Diversity has been a major issue in the comic book world for years. It’s an interesting sort of phenomenon, considering that most comics reflect what’s going on in the world from a political and sociological standpoint. Unfortunately, racial and gender stereotypes within comic books haven’t changed much over the years.

More recently, things have started to change. We’ve seen superheroes with different ethnic backgrounds. Wonderwoman has become bigger than ever. In 2013, DC debuted the first transgender character in their mainstream comics. But, is more diversity in comic books a good thing?

Marvel’s CEO isn’t so sure.

That CEO, Isaac Perlmutter, has been known to make somewhat racist and divisive comments, and his views on diversity have been questioned for years. Fans, on the other hand, have given a positive response to more diversity in comics. But, it’s still not enough.

If you’ve never given much thought to the real-world effects of diversity in comic books, let’s talk about how important they are, and what still needs to be done in the future.

The Growth of Diversity in Comics

It’s not hard to give an accurate timeline of diversity in comic books. The first hero of color was Black Panther, who debuted in 1966 – long after Superman’s debut in 1938. Wonder Woman was first introduced in 1941. While it’s obvious that minorities haven’t been prominent fixtures in comic books over the years, the more concerning aspect is how they’re portrayed when they are featured.

During early publications of comics in the 1930s and 1940s, whenever minorities (specifically black people) were featured, they were drawn with accentuated features. That typically included things like:

Large red lips
Broad noses
Short bodies
Round bodies

Black comic book characters were also often pushing stereotypes. They were written as uneducated partiers who would rather have a good time than “save the day.” One somewhat cringeworthy example is Ebony White, who was regularly featured in The Spirit comics. Not only did White have these accentuated features, but he spoke with a stereotypical Southern twang.

It’s incredible to see how far comics have come in terms of diversity. Talking about every minority group and its history within comic books would make for a much longer article, but we can see that most of the stereotypes have faded when it comes to diversity in comics. That’s important, considering the cultural influence comic books (and movies) have in our world.

Recognizing the Influence

The powerful influence of comic books starts at a young age. After all, when you think of comics, kids and teenagers probably come to mind (no matter how many adults enjoy them). Children need the opportunity to see themselves in whatever they are consuming. That includes TV shows, movies, books, and of course, comics.

Comic books aren’t exclusive. They can be read and enjoyed by people from different cultures, men and women, different age groups, and people with different disabilities. That’s why representation is so important – especially for kids.

Characters with disabilities started making a push in comic books in the 1960s, with the introduction of popular heroes like:

Daredevil
Hawkeye
Professor X
Cyclops
Iron Man

If you recognize these names today, that’s because their stories are relatable. No, most people aren’t able to shoot laser beams from their eyes or control things using telekinesis. But, it’s the fact that these characters’ powers stem from their disabilities. They are unique, special, and powerful. Kids and adults alike need to see that to know that they can do incredible things, no matter their differences or setbacks. Diversity isn’t just about race and gender. It’s about the inclusivity of anyone different because the comic book audience is so

How the Comic World Affects the Real World

Comic books are meant to be a source of entertainment. They can even inspire people. But, do they really have an impact on the real world?

Absolutely.

Comics have a heavy influence on society. Just take a look at the box office numbers from the last Marvel movie, or the discussion online about ‘Wandavision’ or Zak Snyder’s ‘Justice League.’ It’s a movement, and it impacts more than people probably realize. Because comic books and the movies based on them are so influential, the industry has a responsibility to lead the way in diversity.

The comic industry can inspire other businesses to take a look at their ethics or social responsibility programs, as well as diversity within their own company culture. Ethics are important for public perception and employee perception. If a business isn’t taking social responsibility seriously, its image is likely to falter. That’s one reason why comic book companies are growing in popularity while other industries are seeing some decline.

Comic books are doing many things right. But, there is still a long way to go. As Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Right now, the comic industry has a responsibility to inspire and influence others. Stories about immigration and the hurdles immigrants faceshould be featured, including how they can overcome those struggles. More gender diversity needs to be brought to light for women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. There are countless ways the industry can continue to expand its diversity efforts. In doing so, comic books can have a huge influence on how other industries do business and the policies they put in place.

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The Author

Jim Napier

Jim Napier

Lover of movies and The Big Lebowski.