Nerd culture is becoming a big deal these days. Its popularity has transformed from a sub-genre to mainstream fame. So many people are becoming invested into this culture and this investment brings an often heavily debated issue with it: Diversity.
It is important for any business to keep up with the current status quo. With the present resurgence of the comic industry and its characters, this universe is one that does not have the time to wait before it adapts. Companies like Marvel, DC, and Boom! are all pushing what they think is the best representation of the world through our lens and with that, comes something that some of us have yet to accept. Diversity is a key motivation behind their business model and while some of us do not agree that it is the right stride for them, it is absolutely necessary and long overdue.
For anyone who has followed major comic book characters, one of the most glaring issues has always been the lack of diversity. Sure, there have been a few main or supporting characters that shared the same stage as the A-listers, but they have been far and in between for decades. The comic industry noticed, whether it was from fan mail full of complaints, celebrities like Donald Glover speaking up (let’s all thank him for Miles Morales), or the writers in general recognizing the need for a change.More and more, great leaps have been made to expand the growing demographic of the comic universe.
We have seen a Pakistani teen take the mantle of Ms. Marvel.
We have seen a Latina woman become a Green Lantern.
We have seen an asian supergenius become the roaring, raging Hulk.
We have seen a young black girl, RiRi Williams, reverse engineer Tony Stark’s Ironman suit and step up as his heir apparent.
And that is just a few of the new guys. These are monumental changes to major characters that matter and have drastic effects in this society…especially in this society.
One could say that this type of diversity is insincere and a ploy to capitalize on a new movement. There are those that would argue this to the grave, but is that actually true or is the comic universe just reflecting what society is actually becoming? Is this new push similar to the one in the era of blaxploitation which happened to also create Luke Cage in the 70’s?
This seems different. It is hard to think that if heroes and villains were to exist in the likeness of their comic book counterparts NOW they would not come from different backgrounds, races, and orientations. On top of that, our most beloved superhumans would probably mirror that too. The writers and developers of the comic industry have picked up on this and have chosen to act accordingly.
I can remember growing up and being entranced with comics, their movies, their television shows and whatever I could get my hands on. One thing that stood out was that I did not truly have someone who I could relate to. There were a few prominent black heroes, but that did not mean I could realistically imagine myself imitating them in real life whether it was in my play time fantasies or Halloween. One hero stood out in particular. Peter Parker.
Spider-Man. And it was not a striking resemblance between us that I idolized. It was his youth. It was his quirky attitude. It was his familiar issues with growing up and school that made him empowering and appealing to me. But that was me. Uniquely me. I found the silver lining in the lack of diversity in comics.
Now, though, we are in a generation where diversity is front and center in our nation. It is something not even its citizens can agree on. In that same vein, many are divided when it comes to diversity in the comics. The truth of the matter is that some fans do not want change, but then again, that is something common with most people and that should not stop companies like Marvel, DC, and Boom! from vying for it and trying to push main characters with diverse backgrounds. A widening fan base deserves a wide array of persons that they can relate to.
More than anything, this transition can really have a dynamic impact on youth. Children look up to those that seem to represent them. The same can be said for adults as well. If a black child can look up to Miles Morales as Spider-Man and be empowered, if a muslim girl can see Kamala Khan in action and feel accepted, or if a woman can see X-23 or Wonder Woman and realize that she can be just as powerful in her own life, then the work that the comic universe put in to diversify was all worth it. We need more of that represented in our society.
The comic universe cannot wait for us all to agree. We simply will not. That does not take away from the power that diversity will continue to have in this realm. And when it is all said and done, their sales and influence in the national community will be a good determining factor if this endeavor was worth it for them. It does comes to the point where we have to be adults, willing to accept change, and not fight it so hard. This is a legitimate change that accompanies the climate in which we live. This will not deflect the fact that there will be those who think that our characters should remain classic and classic only and that is an issue I foresee many of us staying divided on.
Despite that, the diversity that we have been getting has been good. It is the way that this universe can be passed down to the next generation. If the comic universe does not adapt, then it has no chance of surviving. Like anything, it has to continue to evolve. It opens the door for fresh stories and new opportunities for more than just one age or demographic group to enjoy. Maybe one day we will all be willing to accept these changes, but until then, the comic universe cannot afford to wait for us and has to keep pressing forward.