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Marvel’s Diversity Effort: Sincerity or Publicity?

With San Diego Comic-Con less than a week away, it felt appropriate to delve into the ever changing world of comic books. As regular readers of Marvel know, the company has been busy promoting their recent changes to some of their biggest titles.Starting in the fall, the Thor that readers know will no longer be swinging his mighty hammer, and Steve Rogers won’t be throwing his iconic shield.



In an announcement on The View, it was revealed by Whoopi Goldberg that a woman would be far worthier of wielding Mjolnir than the current holder of the mythical weapon. Thor, who is described as having “messed up big time,” will lose his right to the power of Thor and be stripped of his Asgardian abilities in Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder. The new title of Thor will instead be given to a woman whose identity has not yet been revealed by Marvel.


Joe Quesada also announced Wednesday on The Colbert Report that Steve Rogers would no longer be Captain America. Instead, Sam Wilson, Rogers’ longtime partner, who made his cinematic debut in Captain America: The Winter Solider as the Falcon, will be putting on the wing-tipped helmet of his friend in Rick Remender’s current run. This will make Wilson the second African-American to be called Captain America.


For those that don’t know, the 2003 limited series Truth: Red, White and Black followed Isiah Bradley, an enlisted black soldier who was experimented on in attempt to recreate the original super-soldier serum that gave Rogers his powers. The comic book mirrored the horrendous Tuskegee syphilis experiment when the U.S. Public Health Service was studying the effects of untreated syphilis on rural African-American men who thought they were receiving treatment and free healthcare from the government. Bradley would fight in WWII against the Nazis and Hydra. While gaining the admiration of the African-American community, Bradley would eventually fall into obscurity


When you first look at these announcements, they sound great. Marvel and DC have been making attempts to diversify their rooster of characters, while promoting their existing super heroines and characters of color. DC’s success with Wonder Woman under the hand of Brian Azzarelo and Marvel’s Ms. Marvel title, which features a Pakistani-American teenager as the hero, have been met with wide spread acclaim. Even Brian Michael Bendis’ decision to replace Marvel’s Ultimate Universe Spider-Man with the African-American/Hispanic Miles Morales has been greeted with positive reactions from Spider-Man fans.


What concerns me is that these changes to Thor and Captain America are just for the sake of generating publicity. As most comic fans know, there’s still a Peter Parker walking around in the 616 Universe. Bendis was most likely able to have another person under the mask in Ultimate because of that fact. Ms. Marvel, who has a strong contingent of fans, isn’t exactly a well-known character to the general public. The changes to the book weren’t exactly announced on the six o’clock news.


Comic books readers aren’t stupid. We know that Steve Rogers will return as Captain America and Thor will be able to wield  Mjolnir once again. These identity changes are most likely temporary and will probably only last until the next universe wide crossover or movie release featuring either hero. Marvel can congratulate themselves and pat themselves on the back, but the writers and editors know that things will eventually return to the status quo.

I don’t mean to sound so negative. I really don’t, but I’ve been reading comics for over a decade and I know how these shake-ups work. Whether it’s a popular character dying, or a change of identity, comics always return to a point of normalcy.

miles morales

Now, this doesn’t mean that these stories will be bad. If anything, this presents an opportunity for Marvel’s writers to experiment with these books and provide readers with a chance to see how these characters handle taking over the massive responsibilities of their predecessors.

I want to see more diversity in comics and I’m hopeful that these titles will develop a following, but Marvel needs to live up their promise of diversity and not make this yet another feeble attempt at grabbing headlines with false intentions.

What about you reader? Would you like to see more diversity in comics? Do you like these recent changes? Do you think they’ll even last? Let us know in the comments below.
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