Marvel and DC Get a Diversity Facelift

You could say that Marvel and DC Comics have been duking it out in a superhero film arms-race since, well, forever. Who has the greatest fan-favorite superheroes? Who has better film ratings? Who’s making the most money? And while many say Marvel’s in the lead, given the success of the recent Avengers reboot and Guardians of the Galaxy, DC has decided it’s done being left in the dust. Both have sent their fans into hyperactive overdrive by releasing lists of forthcoming films, but what’s really gotten people excited is the promise of more diversity—and the two studios are now battling it out in that arena.

On Oct. 15, DC Comics announced that they’re releasing 10 movies before the end of 2020, and many of those movies will feature diverse leads. Wonder Woman (starring Gal Gadot) will finally get her due in 2017. Jason Momoa (of Native Hawaiian, Native American and European descent), well known for playing Khal Drogo in HBO’s Game of Thrones, will be the next Aquaman in 2018. Ezra Miller, an openly gay actor, will play The Flash and Ray Fisher, a black actor, will star as Cyborg in 2020. Not bad, DC, not bad.

Despite DC’s impressive lineup, however, most of the diversity buzz has actually gone to Marvel, long known for its failure to cast non-white and non-male actors in prominent roles.

On Marvel’s list of forthcoming movies is the Black Panther, a character I’m especially excited to see on-screen. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Black Panther‘s real name is T’Challa, and he is the ruler of the fictional isolationist African kingdom of Wakanda. The ruler of Wakanda—the most technologically advanced nation in the world—holds the title of Black Panther and, as part of the rite of ascension, eats a mystic heart-shaped herb which bestows superhuman abilities. His gear is pretty cool too: His bulletproof uniform possesses cloaking technology and he has boots that let him walk on water. Fighting villains in both Africa and North America, Black Panther has been a team member of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the Defenders in addition to the Illuminati. Fun fact #1: he was created in July 1966 just before the formation of the Black Panther Party. Fun fact #2: He and X-Men member Storm were married for a short time, but remained friends after splitting.

The studio also announced a film about Captain Marvel, a title that is currently held by a woman named Carol Danvers (the name “Captain Marvel” is one that multiple superheroes have called themselves). Possessing a fusion of human and alien Kree genes, Captain Marvel is endowed with superhuman strength, flight, endurance, stamina and resistance to most toxins and poisons. On top of that, she can also absorb other forms of energy.

Marvel has a reputation for being incredibly diverse in their comics, but not in their movies. For example, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, and Black Widow have gotten their own solo books, and it was announced back in April that Storm is getting her own solo book, too. A couple years ago, the new Spiderman was unmasked as a biracial young man: half black, half Latino. The patriotic Captain America is now the black hero Sam Wilson (formerly The Falcon). Ms. Marvel is a teenage Muslim American girl. Loki is bisexual and a woman is picking up the Thor mantle. Now, Marvel’s films are finally catching up with its books.

Many comic book fans, including myself, have been pushing the studios to pump up their film diversity for a long time. After a while, it doesn’t matter how much you love The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy: It gets psychologically exhausting to not see yourself represented fully or stuck playing second fiddle just about every time you go to the movies. You don’t have to be a white guy to save the world (and be marketable to a general audience). You can literally be anyone. Finally, Marvel and DC are beginning to give credence to this belief.

I’m looking forward to to seeing more dynamic—and diverse!—comic book heroes on the big screen from both studios. Now, how about a stand-alone blockbuster for Storm?






Corinne Gaston is currently an editorial intern at Ms. and is working toward a B.A. in Creative Writing at USC. When not in the Ms. office, she is the Associate Opinion Editor at Neon Tommy. Follow her on Twitter @elysehamsa or go to her personal blog.