“One comic book about one black girl does not diversity make” Charlie Says: diversity in the All-New All-Different Marvel Universe is not so diverse
“There is one serious lacking element to the comic book world and that’s diversity in the mainstream. We’re talking diversity of race, gender, sex, sexuality, ability, religion and more besides.” So says our new columnist Charlie Humphries who takes a look at the issue of diversity in the All-New All-Different Marvel Universe in our new column Charlie Says….
There is one serious lacking element to the comic book world and that’s diversity in the mainstream. We’re talking diversity of race, gender, sex, sexuality, ability, religion and more besides. Audiences across the world have been crying out for more diversity in their comic books and for years they’ve been patted on the head and offered table scraps, mainly in the form of X-Men. Marvel has launched their “All-New All-Different” campaign but we still need to ask the question: is this true diversity or yet more table scraps?
Well, in short, we’re getting more table scraps.
While, true, we saw Marvel take a stand against Islamaphobia with Kamala Khan – Ms. Marvel – one comic book diversity does not make. And speaking of Muslim leads, where did the new Captain Britain go? Given all of 2 – read it! 2! – issues in Secret Wars and now she’s gone and disappeared (check out Secret Wars: Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders (2015)). We need to be real honest here: one Muslim point of view cannot speak for an entire religion.
Aside from this, Marvel have been addressing the issue of lack of women in comic books. We have seen a whole heap of solo female titles – Scarlet Witch, All-New Wolverine, The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl, Weirdworld – to name but a few. However, and this is a big question that nobody seems to be asking: where are all the black women?
Marvel, you’ve done a great job in bringing white women to the fore, but where are all the black women? The women of colour?
The one brand-new title we’ve been given with a black female lead is Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. This follows Lunella, a black school girl who’s passion is everything science. When was the last time you read a comic about a black school girl? We begin issue 1 with a beautiful page of Lunella’s room – lots of showing and not telling going on here – with her board of rejections from various schools – The Future Foundation being the main one we see. She’s working on one of her projects that will help solve “the biggest problem in the city – maybe the world – and I’m going to find the answer with this little gizmo right here.” This is cut short as her mother reminds her about school and she needs to flee before she’s late. Lunella has been given a very strong voice by writers Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, you really get a handle on her frustrations about school and the bullies (including her teacher!), both in her external dialogue and her internal monologues. There’s a real human element underlying this entire first issue, a strong basis for the rest of the series to build on.
The artwork throughout has a great use of light and shadow, gives us small tidbits to tie this comic to the wider Marvel universe – the newspaper headlines about a third of the way through – and we get a sense of place throughout because of these little details. The last page shows us in the background a subway exit and an apartment block, we are shown landmarks and the inside of Lunella’s house and school. All of these bits and pieces come together to create a really strong first issue that should be on school reading lists everywhere.
Again, one comic book about one black girl does not diversity make but it’s a start.
So, yes, Marvel are trying to be more diverse, but it’s more geared up towards White Feminism rather than Feminism as a whole. If you’ve ever bemoaned the lack of black female leads in comics, please buy Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, tell your friends, buy it for presents and let’s show Marvel that this is the “All-New All-Different” we want.
And actually, if you want to stay away from the big main-stream publishers but support diverse comics there is still hope! Smaller, more-off-the-beaten-track publishers such as Boom! Studios are already tackling the diversity issue in their own comic books, producing titles such as Lumberjanes which has an mostly-female cast featuring a wide range of races and even a same-sex couple in its line-up. All these things in one title! We have also been blessed with Bitch Planet from Image Comics. While a lot more grown up than Lumberjanes this is still tackling diversity in the same way. We have an all-female cast that includes different body types, backgrounds and beautiful character voices that took the comic book world by storm. It’s these more indie publishers that are taking great leaps and bounds into diversity and producing what the comic book-reading world crave. The bigger publishers just need to wake up and stop ignoring their readers.