Marvel’s “Black Panther,” one of the all-time highest-grossing films at the worldwide box office, is the starkest recent reminder that stories led by Black characters made by Black creators have monetary value to the mainstream when done right. The CW’s “Black Lightning” and Netflix’s “Luke Cage” brought Black superheroes to television, and in the just-concluded Disney+ series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, after some initial resistance, becomes Captain America. But before these Black superheroes were seen on movie and TV screens, they were in comic books.
It’s true that, as in other parts of the entertainment business, issues of representation have plagued the world of comic books. Yet Black storytellers in the comic book industry are no longer invisible. They’re also not one-offs without voice or vision or impact within the industry.
“I’ve been reading and collecting comics for 40 years, and this, right now, is probably the most diverse it’s been,” says Geoffrey Thorne, who currently writes “Green Lantern” for DC Comics. “Marvel and DC have both been taking pains to bring in people of different ethnicities, different genders — queer, cis, whatever. Stories are being written by those who come from these types of groups.”
We asked a few current comic book creators about the state of the industry for Black professionals and the influences helping shape today’s heroes. They disagreed on the reasons for this moment of inclusion and the depth of the change. One thing they all shared: deep reverence and gratitude for Dwayne McDuffie, the late comic book writer, TV producer and co-founder of Milestone Media, where a diverse band of artists and writers created the Dakotaverse, a world of Black, Asian and Latino superheroes.