Marvel Comics’ new Captain America will be African American Is new Captain America an answer to the call to include more minority characters in comics, or just a well timed publicity stunt to sell books?

August 13, 2014

all-new-captain-americaBy William S. Gooden
Special for the Milwaukee Times

On Wednesday, July 16, 2014, Marvel Comics chief creative officer Joe Quesada appeared on The Colbert Report for a major announcement regarding one of the company’s flagship characters, Captain America. Original Captain America, Steve Rogers will be hanging up his cowl after having his super serum sucked out of his body, thereby losing his super-soldier abilities and instantly aging some six decades. In the wake of this, Rogers’ longtime friend and crime-fighting partner, Sam Wilson a.k.a. The Falcon, will take up the mantle of Captain America in a new Marvel Comics title out this fall, All-New Captain America, written by Rick Remender with art by Stuart Immonen.
This is the second major announcement of a change to Marvel’s roster of A-list superheroes last week, after the company’s reveal that the new Thor will be a woman on The View early Tuesday, July 15. In fact, as reported by Entertainment Weekly, the new Cap is part of larger, ongoing changes among the Avengers series of books called “Avengers NOW!”, which will be part of Marvel’s ramp-up for the release of next year’s Avengers 2 film.
Quesada stressed that this will only affect the comics — for now, Chris Evans will continue to play Captain America in the Marvel Studios films.
While there were hints that a new Captain America would be African American leading up to Wednesday’s announcement, also like with the new Thor, the change is still likely to cause controversy among comics fans. In the more than 70-year history of Captain America, characters other than Steve Rogers have carried Cap’s shield, but this is the first time a black character has officially taken on the role of Captain America. (Isaiah Bradley, a black character who was subjected to super soldier testing during WWII, never replaced Steve Rogers as the only official Captain America, but some still consider him the first black Cap.)
While Quesada insists that Falcon’s replacement of Cap., “Has been the plan for the character’s current story-line for a while now,” other critics have wondered if this is not Marvel Comic’s reaction to the charge that comics have been lacking in diversity for a long time. While there have been African American lead characters in comics since the 60’s (until recently) few have had their own ongoing series and many of those were usually shared with white characters. This has lead to many critics in the industry to wonder if the lack of diversity representation among its characters has hurt companies sales and overall growth and an issue mainstream comics have been slow to address. In 2011 when Marvel’s rival DC Comics re-launched their entire line of comics, there was ample inclusion of African American, female, Asian, Latino and LGBTQ characters as well as a number of solo titles headed by minority characters. It has only been recently that Marvel has tried to meet the demand. In 2013, Marvel upgraded its Ms. Marvel character to Captain Marvel in an attempt to give the company a top solo female character, something it has never had. While rival DC Comics has been publishing its top female character, Wonder Woman, for over 70 years. Marvel has also recently added a teenage, female Arab American character as the new Ms. Marvel, and has introduced several new LGBTQ characters into its pantheon. Additionally it has announced that the X-Men character Storm, one of comics most recognizable African American female characters will be getting her own ongoing, solo series after her original appearance 39 years ago in Giant Size X-Men #1.
So the question remains is the new Captain America a sign of the industry listening to its readers and critics to branch out and appeal to a diverse readership, or is this just a publicity stunt to promote a new book and drum up interest in a forth coming major motion picture. Only time will tell.