Back in January Valiant launched a new solo min-series for Faith Herbert, aka Zephyr. This was great news for those of us who have been happily following her adventures ever since Joshua Dysart reintroduced her to readers in the pages of his Harbinger series. Two weeks ago, Valiant announced that demand for Faith had proven so strong that not only would her story be continuing, but it would be upgraded from a sequel mini to a new ongoing title. This is no small accomplishment, as Faith will be the first ongoing female solo title published by the current iteration of Valiant. As such, the new series, which will retain writer Jody Houser, represents another successful step forward for diversity in comics. However, it also points to another trend that has been occurring recently: a shift in the tone of storytelling. Ever since Alan Moore asked “Who Watches the Watchmen?” and Frank Miller pondered the last act of The Dark Knight’s career, the medium has been dominated by the grim and gritty archetype. At its height in the 90s, the prominence of such figures somehow achieved self-parody (cough, Az-Bats, cough) without losing their popularity. To this day, a new creative team’s pledge to “strip our hero down to nothing and see what makes him (or her) tick” is frequently cited as a fresh approach to counter lackluster storytelling. It’s not. Which does not mean that it cannot work, only that there is nothing groundbreaking about it. Instead, a new generation of heroines, including Zephyr, are helping redefine superheroes for a new generation of readers.
Diversity in comics, as we are reminded on a regular basis, is a tricky subject. True there have been plenty of successes recently, the most prominent of which is Kamala Khan. In only a year and a half the character has become a beloved fan favorite; when her best-selling series relaunches, she will also be a member of the Avengers. Not an auxiliary member but a full-status part of the main Avengers line-up. Clearly this character has resonated with readers. On a similar note there is the strong fan support for the current Jane Foster God of Thunder, who was one of the most popular choices for female cosplayers at this year’s New York Comic Con. Yes, there will always be a vocal minority of readers who are unwilling to accept any change, though, I often wonder how much of that is due to prejudice and how much is simply due to an unwillingness to concede that anything could be as good as The Golden Age of whatever was popular when they were 12. Regardless publishers are trying to diversify their lines. Not everything catches on as well as it should (DC’s Midnighter comes readily to mind), however, the intention remains honorable.
All of this is why when stumbles do occur they are all the more disappointing. In the past, you could simply shrug your shoulders and say “that’s how it is. Of course, DC would never allow a lesbian marriage in their series.” Now, however, the Big Two have pushed forward enough that expectations are higher. Proponents of diversity expect more than simply the occasionally tossed bone. Times, as they used to say, are a-changing.
Continue reading NYCC: Diversity Stumbles