Happy New Year!
By now, if you’re an avid Comicosity fan, you’ve seen our team’s choices for the Best of 2014. We want to throw out one last hurrah and kudos to the year that was, with a look at new characters added to the DC and Marvel sandbox in the past 12 months who are persons of color.
The comic industry was decidedly built on a foundation of Caucasian heroes and heroines, so that even today, the vast majority of characters in starring roles are still overwhelmingly white.
The Miles Morales Awards at Comicosity are just one way we could think of to bring attention to some of the new faces adorning our comics — with the goal not to overly pat backs, but to remind us (the fans) just how many cool new characters there are!
And, like anything else, if we love them, support them, and buy them, that’s the clearest way to ensure there will be more to come in 2015!
So, why Miles Morales?
To understand where we’re coming from, we need to jump into the wayback machine and set the dial furiously to our distant past — 2011. The long-running title Ultimate Spider-Man was coming to a close, and with it, the life of that universe’s Peter Parker at the hands of the Green Goblin.
Enter Miles Morales, 12 year-old biracial kid in New York City and the next inheritor of the mantle of Spider-Man! Introduced to immediate fan excitement by writer Brian Michael Bendis, Miles proved to capture the fans’ hearts and have — dare I say it — sticking power in the Marvel Universe. There were even months in 2014 where he appeared in four different titles at once (Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New X-Men, All-New Ultimates, and Spider-Verse)!
To our mind, Miles wasn’t the first non-white character of prominence to hit the scene (obviously), but he signaled a new wave of energy and excitement among creators and fans to diversify the Marvel and DC Universe. And his importance to the fan community — especially those of African-American, Latino, or biracial backgrounds — cannot be overstated. The ability to see yourself reflected in the medium you love is so important.
And so, here we are. Without further ado, the First Annual Miles Morales Awards commence!
This is a no-brainer if we ever saw one! No character has as profound an effect on the comics landscape this year as Ms. Marvel did.
A normal teenage girl living in a predominantly Pakistani-Muslim community in New Jersey, Kamala may have been living a fairly sheltered life, but when the Terrigan Mists hit her, all that would change. Inspired by her hero Captain Marvel, Kamala decided to use her new found shape-shifting powers to help people. And thus, the new Ms. Marvel was born.
Writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona deliver a monthly dose of pure fun and excitement in Kamala’s title, teaming her with Wolverine and introducing her to her new extended family — the Inhumans. Nevertheless, the core of the book is about Kamala and her friends and family, giving us a girl to root for that is universally recognizable but still rooted deeply in her cultural heritage.
When the estranged daughter of Alfred Pennyworth showed up, no one anticipated she would be so fascinating. After all, Julia Pennyworth was almost just a throw-away character in the years before Crisis on Infinite Earths, a footnote in Batman history and not much more.
As a soldier and spy working for the British SRR, Julia encountered Batman on a mission in Hong Kong and was grievously injured. Returning to Gotham City and harbored at Wayne Manor, Julia is reunited with her father, not understanding the full scope of his duties until a surprise attack necessitates her taking over as Batman’s right hand.
Tim Seeley and the other authors of Batman Eternal have brought new life to the character of Julia Pennyworth, now dubbed by the Dark Knight himself “Penny-Two” when in action. Equally smart at a computer terminal as she is adept in the field, Julia is a welcome addition to the Batman-family, and a new regular in the Batman monthly comic as well.
All-New Ghost Rider
18 year-old Robbie Reyes had a tough life before being resurrected as the Spirit of Vengeance known as the Ghost Rider! Sore caretaker of his disabled little brother, going to school, and working at an auto repair shop to make ends meet, Robbie saw a light at the end of the tunnel when a car race competition promised a grand prize of $50,000.
Alas, that light was not what he presumed, as Robbie was gunned down by criminals, only to be returned to life with a mission by his own haunted car. Now, Robbie rides the streets looking for justice as the All-New Ghost Rider.
Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore introduced us to this new version of the classic character to instant excitement, taking a concept that had been through the ringer a few times and reinvigorating it for 2014 — both with a youthful feeling and the very real relationship between Robbie and his brother. While his series is reported to be ending, here’s hoping there’s a wider future for Robbie in the Marvel Universe for years to come.
Earth 2 Superman
When Tom Taylor took over the writing of Earth 2 from James Robinson, he certainly didn’t leave his predecessor’s commitment to diversity on the table. Immediately introducing a pack of new heroes, Taylor inserted one major change to the universe that left all the other characters spinning — a brand new Kryptonian named Val-Zod.
Unlike his New 52 counterparts in the Zod family, Val was immediately the most likeable and genuinely hopeful character you could imagine. Initially suffering from claustrophobia from years of being secured away after his arrival from the exploded planet Krypton, Val overcame his fears and took on the mantle of Superman to battle the monster terrorizing his adopted home who also wore the S-shield.
Nicola Scott and Tom Taylor gave this world back its preeminent, genuinely good super-hero in the form of Superman. Here’s hoping the planet survives 2015 to appreciate him!
