Last year, Marvel announced efforts to broaden the diversity of their superhero lineup; only to run their main Marvel universe through the shredder this year and possibly erase all those gains. Meanwhile, both DC and Marvel have been criticized that even when they elevate the profiles of non-White and non-male superheros, previous efforts have stumbled due at least in part to failures to implement behind-the-scenes diversity initiatives; thus, earlier announcements have come across as transient pandering that lacks connection to the actual experiences of women and minorities while failing to produce opportunities for minority creators.
Today, DC announced its own radical shift that would be taking hold of the DC superhero universe in the coming months. No, not another Crisis: DC announced a major roster change in the creative teams behind several ongoing titles as well as the launch of several new books, all with the general goal of “broadening” the focus of the DC universe. In layman’s terms? DC is diversifying their superheros, and it turns out that they’re going to do it the right way: behind-the-scenes as well as in front.
MarySue is all over the news, highlighting the launch of two new titles that feature strong female superhero protagonists –– Black Canary and Starfire. This will be Starfire’s first solo title, and notably, she’s received a costume redesign that (finally) covers her top half (although, of course, she’s still wearing booty shorts). In addition to a limited run Harley Quinn/ Power Girl (which may feature the new Power Girl, Tanya Spears who is Black and also apparently awesome) miniseries, these newly launched female-led titles will join ongoing series featuring Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Batgirl and Wonder Woman, making DC’s newly announced efforts one of the most inclusive comic lineups with regard to women.
With regard to racial diversity, a few (but not that many) characters of colour will also be promoted to solo title status; most notably, Cyborg will get his own series, written by current author of Shaft, David Walker. The cover of We Are Robin also features several Robins, including both women and people of colour. The new title, Midnighter, will focus on a gay male lead character.
But the real news here is what’s going on behind-the-scenes: DC’s newest slate of creative teams features an almost unprecedented number of women and minority creators. For the New 52 relaunch, less than 1% of DC’s writers were women. In this new announcement, six women (or 17% of all writers, a big deal in the traditionally male-dominated comics industry) will be women. Even more importantly, several of the female writers will be writing female protagonists: Meredith Finch will be writing Wonder Woman, Gail Simone will continue her work on Secret Six (which includes several female characters), Amanda Connor will co-write Harley Quinn, Starfire, and the Harley Quinn/Power Girl mini-series, and Genevieve Valentine will write Catwoman.
Today’s announcement is also a big deal for Asian American comic book writers and artists. Greg Pak, who has done phenomenal work for both DC and Marvel, will be continuing to write Action Comics and Superman/Batman. The big news is that Gene Luen Yang, author of several award-winning comic books including American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints, and The Shadow Hero will be making his DC Comics debut to take over the ongoing Superman series. DC reports that Yang will be charged with helping to depict Superman “in a more contemporary light”. Ming Doyle, one of the industry’s few Asian American female talents, will also be joining Constantine: The Hellblazer as a writer, and Dark Universe as an artist.
Teamed with artist John Romita, Jr., Yang will be the first Asian American to write the tale of DC Comics’ flagship superhero in his eponymous title; this is also symbolic because Superman’s story — with its immigrant narrative overtones — has long spoken to Asian American fanboys. As my good friend Will West (@williambwest) put it:
This is a pretty big deal. An Asian American is writing the American Dream superhero.
(Of course, Pak has been writing Superman through both Action Comics and Superman/Batman or some time, but you get the gist!)
Yang’s writing is just superb and stellar; I’ve been a fan for years. I haven’t been buying comics in a number of years; the addition of Yang and Doyle to a writing staff that already includes Pak’s strong work is making me change my mind on that decision.
As far as Asian American creative talent are concerned, Yang, Pak and Doyle will also be joined by several Asian American artists in driving the behind-the-scenes work for DC. Talented Asian American artists Bernard Chang, Sonny Liew, Ardian Syaf, Annie Wu and Billy Tan will pencil Batman Beyond, Dr Fate, Batman/Superman, Black Canary, and Green Lantern, respectively; Irene Koh is also working on art for Black Canary although she’s listed by BleedingCool and not included in DC’s official announcement.
“This heralds in a new era for the DC Universe which will allow us to publish something for everyone, be more expansive and modern in our approach and tell stories that better reflect the society around us,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. “Whether you’ve been a DC fan your whole life, or whether you are new to comics – there will be a book for you beginning in June.”
I wonder if this new prioritization of diversity might also signal renewed interest in a new relationship with the new Milestone, too?