Representation and Diversity: America and Comics

America, meet Gabby

Gabby Rivera
Gabby Rivera

Diversity is a complex situation both in the real world and in comics. The United States is a diverse land with numerous people from all sorts of backgrounds. It is a strength that enhances the American experience and opens up new ideas. Unfortunately, in the last few years, diversity has been under attack by closed minds in politics, and entertainment. Comics, for some, is the last beachhead in entertainment against “political correctness”. They are about to meet their match.

America Chavez is not a new character to Marvel Comics. The super strong former Young Avenger created by Kieron Gillen, however, is unique; she is both Latina and a lesbian. This provides numerous new points of view for the reader to be exposed to. While written mainly by white men before, that is about to change. A great article in the Washington Post covers young adult author, and America comic writer, Gabby Rivera. Like the character she is writing, Rivera is queer and Latina. This is a good thing, because diversity matters.

Why Representation and Diversity Matter

Let’s be blunt, the main bulk of readership in comics is white men. Unfortunately, some in this group are resistant to change, of any sort. Luckily, there is a growing and diverse readership for comics. This goes across gender, race, sexuality, and religion. Some of the old time readers are, again, unfortunately, resistant to this new readership diversity. For too long they have been self-appointed gatekeepers, and a new day is banging on the gate.

For the new readers, it might be cool to root for white guy hero 5482…but after a while, you’ll want to root for someone like you. Marvel Comics knew this in the 1960s when they started introducing characters such as Black Panther, the Falcon, Shang-Chi, and others. DC was slower in doing so, but as of today, they have been at the forefront of diversity in comics along with Marvel. Speaking as a Jew, I can understand the want for representation outside of stereotypes. I mean, I myself don’t have many Jewish heroes to look up to in comics. The big name is Magneto…not exactly the best representative of my culture. Other people of other races, creeds, and sexuality would want some representation as well.

A Neverending Battle

America #1 Cover by Joe Quinones
America #1 Cover by Joe Quinones

It is an uphill climb for diversity. While new diversity initiatives are popular online and with critics, they have not always been met with high sales. This, in turn, has emboldened the “anti-PC” brigade, saying diversity doesn’t sell. I disagree with them; diversity DOES sell. It might not be in the highest number of sales, but it does something better. It fills marginalized kids with self-esteem to see that someone like them can be a hero and make a difference. That is worth more than being on the best sellers list.

There should also be attempts to be made to increase the diversity of the talent behind the comics as well. I’m not saying a white man can’t write a black man or a straight man can’t write a gay woman. Far from it. However, finding voices and pens not often seen in comics add an air of authenticity to the character’s voice. Over at Marvel, Ta-nehisi Coates and Gabby Rivera add their own experiences to their characters. Bi-sexual writer Steve Orlando has written two critically and fan acclaimed series for DC Comics starring the gay anti-hero Midnighter.

The world is changing, and comics should match it. Comics have always stood up for the little guy, it is the time the little guy, or gal, get to have their voices heard in them as well.

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About the author

Daniel Kalban

Daniel is the writer of The Eagle webcomic and aspires to one day join his favorite writers at the Big 2. Until then, he keeps plugging away at various projects, as well as serving as a reporter for Word of the Nerd on various subjects, especially the DC Comics "beat".

Contact him at danielk@wordofthenerdonline.com

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