4 diverse non-DC/Marvel comics you should check out now
If you’re a fan at all of superhero movies, you’ll know that as of late, the conversation about diversity in the DC Comics/Marvel Comics-inspired films has kind of gone somewhere, with Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Wonder Woman all getting their own films (meanwhile, Black Widow patiently waits). Then there’s the X-Men franchise, which generally assembles a decently colorful cast, and other groups like Fantastic 4 (which faced backlash over its non-homogeneous casting), the new Spider-Man films, etc. etc. etc.
Real talk, the movie universes are light years behind comics when it comes to representation and storylines exploring those representation. As culture critic/comics fanboy Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it:
But even within the comics world, there’s an acknowledgement that more still has to be done, with Marvel even going so far as to reset its comic universe with its more diverse cast, in a push to represent (and thus get) more readers. Yet, there are plenty of non-DC/Marvel comics that have a multiplicity of character experiences and expressions that deserve their own big budget mainstream expansions. Let’s meet some of them:
Brought to you by the team behind Marvel’s wildly popular Young Avengers series, The Wicked + The Divine is an exploration of mythology, mortality, and oddly but awesomely enough, celebrity culture. Buoyed by some breathtakingly gorgeous art, the series has turned heads enough to catch the attention of Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick—aka, the current writers behind Hawkeye and Captain Marvel—for a TV adaptation. With the star power going into its adaptation, here’s hoping we see The Wicked + The Divine, in all of its eye-popping color and colorful cast diversity, on screens soon.
If you’re looking at this Lumberjanes art and thinking, “Rainbow Rowell?“, you’re not wrong: Frequent Rowell collaborator Noelle Stevenson (aka gingerhaze) is one of the masterminds behind this summer camp spectacle. Deep in both humor and legitimate scares, Lumberjanes is as much about fighting monsters as it is about a disparate group of friends figuring themselves out, and ultimately isn’t that what we all desire from our stories? (What do you know, it’s also up for adaptation.)
Illustrator Jillian Tamaki has worked on beautiful graphic novels and art for literally every publication, but she’s on this list for SuperMutant Magic Academy, the webcomic turned comic anthology which follows the titular school and its students’ hijinks. The series follows a fantastic cast, but ultimately, it’s about “like, disappointing food, or being ignored by your friend, or trying to make sense of your own body.” It’s the high school experience, taken to a magical level and then just kind of dropped there, and it’s hilariously relatable, even when the character speaking to you is a crocodile hybrid.
Fair warning: Saga is graphic. It’s graphic, violent, and uncensored in its depiction of war and survival at the most basic levels. But at the same time, it’s an intense look at motherhood, politics, and technology, all nestled within one of the most intricate and vivid fantasy universes I’ve ever read. I mean, this is a character! Brian K. Vaughan is an amazing writer (his Y: The Last Man doesn’t make the list only because it’s published through a DC imprint), and Saga‘s his magnum opus.
While diversity is far from a perfect metric to document meaningful representation, these comics all do a fantastic job of incorporating their measure of “difference” (whether by folding in alien races, or through more conventional means like skin color, sexuality, and human races) into every panel and through every character. That these series all feature women shouldn’t be a surprise; that these series include trans characters, pansexual characters, and biracial characters still is. With summer coming up, consider this an antidote to all the surely white, male summer reading you’ll be assigned. And if you’re open to straying beyond American/English-speaking creators, there’s always manga.