Comic book heroes and heroines are becoming increasingly diverse. In recent years, comic book publishers have been creating more initiatives to introduce characters from ethnic minorities or the LGBTQI+ community and thus reach a wider readership.
Change is in the air at Marvel. The American publisher will celebrate the 80th anniversary of one of its most iconic superheroes, Captain America, with a new limited series, "The United States of Captain America." It will follow the adventures of Steve Rogers as he travels across the United States to retrieve his famous shield. Along the way, he meets people from "all walks of life" who have also donned the Captain America costume to defend their community.
One of them is Aaron Fischer, a fearless teenager better known as the "Captain America of the Railways." He is also gay, a first for a character who slips into the shoes of America's most patriotic superhero."Aaron is inspired by heroes of the queer community: activists, leaders, and everyday folks pushing for a better life," Josh Trujillo, writer of "The United States of Captain America," outlined in a press release. "He stands for the oppressed, and the forgotten. I hope his debut story resonates with readers, and helps inspire the next generation of heroes."
This new limited series will be published in June, on the occasion of Pride Month in the United States. The appearance of Aaron Fischer in the universe of "Captain America" is all the more striking that Marvel has long been reluctant to introduce characters belonging to the LGBTQ+ community in its comic books. The publisher was even reported to have a "no gays in the Marvel universe" policy in the 1980s, the Guardian notes. Urban legend or not, it was not until 1992 that a superhero, Northstar, assumed his homosexuality in a Marvel comic book. In recent years, the American publisher has welcomed new LGBTQ+ characters in the series "Angela: Queen of Hel" and "Miss America," while iconic superheroes like Iceman have come out.
Other US comic book publishers are following suit, as more and more adults identify as LGBTQ+ in the US, according to a recent Gallup poll. DC Comics, for example, has announced an anthology featuring the superheroes Batwoman, Aqualad, Midnighter and Apollo, Harley Quinn and John Constantine in stories by LGBTQ+ creators such as James Tynion IV. "The [comic book] industry has changed a lot in the last ten years, but there are a lot of ways in which it hasn't. Especially on the superhero end of things," the writer explained on Twitter, adding that the "DC Pride" anthology would not have existed in the "very recent past."