We like feminism. We like diversity. We want the industry at large — and the superhero publishers in particular — to embrace these things.
To that end, ComicsAlliance has a few suggestions for how superhero publishers might change in 2014. Some of you may look at this list and say it’s too ambitious, or that we’re asking for too much. We say this list is a good start. These are our ten (five) resolutions for the industry.
Put The LGBT In The JLA
Avengers editor Tom Brevoort was recently asked on Tumblr, "if we can expect any gay members on the Avengers?" His response: "Who says you don’t already?" And the answer is, anyone can say we don't if Marvel hasn't presented it.
In 50 years, the main Avengers teams have never had a serving member who was known to be LGBT. (Moondragon, Living Lightning, Hercules and Valkyrie were all established as LGBT after leaving the team.) The JLA fairs a little better with two LGBT members, Icemaiden and Tasmanian Devil, plus Obsidian, who came out after his time on the team, but none of them yet exist in the new continuity. If current member Catwoman is bisexual, as some have speculated, that's also not a fact in the new continuity.
We take Tom Brevoort's remarks to mean that there are imminent plans to establish a serving Avenger as LGBT, and we're excited to see it. We hope the JLA follows suit.
Resolution: At least one LGBT member in the JLA, at least one LGBT member in the Avengers by the end of 2014.
More Women of Color
When the new Ms. Marvel book from G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona debuts in February it will be the only book from Marvel or DC headlined by a woman of color -- thanks to the recent cancellation of DC's Katana. Across all of Marvel and DC at the moment, there are about as many non-white female superheroes total as there are white guys in Avengers teams, and that's shocking.
You may wonder why we're specifically mentioning women of color when we obviously want more women and more people of color in our comics. Doesn't that cover it? It doesn't, because these are both marginalized groups. When we talk about people of color the default tends to be men, and when we talk about women the default tends to be white. It takes more effort to improve visibility and representation for anyone at the intersection of two marginal groups. We want more women of color.
Resolution: There are about 18 straight white dudes in the Avengers when you look across all the Avengers titles. By the end of 2014, we want to be able to say there are at least twice that many female heroes of color starring in Marvel and DC superhero titles.
Sexy Costume Equality
Zatanna has to wear fishnets because she's dressed like a stage magician. Emma Frost has to flash flesh because it empowers her. Power Girl needs her boob window because it's iconic. Psylocke wears totally appropriate ninja clothes, like Elektra. Wonder Woman's bare legs allow unrestricted movement. Poison Ivy doesn't wear clothes. Starfire is an alien. Angela... uh... came direct from an old Todd McFarlane comic! Whatever the female character, it seems like there is always some completely crucial in-universe reason why they must dress like they're going to a Halloween party at a sorority house. It's ridiculous.
To give credit where it's due, Marvel has done a great job of late putting some of its more egregiously under-dressed heroines in better (and more character-appropriate) costumes, and that includes Psylocke, Captain Marvel and Scarlet Witch. That's laudable. We want to see more of that. Much, much more.
But we're not anti-sexy here at Comics Alliance. On the contrary; we're very sexy. So we have a proposal.
Resolution: For every male character with a revealingly sexy costume or a scene of gratuitous disrobement, there can be one female character in a similar costume or circumstance. Right now the only male character in a sexy costume is Namor, so you get half... wait, no, he put on pants and a vest. Right now there's no-one.
Romance is part of the soap of superhero comics. Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy keeps secrets from girl, girl gets abducted by super villain, boy angsts over terrible life choices, something something, kissing?
But it's almost always boy-meets-girl. When it's two guys, they seem to fall in love somewhere in the gutters. (In the comics sense, not the puritanical sense, nor the Oscar Wilde sense.) Gay characters step off the gay boat in pre-set pairs, and we never see any courtship.
There are two recent exceptions to this that we can think of. Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer were allowed to fall in love in Batwoman (but not allowed to marry). Annabelle Riggs almost had a troubled romance in Fearless Defenders before it was canceled. We never saw Wiccan fall in love with Hulkling. We never saw Northstar fall in love with Kyle. We never even saw Rictor fall in love with Shatterstar, despite the fact that it happened in X-Force right under our noses!
Resolution: No more motorcycle-and-sidecar gay couples. Let's see some single LGBT heroes fall in love. Prodigy. Starling. Julie Power. Bunker. Ben Deeds. Show, don't tell.
Remember The "T" in LGBT
We need to see transgender superheroes in the Marvel and DC universes. We don't mean mutant shapeshifters, gender-ambiguous aliens or magical tricksters. We mean a person assigned the wrong gender at birth, who is either transitioning to their correct gender or has already transitioned. And we don't mean a supporting cast member. We mean a hero.
Young people struggling with gender identity need heroes, just as lesbian, gay and bisexual people need heroes, just as people of all races need heroes. Superhero comics were so slow, so shamefully slow, to accept that LGBT people belong in general audience comics. That has changed at a rapid pace, but the T in LGBT is still in the margins.
Other forms of narrative media haven't been great on this issue, but we're seeing gradual change, supported by the greater visibility achieved by transgender people like Laverne Cox, Lana Wachowski, Chaz Bono, and Janet Mock. Let this be one time that comics actually lead change rather than trailing a decade behind.
Resolution: Let's start with one major trans hero at each major publisher. It's that simple.
Who are your fav non-white/male/straight superheroes?