The Revolution Will Not Be Televised…

Reading Time: 4 minutes
c. Marvel Comics 2016
c. Marvel Comics 2016

… at least, not yet.

Maybe eventually, when there’s some time for Marvel and Netflix to make some more really, really solid adaptations, but for now?

For now, the revolution is happening in the Marvel Comics Universe.

I realized this today when my local news ran a piece on Riri Williams. My regular, old, local news.

For those of you who missed the announcement, there’s a new Iron Man. She is a fifteen-year-old genius (and I will grant you, her appearance is more that of a woman in her 20s) attending MIT. She is generally considered to be smarter than Tony Stark. She reverse-engineered his suit in her dorm room. And Riri is an African-American character who, rather than taking the place of the heroically martyred (read: fridged) James Rhodes, is stepping into the role of a hero who has been central to the Marvel Comics and Marvel Cinematic Universes for decades.

c. Marvel Comics 2016
c. Marvel Comics 2016

How do you like them apples?

To make matters even more awesome, rather than giving her the typical, impractical, erm… figure accentuating armor, they gave Riri an actual, functional, protective, fully chest-plated suit.

c. Marvel Comics via Comic Book Resources
c. Marvel Comics via Comic Book Resources

MORE APPLES FOR EVERYONE!

When Marvel announced Jane Foster was taking over as Thor, part of me was excited, but the larger part of me was skeptical. After all, how many times had we ladies been let down when what we thought was going to be an awesome female-centric story turned out to be nothing more than a play to earn more male eyeballs? How many times has a woman or a character of color or a younger character been elevated only to be sacrificed to spur the white, male hero to action?

So. Many. Times.

How many times has lip service been paid to the need for greater diversity in comics only to have a press launch another book featuring the stereotypical, hulking (no pun intended, because that dude is green) white male? Which, by the way, isn’t really fair to the wide range of white men who roam the earth, nor is it fair to the world’s second most heavily represented religion (Islam) nor to the fifty-one percent of the population who identifies as female nor to the LGBT community nor the large sector of the world population who speaks Spanish…

And yes, I know that Kelly Sue DeConnick was already up to her elbows in the Captain Marvel revival and G. Willow Wilson had already introduced us to the proudly Pakistani-American, Muslim Kamala Khan. I know that Miles Morales was climbing walls and Amadeus Cho was hulking out. I was reading several of those books.

But the new Mighty Thor? Well, it was after she debuted that I really started to believe.

Thor served as a fulcrum that brought that whole new set of characters to the forefront of Marvel’s print universe. The characters were already popular. Their books were flying off shelves. But the addition of the new Thor indicated a fundamental shift for one of Marvel’s most well-established characters. A fundamental shift in Marvel’s structure and foundation.

Thor showed us the future.

And once she started swinging that hammer? No one was going to stop her.

Captain Marvel became a marquee figure in the Marvel Universe. Kamala saved her town from the fallout of Secret Wars and joined (one of) The Avengers (teams). Steve Rogers handed the mantle of Captain America over to Sam Wilson and Joaquin Torres took over as Falcon. The Vision got his own book. Moon Girl teamed up with Devil Dinosaur. Peggy Carter and Jessica Jones got their own shows. Black Widow finally got her merch (though not nearly enough for my tastes). We have an exquisite Black Panther book, a new interpretation of Luke Cage and Danny Rand’s partnership, and a Luke Cage show premiering in a mere two months.

c. Marvel Comics 2016
c. Marvel Comics 2016

So while I acknowledge that the effort is deliberate, I no longer believe it’s a gimmick. I’ve realized change isn’t something that happens on its own because it should: it’s something people have to work at, work for, must want. We want it. And Marvel is, slowly but definitely, giving it to us.

Are they done? Absolutely not. The LGBT community is still woefully underrepresented (as in not really at all). We have individual characters representing communities and that’s a start but someday, in the not too distant future, I’d love to see the diversity within all of those communities as well. I’d like to see a further diversification in Marvel’s stable of writers and artists. It is a big, beautiful, colorful, musical, loud, obnoxious, dark, serious, hilarious, world, and our heroes, and their creators, should reflect all of that and everything else.

c. Marvel Comics 2015
c. Marvel Comics 2015

If our heroes are a reflection of our best selves, then they must be a reflection of all of our best selves.

Does that mean we get rid of beloved characters? Not necessarily. Some of them are ready to go and that’s fine. That’s right. Some things, some people, have a time and a place and then it’s time for someone else to step in.

Do I think Tony Stark has hung up his suit forever? I do not. And that is awesome. Because there’s room for him too. Marvel Comics is creating a universe with room for everyone.

I say again: if our heroes are a reflection of our best selves, then they must be a reflection of all of our best selves. If their world is to be a reflection of our best world, then it must be a reflection of the world all of us inhabit.

Read on, friends. And keep asking for more.

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