‘We Only Somewhat Control’ Diversity ‘Wave’ Says Marvel E-i-C, Acknowledges Criticism of Creator Diversity

"Divided We Stand" by Mike Deodato Jr.
Credit: Mike Deodato Jr. (Marvel Comics)
Invincible Iron Man promo image
Invincible Iron Man promo image
Credit: Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics have made a conscious effort to diversify its titles in the past five years, and according to Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso it is something he made a priority at the company when he took over the comic book division in 2011.

"It's a wave that we only somewhat control. A priority for us was that we would diversify our line, both in terms of the characters and the creators. But I don't think anybody expected we would be able to move this quickly," Alonso said in an interview with Fuse. "It started, I think the first—we can go back and look at the arrival of Miles Morales [and] the success of Kamala Khan as being examples where things just worked."

Alonso points to those characters, as well as the induction of Jane Foster as Thor and Sam Wilson as Captain America, as unconnected events which became part of a groundswell change of diversity in the core Avengers line-up.

"There was a point at which both Jason Aaron, who was writing Thor, and Rick Remender, at about the same time, had ideas to put new characters in the uniforms, in the costumes—in Thor's case a woman, Jane Foster, and in Captain America's case, Sam Wilson. Those happened with two writers who weren't even talking with one another, you understand?," said Alonso. "They had a similar idea to play with an icon, they both came up with compelling reasons to do so and we went for it. And we suddenly realized that we had an Avengers landscape that didn't look anything like the movies. Equally important, people were embracing it, people were loving it. Jason's female Thor outsells his male Thor. She connected with people, same way Kamala Khan connected with people. So really it's just been about that."

A more recent example to this would be the revelation that Tony Stark would be replaced by Riri Williams as the star of a relaunched Invincible Iron Man series, which Alonso said in 2015 was the company's flagship title. Interesting, Alonso throws some doubt on if Williams will actually take up the title of "Iron Man."

Fuse goes on to ask about the relative disconnect  between Marvel's diversity charge in its prominent heores and the diversity in the creators writing them, pointing specifically to Riri Williams' ascent to lead in Invincible Iron Man being done by Brian Michael Bendis, a white male. Alonso says that while Bendis created her, that other unspecified creators might be given the chance by Marvel to write her."

"In this medium, new creative opportunities arise all the time. Riri Williams is one of them. Brian created her in Invincible Iron Man and through events in Civil War II, he’s positioning her for a prominent place in the Marvel Universe, but that hardly means that he is going to be the only person to write her now that she’s here. It just doesn’t work that way," said Alonso. "Who knows, maybe Roxane or Yona might take an interest in Riri? Maybe someone we’re talking with that you’ve never heard of?"

On several occasions, Alonso infers that more creators outside of white men, who currently dominate the company's published books, could be in announced down the road.

"The funny thing is, we agree with some criticism, and that’s the stuff we have been course-correcting for years, the results of which you’re seeing now. But some critics are unfair or short-sighted, and they come from both sides, the right and the left, the extreme poles of which are barely distinguishable," Alonso said with a laugh. "At the end of the day, we know our priorities and we know what we stand for. Our goal is to tell the best, most relevant stories to the widest possible audience."

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