Behind The Numbers: Marvel’s ‘More Diverse’ Avengers

By Arturo R. García

All three covers for Marvel Comic’s “Avengers” #1. Via Newsarama.com

While Marvel Comics seems intent on doubling down on racefail within the X-Men titles, the new writer guiding portions of the company’s Avengers line has been promising a more diverse line-up.

As Kendra noted in her New York Comic-Con preview, Jonathan Hickman has gone on record as saying he wants half of his eventual 24-member cast to be comprised of PoC or women.

“One of the first things we all agreed on is that the roster should look more like the world,” he told Comic Book Movie.com. Looking at the line-up thus far, that “or” is a troubling distinction on what would otherwise be an admirable effort to follow through on his pledge.

Let’s start with the three covers shown above, which can be seen in more detail here. From left to right, the PoCs shown on the roster are:

  • The shadowy figure in the back of the left-hand cover has been confirmed to be Eden Fesi, an Aboriginal hero who appeared in Hickman’s Secret Warriors book.
  • Moving to the cover in the middle, not only has team stalwart The Falcon been added to the mix, but Sunspot, a core member of the New Mutants, has been promoted, along with Cannonball (seen in flight on the left-hand cover).
  • There do not appear to be any POC on the cover on the right-hand side, even though Iron Man’s armor there looks a lot like War Machine’s. 
  • It has also been confirmed that Shang-Chi will eventually be added to the cast.

Notice any group not represented?

That’s right. There’s as many white women as there are PoC in that triple cover. But no characters who are PoC and women, a wound that rubs deeper when you see Carol Danvers continue to get fast-tracked to the company’s movie platform, Monica Rambeau be damned. So counting Shang-Chi, Hickman’s math currently stands up–barely. Here’s to hoping things turn for the better for women of color–not to mention LGBT characters–under Hickman’s pen, because the situation seems bleak in at least two more Avengers books.

The Black Panther (left) in Marvel Comic’s “New Avengers.”

Right now T’Challa, now established once again as The Black Panther, appears to be the only PoC character in Hickman’s New Avengers series, which will focus on the latest iteration of the secret super-cabal known as the Illuminati.

Joining him as diversity stand-ins will be both The Beast and The Sub-Mariner, the latter of whom most recently seen drowning a third of the population of T’Challa’s home, Wakanda, in the critically-panned AvX cross-over, which pitted the Avengers against the X-Men for the purposes of…well, who the hell knows at this point. So, that will probably be awkward.

That said, it’s still a better representation than Rick Remender and John Cassaday’s Uncanny Avengers, a title spawned directly from AvX:

Characters from Marvel Comics’ “Uncanny Avengers.”

Brunettes! Blond white guys! Canadians! Smell the diversity, amirite?

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s upcoming take on Young Avengers seems to get back on the right side of things:

America Chavez (top left) and characters from Marvel Comics’ “Young Avengers.” Via Comic Book Resources.com

That’s former teen villain America Chavez, a.k.a. Miss America, at the top of the cover above, joined by same-sex couple Wiccan and Hulkling. So far so good, other than this interview with the creative team where Chavez is continually called “Miss America Chavez” and described as having “a temper.” Well, of course. One more reason to worry: should one of these characters need to become cannon fodder, how secure is Chavez’s position compared to Hulkling/Wiccan, Noh-Varr and the reincarnated Kid!Loki? (Although there is the possibility that Loki will be returned to his adult persona in order to maintain corporate synergy with his movie counterpart.)

In a bit of sad irony, though, Hickman’s public embracing of diversity suggests a wider field of awareness than the company’s recent handling of the X-Men, which doesn’t appear to be letting up soon, seeing as how the company’s big move on that front is doting on a version of the five original X-Men…the ones from 1963.

It’s either cynical or hopelessly optimistic that they’re being featured in a book called All-New X-Men, but writer Brian Michael Bendis is playing the “Because You Demanded It!” card.

“That’s the thing X-Men fans always say they want,” he has said. “You go anywhere–’Bring back Jean Grey!’ But they don’t want a reincarnated Jean Grey, and they don’t want a dug-up Jean Grey. They want Jean.”

I’m willing to bet a fair number of fans also want Storm–and not just chained up on the cover of Wolverine’s latest series. Luckily, Sam Humphries and Ron Garney seem to have picked up on that, based on the cover to the relaunched Uncanny X-Force:

Storm (center) and characters from Marvel Comics’ “Uncanny X-Force.”

Here we see Ororo at the center of a cast that’s almost entirely comprised of cisgender women, with the male members being Puck, who is a dwarf, and Bishop, the time-bending PoC and former X-Man. (Psylocke, of course, is problematic in her own right.)

So while it’s still early, and there’s definitely gaps in his Avengers roster, Hickman’s statements at least represent a potential change of pace from the company’s past takes on diversity as “contrived.” But the key question moving forward then becomes: how many of these PoC characters will Hickman and the company be prepared to promote on multimedia platforms?

  • Anonymous

    They have made attempts at promoting ethnically mixed characters such as Miles Morales as key stars in recent storylines.

    And we’ve talked about Miles Morales as a good moment for the company in previous threads. But in the current structure, comics are the base-level of representation. It limits the potential good a character like Miles can provide when the Spider-Man animated series still deals with a white Peter Parker.

    The wedding you may have missed in Astonishing X-Men which got heavily promoted.

    If I missed it, it’s probably because we’ve been drowning in two years of hype about Scott and Logan playing Edward and Jacob, supplanting Charles and Magneto’s tug-of-war. At every turn, it’s two white men at the center of a story about racial acceptance.

    I’m not sure what you’re exactly looking for to be honest. A gay, Iron Man in the next Marvel movie?

    Actually, I’d like Jim Rhodes to get his own series of some sort. Does that sound irrational to you?

    And what would be wrong with a gay Iron Man, anyway?

    • Anonymous

      Why not go back to school, study comic book art, graduate, get a job at Marvel/DC (or publish independently) and create your own gay superhero? Archie Comics created Kevin Keller, after all, and look how that turned out.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the derail, but:

        1. What indications are there that there aren’t writers and artists looking to do just that for the Big Two?
        2. Yes, Archie Comics did just that – which makes it look worse for the Big Two when the movies are the tail wagging the comics dog.

  • Will

    And the movies are somehow even worse.
    Hopefully they go and put the Falcon and Black Panther in Avengers 2. Or someone badass like Shang-Chi or the Ultimate Wasp.

  • D

    They were discussing Carol Danvers on another forum and someone said that with the death of the male Captain Marvel in 1982, that “freed up” the name for Danvers…. Grr…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_X6VBM6TFKYFKPT5U4ZHMYFPUQM Simon

    While I’m glad the Avengers roster will be more diverse I wonder will those minority and women characters get the same amount of attention as Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. Because while its good that they’re there, I hope those minority characters won’t be used just as tokens and mere window dressing. Also I’m surprised that with all the talk about AVX very little has been said about the Storm/Black Panther break-up. I wonder if Hickman will address it at all in New Avengers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rogerowengreen Roger Green

    Damn, I’m glad I gave up Marvel Comics in 1994…

  • http://www.facebook.com/rogerowengreen Roger Green

    Damn, I’m glad I gave up Marvel Comics in 1994…

  • Elton

    “One of the first things we all agreed on is that the roster should look more like the world”

    So… majority Asian, right? With about 15% whites?