating out of the palm of your hand, you can make the changes and create the most diverse character base ever. That’s right, kiddies! The true age of comic diversity began not last year, but in the latter half of the 1960s!
Now, I can hear you ask me for facts to back up my theory. No problem. I’ll use the two poster children of diversity in the coming comic media; Black Panther and Luke Cage, Powerman. We all know that Luke Cage is slated to have his own show on Netflix as a part of the Daredevil family of television shows. The Black Panther has been the target of fans ranting ever since the Avengers hit the big screen. Most of the noise has been about how he needed to have his moment in the MCU. There has been so much Facebook time taken up with how Marvel is so out of it in terms of diversity and the heinous crime of their despairing omission of people of color. But once you think about what we’re actually dealing with, it becomes clear that their continuous march of white superheroes has nothing to do with a bias, but a game plan that mirrors what Marvel comics did in the 60s and 70s.
The two examples I gave both debuted in the later sixties after Marvel had developed comic clout with their original Caucasian hero comics. After making history with titles like the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, Daredevil etc., they blew the comic world away with a whole new innovation. Lee and Kirby debuted Black Panther in issue #52 of the Fantastic Four, one of Marvel’s big hits. But, instead of making him a sidekick or some obscure character, he was the ruler of an advanced African nation. He aspired from there to join the prestigious Avengers and held his own title. He was part of a trinity of Black heroes who defined the years after as a true age of comic’s diversity. In 1969, Sam Wilson debuted in Captain America as the first true African-American super hero. And Luke Cage wasn't a new creation either. He didn’t just suddenly become a character when he became a part of the Avengers in the early 2000s, he became the first African-American hero to have his own series in the early seventies.
Of course, Marvel didn’t stop there. I remember the Hispanic HUMAN FLY. Of course, the mutant world refused to stay silent on the subject and by 1975 we saw the all new, all different X-men brought to us by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum revitalizing the title with characters from many different countries and walks of life. This diverse group was taken over by Chris Claremont making the X-men the poster children for Civil Rights and the way we look at it. And, right in the middle of them? The mutant tempest, STORM. Also leading the real age of comic racial diversity are characters like Brother Voodoo (I would almost bet to see him in Dr. Strange) and the vampric half-breed, Blade. Ironically, it was Blade’s cinematic success that paved the way for Marvel to bring us the Avengers.
The list goes on and on. Like the one time supporting character Falcon, Tony Stark's friendship with James Rhodes led to one of the most iconic comics of the 80s; WAR MACHINE. Cloak and Dagger. Monica Rambeau who held the mantle of Captain Marvel. Bishop, the supercharged, time jumping mutant. New Warrior’s Night Thrasher. The odd Avenger 3-D Man. And, most recently, the Ultimate Universe’s very own Spider-Man, Miles Morales.
SO, I challenge you to know your history, true believer! Do your homework before you spout off on Twitter how racist Marvel and the old school are. The real reason Marvel hasn't rushed out a female hero or a hero of color for their own movie is simple. I believe and always have that Marvel is following their own continuity. Of course, they have to tweak their own history a bit. But, if they follow their sixties continuity, it would make sense that the first string of comic movies would be those white comic heroes that started it all. It would also make sense that characters like James Rhodes, Sam Wilson, Luke Cage and T’challa, the Black Panther would be next to share the spotlight. And, of course, an iconic hero like Carol Danvers who has been through so much in series after series at Marvel should also be slated to have her own moment in the Cinema.
But, to all of you Miles Morales fans out there, I have to say, “Be patient.” Marvel didn’t just wage war to get Spider-Man in the MCU to just bring in Miles Morales to replace Peter Parker. And that has nothing to do with racism. It took us close to 40 years to get Spider-Man the Hollywood treatment he deserved. It took us another 15 years to get him back to the MCU where he belongs. Luckily for you, Ultimate Comics fans, it won’t take near that long to get Miles in the mix. In fact, if they’re smart, they’ll work him in the background immediately; cashing in on the hubbub. Everybody’s chattering on facebook about whether Miles or Parker should be next. I say, ‘why not both?’
Well, there ya go! Everything that’s happening now is just shades of the past. And remember. The true age of comics diversity began, not last year, but in the sixties and seventies. Do your research. And, by that, I mean dig up some old comics. Read the original Luke Cage, Blade and Black Panther and truly celebrate diversity!