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

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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 have been redrawn. They are moving from the stereotypical brown-haired, blue-eyed white male into a world of crusaders to reflect a greater diversity in their audience.

Society has changed, so superheroes have to as well, said Axel Alonso. He is editor in chief at Marvel Comics, which in November debuted Captain America No. 1 with Samuel Wilson. He is 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.

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. The Falcon was a sidekick to Captain America. In 1977, DC Comics introduced Black Lightning. He is 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. The titles include Wonder Woman, the longest-running comic book with a female hero.

But not everyone is happy with the changes. A contingent of 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 is author of the upcoming "Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948." He 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.

He was referencing a popular storyline in which the Norse god transforms into an amphibian. Movies based on superheroes, like Marvel's The Avengers, and DC's Man of Steel, are driving a new audience to comic books. Comic book companies want characters that those fans can relate to, said Cheryl Lynn Eaton. She is head of the Ormes Society. The group 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?

Assigned 160 times

  • ChaseG-5
    12/22/2014 - 06:44 p.m.

    Lately comics have been coming more diverse. Comics are no longer the stereo typical white man with blue eyes character. Creators are realizing that they need to change their characters to make it more realistic. Many people are angry over the change of their beloved superheroes because they are changing their race and gender. DC comics nod Marvel comics are both starting to make their characters more and more diverse. I think this is a smart thing to do because now more people will be able to relate to these characters then ever before. I also think that this will be a historic thing for comics forever.

  • GriffinO-5
    12/23/2014 - 03:27 p.m.

    The new Captain America and Thor have taken a recent change. Captain America is now African American and Thor is a female. The comic book author is trying to express a more diverse population and to include people of different backgrounds. Also other companies are continueing in this trend like DC. They created a Barrack Obama superman. Some of the characters will not be changed at Marvel like Wonder Woman.
    I think it is some of the changes seemed to be bad descisions. I'm not trying to be racist or anythiung but why didn't they just create new characters instead of changing the old ones?

  • LucasU-5
    12/23/2014 - 04:16 p.m.

    This article is about many different superheroes who will be changing either gender or race to capture a wider audience. For example the role of Captain America has changed from the blond and blue-eyed Steve Rodgers to the African American Sam Wilson whom was formerly known as the falcon, a hero who possesses a suit similar to Iron Man. Another major change is that a new spiderman was created name Spiderman 2099 who is a young boy named Miles who is Half-Puerto Rican and lives many years in the future.

  • MaxM-4
    12/23/2014 - 09:02 p.m.

    DC and Marvel are changing some of their major white male superheroes to be more diverse. Captain America is black, Thor is a woman, Spiderman is part Puerto Rican, Ms. Marvel is Muslim, and Superman is based on Barack Obama. The companies think that they should change the superheroes to match a changing society. Some people support the changes, but others believe it is too far from the original comics.
    I am in support of changing superheroes to be more diverse, but changing Thor to a woman does bother me. Thor, the Norse god of thunder, was a male god with a male name created over a thousand years ago. Marvel can't just change a thousand-year-old legend to fit "a more diverse society."

  • LilyE-4
    12/24/2014 - 08:56 p.m.

    Its true that society has been changing, but it has spread even to comics. The new Captain America is now black, Superman looks suspiciously like Barack Obama, and Thor is a woman. The traditional "brown hair, blue eyes" stereotype has now spread to reflect the diversity in the audience. I think this is a great way to promote diversity. Although we expect superheroes to be the typical white character, the diverse community of heroes may lead to an increase in sales all around the world as well.

  • SadieB-1
    12/25/2014 - 04:33 p.m.

    Marvel comics is redrawing its superheros. For example, Captain America is now African American. The writers want to display more of a race and gender diversity, since most of the main characters are blond-haired, blue-eyed males. But some people disagree and feel that changing the race of well-known and much loved comic book characters may be threatening to some people, more so than turning Thor into a frog, which happened in one of his stories. Marvel's and DC's movies are pulling new audiences into the comic book world and trying to make their characters more relatable. This is a good idea and a big change for Marvel and DC. I think it could be benificial but maybe also backfiring.

  • EthanY-1
    12/25/2014 - 08:58 p.m.

    The new captain America is black. They base him off of Barack Obama. He is a strong man. I don't think they should of made him black because a person can't just go from white to black.

  • EthanY-1
    12/25/2014 - 08:58 p.m.

    The new captain America is black. They base him off of Barack Obama. He is a strong man. I don't think they should of made him black because a person can't just go from white to black.

  • AJ_Slater
    12/26/2014 - 12:12 p.m.

    Comic books have now reflected the way our society has evolved. Now Captain America is black and thor is a women. The comic book creator claims that now superheros are related to every ethics making them more realistic. I think that it is sad that comic book writers have to change the race or gender of super heroes to get a better chance of more people buying them.

  • OliviaV-3
    12/26/2014 - 02:01 p.m.

    This article was about the writers of the Marvel comics and how they are changing the characters to be more fit for our time. Since movies like the Avengers came out, more and more people are interested in comic books. Since more people are looking, they are changing they characters from the stereotypical brown hair blue eyes. Now there are black, Muslim, and more women superheroes. A small group of comic book fans are not happy about this. I liked this article because it was interesting to see that they are re creating so many comics and I would like to read one.

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