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Diversity Issue Challenges DC Comics

The recent announcement by Marvel Comics that "both Captain America and Thor would undergo some radical changes as part of their new Avengers NOW! series" was met with both cheers and jeers, but the fact remains that the company is ready to infuse diversity into its stable of superheroes. And this has turned the focus on DC Comics which to observers seems faced with the issue of diversity.

Thus, while an African American male will fill into the costume of Captain America - after the Captain loses his super-soldier abilities, and when Thor Odinson is deemed unworthy, his hammer (and the Thor title, it seems) will pass onto an unnamed woman – as The Daily Beast reported, DC Comics will continue with its time-tested formulaic stories of its superheroes.

It did try to imbue diversity, and made big news in 2006 with their new Batwoman, Kate Kane, as an out lesbian. However, DC Comics has also been criticized for racial and gender homogeneity both on their creative teams and within their comic books.

The missteps range from white-washing characters of color during Black History Month to refusing to allow Batwoman to marry her fiancée. This last decision resulted in the resignation of Batwoman editorial team J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, one of the most critically-acclaimed partnerships in DC’s history, and seemed to cancel out any remaining goodwill the company had earned, The Daily Beast continues in its report.

What could be the reasons DC Comics is not as ready as Marvel Comics to go full-speed with diversity with their stories?

The same report says that readers do react quite strongly against “Any slightly unconventional decision,” and “To violate the status quo is akin to sacrilege.” Thus, most stories and characters remain “ultimately extremely conservative.”

So thus far, DC Comics still retains the “classic” appeal of their characters and plots – for the sake of their business, and avoids ruffling the feathers of their long-time followers.

This conservative stance of DC Comics, as The Daily Beast analyses, is “not only detrimental to character and narrative development—they also make the company seem backwards and out of touch.”

It would do well then for DC Comics to shake up a bit off its traditional track, and little by little, introduce new characters that can reflect the diversity that characterizes American society.

Introducing a new set of diverse characters, reflecting the make up, beliefs and lifestyles of today's
American society and who still go along with the overall classic good vs. evil theme of DC Comics is perhaps a much better option, rather than radically transforming their existing classic superheroes into today's version, so as not to 'destabilize' the status quo the company adheres to.

In yet another report much earlier, it seems DC Comics is doing its best to address this issue, but through a different medium. The Wall Street Journal online reported that DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson encouraged Warner producers to develop diverse and even contradictory takes. The Batman in "Superman vs Batman," to be played by Ben Affleck, will be different from the one in "Gotham" and in coming direct-to-DVD animated movies and videogames. A kid-friendly version of Batman even appeared in February's hit "The Lego Movie."
"It isn't about a single approach to everything," said Ms. Nelson. "It's the right character matched with the right talent in the right medium."

It makes good business sense, but how about imbuing newness and diversity in their characters and stories likewise in the traditional comic book format?

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