Meet the new Thor and Captain America Editor in chief Axel Alonzo poses at Marvel Comics in New York (AP photos)
Meet the new Thor and Captain America
Lexile

For decades, comic books have been in color, but now they truly reflect all the hues of American society.

The new Captain America is black. A Superman who is suspiciously similar to President Barack Obama recently headlined a comic book. Thor is a woman, Spider-Man is part-Puerto Rican and Ms. Marvel is Muslim.

Mainstream comic book superheroes America's modern mythology have been redrawn from the stereotypical brown-haired, blue-eyed white male into a world of multicolored, multireligious and multigendered crusaders to reflect a greater diversity in their audience.

Society has changed, so superheroes have to as well, said Axel Alonso, editor in chief at Marvel Comics, which in November debuted Captain America No. 1 with Samuel Wilson, the first African American superhero taking over Captain America's red, white and blue uniform and shield.

"Roles in society aren't what they used to be. There's far more diversity," said Alonso, who has also shepherded a gay wedding in the X-Men, a gender change from male to female in Thor and the first mainstream female Muslim hero in Ms. Marvel.

The new diverse comic characters are far from the first: Marvel introduced the world to Samuel Wilson as the Falcon, the comic's first African-American superhero, in 1969 as a sidekick to Captain America. In 1977, DC Comics introduced Black Lightning, a schoolteacher who gains electrical powers and becomes a superhero.

And Marvel isn't the only company looking at diversity. An alternative black Superman, one who is president of the United States, is part of a team in DC Comics' "The Multiversity." DC also brags of having more comic books featuring female leads than any other company, including Batgirl, Catwoman, Batwoman and Wonder Woman, the longest-running comic book with a female hero.

"Our goal is to tell the best stories while making sure our characters are relatable and reflect DC Comics' diverse readership and fanbase," DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson said.

But not everyone is happy with the changes: A contingent of vocal Internet fans is protesting a reboot of Marvel's Fantastic Four property in the movies, which turns one of the quartet Johnny Storm from blond and blue-eyed to black.

Noah Berlasky, author of the upcoming "Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948," said portions of the largely white, male comic book audience don't want favored characters to change.

"Changing people's race or changing people's gender can feel more threatening or a bigger deal than changing Thor into a frog," said Berlasky, referencing a popular storyline in which the Norse god transforms into an amphibian. "Characters are always changing, but there are cultural lenses which make it seem like a bigger deal if Johnny Storm is black."

Movies based on superheroes, like Marvel's The Avengers, and DC's Man of Steel, are driving a new audience to comic books. That surge has comic book companies looking to have characters that those fans can relate to, said Cheryl Lynn Eaton. She is head of the Ormes Society, which promotes black female comic creators and the inclusion of black women in the comics industry.

"The stories of Superman, the story of Batman, we're likely to be telling them 40 years from now, and we've already been telling them for decades," Eaton said. "They are telling us sort of how to live life and how we relate in this world, so I think it's important for everyone, for people of different backgrounds, to have a say."

Critical thinking challenge: What is motivating comic book publishers to redraw their superheroes?

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COMMENTS (36)
  • SDakota-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 09:18 a.m.

    why did they turn captain America black and Thor a woman? I don't think its right. why don't they just leave them the same as before.

  • MFrancisco-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 09:18 a.m.

    M - There is new Marvel super heroes.
    E - Black Captain American and Thor is a woman Spider-man is Puerto Rican and Mr.Marvels is Muslim.
    A - I don't know why he change everything.
    L - The new Super heroes are all different races.

  • MGregory-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 09:45 a.m.

    i think its cool that this guy plays the two characters in the move and makes the comic books. and i Wonder when are thy going to to make the nex movie

  • VDakota-Sti
    12/23/2014 - 10:02 a.m.

    Im not racist i just think that they shouldnt of done this and should of kept the white captain america and the parker spiderman and marvel and whatever

  • ratiaira
    12/23/2014 - 02:11 p.m.

    i just did a project about thor and he looked different but why is he the actor for both well it really does not matter the movie will probably still be a great movie

  • KiraWvA-4
    12/29/2014 - 01:54 p.m.

    Marvel is rebooting its superheroes with more diversity, as the editor in chief, Axel Alonzo says: "Society has changed, so superheroes have to as well." The changes include a black Captain America (really, Falcon taking over Captain America's shield), a female Thor, a part-Puerto Rican Spider Man, and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. Along with Marvel, DC is also making new characters-but they're facing criticism: "Characters are always changing, but there are cultural lenses which make it seem like a bigger deal" if some are not the brown-haired, blue-eyed white guy like most enjoy, says Noah Berlasky, author. I like this article because it showcases the effort people are going through to make our entertainment a little less racist.

  • AlexisKrise
    12/31/2014 - 05:31 p.m.

    Instead of redesigning every iconic character, how about setting up a greater foundation for the less known superheroes? The Black Canary and The Black Canary II are not very well known, but they have the capability to be great heroes, if only they would be taken out of the shadows once in a while. Superman, Spiderman, Batman and even Batman's sidekick, Robin are more well known than the others. They need to create a movie where all these heroes come together, but this time the popular heroes aren't the ones who save the day, because they can't. Make the less well known heroes be the ones in the limelight. That is the way to help people see what diversities can be shown, not changing something that people already love.

  • NickB-2
    1/01/2015 - 09:29 p.m.

    This article is about many famous superheroes getting an ethnic makeover. The new captain america is African American, and Thor is a woman. This is because, in the comic book industry, in order to appeal to everyone, the characters need to be diverse. Axel Alonso, editor and chief of Marvel believes that it is an important step that Comic Books need to take. I personally like these new, diverse, heroes.

  • JS2001basketball
    1/05/2015 - 08:45 a.m.

    The comic drawers are redrawing the superheroes to eliminate the American stereotype of heroes only being a browned hair blue eyed white male so they are remaking them to be more multicolored or neutral

  • tw2001marvel
    1/05/2015 - 01:01 p.m.

    The thing that is influencing comic book publishers to redraw their superheroes is the lack of representation in media today. People who are not white barely see people like themselves portrayed in media and whenever they are, they're represented badly. So the fact that Marvel is changing Captain America to Samuel Wilson, a black man and Thor to a female is a huge change and a lot of representation is happening.

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