Marvel’s been doing so well this week — between the premiere of Luke Cage on Netflix and Stan Lee’s racial respect pins — that according to the laws of the universe, some kind of backlash seemed imminent.
Whether Marvel was “burned” today at New York Comic Con depends on how you feel about the term “social justice warrior.” During a Black Panther panel, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso reportedly said, “I am the farthest thing from a social justice warrior.”
Fair enough. “Social justice warrior” was once a term for a person with socially progressive views. The internet got a hold of it around 2011, though, and soon enough, it became a slur of sorts, indicating people who “care” about social issues but aren’t ever actively going to do anything to help progress ideas such as racial equality or feminism. In short: It’s a pretty loaded topic, and being called an “SJW” isn’t always a compliment.
Alonso went on to say it’s “very important” for black writers to be writing black characters for comic books. “We’ve been working on it for a while,” he said. “A number of African-American characters are working [at Marvel]. It’s not enough. It’s going to get better. This is not a PC push, it’s not about quotas. What I think is important is that our comic books reflect the world around us.”
Marvel’s Luke Cage premiered last week to rave critical reviews. The titular character of the show is a black man who wears a hoodie to symbolize the black men and women killed by police officers in the U.S. He lives in Harlem, a symbol and home for black culture. The show itself is unapologetically political in its discussion of racial tensions in America. A majority of the show’s writers are black. Its creator, Cheo Hodari Coker, is black.
Luke Cage seems to fully encompass what Alonso said: Stories about black characters need black creators behind them. And it’s nice to see that Alonso realizes there’s more work to be done still at Marvel, especially when it comes to its comics.
For the most part, Marvel has been taking its original characters and swapping their genders and/or races, whereas DC is announcing some of its oldest and most iconic characters as being queer (not that we didn’t already know that).
But, as Alonso pointed out, there’s still a long way to go.