Marvel’s Diversity Strategy Was Better in the 1970s Than It Is Today

Marvel minorities
Some model Marvel minorities that showcase diversity in comics. (Images: Wikipedia)

The strategy Marvel is taking towards building more diversity into its books is mostly taking the form of having female or non-white people take the place of white male superheroes.

Marvel has made diversity a costume changing affair.

This is not the strategy they held in the 1960s with the introduction of Black Panther, Power Man, and Storm. In all of those cases they introduced new personalities with new powers, unique origins, and original costumes.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage, sometimes known as Power Man, was the first black character to get his own series at Marvel, back in 1972. (Image: “Luke Cage” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia)

They built up new heroes from fresh. It wasn’t simply putting on the costume of a preexisting hero, like they do now. I don’t know if the current strategy is a more dignified or effective, but it can certainly bring a potentially obscure character to the forefront.

Nick Fury

The two faces of Nick Fury. (NerdSync Productions/YouTube)

And it’s easier to take a well known character like Captain America, Spider-Man, and Ms. Marvel, or S.H.I.E.L.D. frontman Nick Fury, and simply have a minority hold the title and the post, and then write a backstory which sorts everything out.

Kamala Khan

Kamala Khan takes the title of Ms. Marvel over from Carol Danvers, who you can see in the background. (Image: “Kamala Khan” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia)

Introducing a whole new character of any color would require the time and effort to build up the reputation. It would likely mean a new set of superpowers, a whole new costume concept, and a fresh storyline.

This isn’t to say I don’t love some of these new characters. Miles Morales as Spider-Man placed a new concept of Spider-Man over a pre-existing one. Most importantly, there was an authenticity in the writing. And writing is at the heart of any good story, anyway.

Miles Morales

Miles Morales reveals himself to be the new Spider-Man. (Image: “First image of miles morales spider man” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia)

But the issue remains. Imagine if Miles Morales shared an identity with any lesser hero than Spider-Man. Imagine if he came in to take the place of Falcon, instead, or even Johnny Storm. Less people would care. By holding the mantel of Spider-Man he’s given that immediate shot of prestige.

And it’s easier than having to build a character from scratch.

Falcon Captain America

The Falcon, Marvel’s first African-American superhero, becomes Captain America. (Image: marvel.wikia.com)

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