A mystery wrapped in a riddle encased in a lady you don’t want to mess with, Angie Huang is everything Jennifer Walters could have hoped for in a paralegal and friend. She’s smart, dependable, tough as nails, and comes fully equipped with her own exceptionally funny and adorable helper monkey, Hei Hei.
But Angie is a strange mystery as well, exhibiting powers subtly throughout Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s run on She-Hulk — and not so subtly, as in the most recent issue. What’s most true, however, is that Angie is a wonderfully welcome addition to a genre that not only doesn’t feature Asian women all that often, but also doesn’t give fans a wide range of body types in its leading ladies.
Miiyahbin is a high school student in the Northern Canadian Cree community of Moose Factory, who — along with her best friend Heather — got swept up in the first adventure of the team ultimately known as the Justice League United. First confronting the mythical Whitago beast, and then being kidnapped by the alien monster facing the JLU, Miiyahbin transforms into a super-hero herself with the utterance of a word her grandmother gave her: Keewatin.
Writer Jeff Lemire wanted Equinox’s powers and look to reflect her culture. When it is winter in Moose Factory, she possesses the power of cold and snow. Presumably, her powers will soon reflect the spring and evolve in turn. These powers are granted by the legendary Seven Grandfathers, who bless their progeny with the seven pillars of Cree life: Love, Humility, Bravery, Truth, Respect, Wisdom, and Honesty. It is with these virtues that Equinox is so empowered.
Lemire’s process of creating Equinox is unique in that he spent a great deal of time getting to know the Cree people of Northern Ontario, visiting often and sharing his vision with the children there directly.
Another recipient of super-human abilities in the wake of the widespread Terrigan Mist release, Dante Pertuz accidentally burned down his house and killed his mother when his flame power activated. Escaping the fire with only his pregnant sister Gabriela, Dante was understandably angry upon encountering his new queen, Medusa of the Inhumans.
Charles Soule has been expanding the world of the Inhumans rapidly in the monthly series, and Inferno was the first such new character he chose to introduce. Being trained in the use of his powers by Medusa, despite his anger over the death of his mother, Dante is one of an entirely new generation of characters being introduced to the Marvel Universe who have the potential to be the next big thing.
When the likes of Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane show up, fans can nod their heads in recognition. But when the Queen of Atlantis took her spot in Earth 2’s mythology, we all sat up and took notice.
Marella was imprisoned for years by the World Army as a threat against humanity, but ultimately became their savior when the new Batman released her from her confines. Now, having returned to her throne in Atlantis after years away, her anger against the surface world is only mitigated by her loyalty to the Batman and the conjoined threat the planet faces from Darkseid and an invading Apokolips.
What’s so interesting about Aquawoman as well, is that Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott based her creation on a very real community — the Philippine Bajau Laut people, who essentially exist on the ocean, not land — the only people in the world who still do.
The history of the Marvel Universe is inextricably tied to World War II, primarily because of its reliance on the legend of Captain America, but there were lots of other heroes in the ranks of the Invaders we rarely get to see. One such hero, Golden Girl, has a granddaughter who has become a Japanese pop phenomenon — Supreme Radiant Friend, also known as Radiance in the United States.
James Robinson consistently made his mark on titles such as Starman, Justice League of America, and Earth 2 by introducing characters who would add to the diversity of the DC Universe. So, it should have been no surprise to see him do the same so elegantly when he launched All-New Invaders for Marvel.
Especially with the cast of Invaders being so overwhelmingly male, seeing a new hero who reflects the complicated history America has with its ending of World War II, and who can bring a new perspective to a book that is usually more a reflection of traditional patriotism, is a welcome change.
Wally West and Helena Bertinelli
We hand these two high-profile characters over at DC Comics an honorable mention not because they aren’t great — but because, other than their reintroduction to the New 52 as biracial, neither one is really that different a character than they were before.
To wit, Helena Bertinelli is still heir to one of the biggest mafia crime families in Italy, but left the fold to look for justice elsewhere. In this case, she has become The Matron, secret agent supreme and new partner to paramour in another universe, Dick Grayson. Still brandishing her trademark crossbow and Catholic-inspired garb, Helena is as kick-ass as ever, just as a darker-skinned Sicilian of mixed race origin.
And Wally West was reintroduced this year as a 13 year-old somewhat angry young man, who steadily grew in his respect of his “uncle” Barry Allen. His characterization may feel out of place in relation to the adult we knew as the Flash in 2011 (although, as you’ll see below, that Wally has made an outstanding appearance by artist Brett Booth as well), but one only needs to pull out some of Wally’s teenage appearances in Teen Titans and New Teen Titans to see how on the mark writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen are.
Inevitably, we’ve left out some awesome, new character or overlooked someone you think deserves a shout-out! So do it! We want to hear about any other characters of color introduced to the DC or Marvel Universe in 2014! Share your picks in the comments below!
And here’s to an even better 2015!