The increasing diversity of the comic book world has flung open the doors for future generations of writers to share their authentic stories. Publishers hype series with diverse protagonists — including LGBTQIA heroes, those with disabilities, and heroes of color — like never before. But DC Comics' "Rebirth" fails at diversity, and it fails hard.
It all started with Green Lantern: Rebirth, a mini-series in which Hal Jordan — the Silver Age Green Lantern — returns. Writing for Comics Alliance, longtime Green Lantern fan Elle Collins wonders: "why would a new reader want to read Green Lantern: Rebirth , when the entire premise was, 'The white guy who’s not on the Justice League cartoon is Green Lantern again. Isn’t that exciting?'"
Now, DC plans to turn "Rebirth" into a line of comics, much like Marvel's "All-New, All-Different." The problem is, nothing about "Rebirth" is new or different. It certainly isn't diverse. But is that how DC wants it?
In an interview with Comic Book Resources, DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns remarked:
If you have, like me, long boxes of DC Comics, you will be very happy. If you’ve never read a DC comic before, you won’t be too lost. This is definitely for comic book readers more than it is for casual readers, just like Green Lantern: Rebirth, but that doesn’t mean it’s exclusive of them.
As Collins points out, Johns' comment is a dog-whistle, intended to call back what DC views as its base reader: the cisgender, straight, white man. Come back, it says. We aren't like Marvel. We're going to give you want you want, because you matter more than them. Collins explains:
Every time that "real fans" ("comic book readers") are pitted against "newcomers" ("casual readers"), the idea of a "real fan" is always one who is male, white, straight, and cisgender. Again, this is the same thing that’s been happening in gaming. The encroaching "new/casual" fans are threatening to the "traditional" fans, not because we’re new (many of us actually aren’t), but because we’re women, or queer, or people of color. In short, because we’re invested in diversity. Because we’re the sort of people who will tell you that straight white men are way overrepresented in the Justice League.
Not only is DC's new move a form of gatekeeping, it's also horrendously bad for business. Despite being one of the Big Two, DC is not too big to fail, and relying on support from old customers without actively trying to bring in new ones will kill Johns' brand. Panels' Jessica Plummer, herself a huge DC fan, calls Johns' comment "one of the shortsighted, self-involved, exclusionary statements I’ve ever heard from a comics professional in my life ."
I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the "Rebirth" fiasco, but for now let's focus on the good. There are so many diverse comics out there. Not enough to say that we don't need more diverse comics, mind you, but enough to give you plenty of reading material while you mourn the "Rebirth" that could have been.
Here are 14 great series you should pick up, whether you're new to comics or not.
1. Faith by Jody Houser, Francis Portela, and Marguerite Sauvage
Faith centers on a young L.A. journalist who fights crime with her power of flight. It's a spin-off of Harbinger, but you don't need to be familiar with the original series — or its more recent reboot — to dive into this mini-series from Valiant Entertainment.
2. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
How does a high schooler grapple with suddenly becoming one of the most powerful women in the universe? Marvel broke new ground with the latest Ms. Marvel incarnation, in which Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan became the first Muslim Marvel character to head up her own series.
3. Red Sonja by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani
Originally a Conan spin-off, Red Sonja came back to life when Gail Simone took the helm in 2013. What started out as one mini-series soon turned into three, all of which are now available as trade paperbacks.
4. Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Brooke Allen, and Shannon Watters
If superheroes aren't your style, but you still want to read about kick-ass ladies, check out Lumberjanes. This series follows the summertime adventures of five friends at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.
5. Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates
If you aren't already familiar with T'Challa and his home nation of Wakanda, you're in luck. Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther reboot begins its year-long reign in 2016, so keep your eyes peeled for the first issue in April.
6. Iscariot by S.M. Vidaurri
S.M. Vidaurri's Iscariot follows Carson, a young girl diagnosed with cancer, who winds up with magical powers thanks to a sorcerer's act of rebellion. Now, she finds herself navigating her new abilities as she struggles against the wizarding powers-that-be.
7. Totally Awesome Hulk by Greg Pak and Frank Cho
Bruce Banner might have been kind of a downer, but boy genius Amadeus Cho likes being the Hulk. Like Ms. Marvel above, Totally Awesome Hulk focuses on a teenager suddenly thrust into the superhero role with little heading.
8. Bee and PuppyCat by Natasha Allegri and Jackson Garrett
If you enjoy Adventure Time's quirky, cosmic humor, check out Bee and PuppyCat. Based on a webseries, this comic from Fionna and Cake creator Natasha Allegri centers on a bachelor woman and her alien companion as they do odd jobs in alternate universes.
9. Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, and Jordie Bellaire
Kelly Sue DeConnick's Pretty Deadly follows Sissy and Fox: two balladeers who trek across the desert performing the Ballad of Deathface Ginny, the Daughter of Death. But when Sissy steals something and Fox burns the evidence, the two unleash Deathface Ginny herself, and she's out for revenge.
10. Kingsway West by Greg Pak
Another magical-realist western, Kingsway West centers on a Chinese gunslinger who sets out to find his wife after he's released from prison. Along the way, he navigates racism and social change in a Wild West that's shaped more by magic than industrialization.
11. Spider-Gwen by Jason Latour and Robbie Rodriguez
What if Gwen Stacy, not Peter Parker, had been on the receiving end of that fateful spider bite? That's the question that drives Spider-Gwen, Marvel's smash-hit 2015 series, one of the most popular in its "All-New, All-Different" lineup.
12. Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
This adult-oriented comic imagines a world in which women resistant to patriarchal ideals are sentenced to life on the titular Bitch Planet: a giant prison. DeConnick and Valentine De Landro's comic reads like a prison exploitation film with a feminist bent, and it's wondrous.
13. Zodiac Starforce by Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau
On the decidedly more family friendly end of things is Zodiac Starforce. This Dark Horse Comics mini-series follows a team of five super-powered teenagers as they work on their grades and protect the planet from monstrous evils and mean girls.
14. Jem and the Holograms by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell
Based on the 1980s cartoon series of the same name, Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell's Jem and the Holograms centers on a teenage foursome who transform into a pop band and try to make it big in the shadow of the reigning queens of music: the Misfits.
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