The Positive Portrayal of Women of Color in Comics

We’ve all heard the cries of how #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Fortunately, the comics industry is listening! Ms. Marvel has been a woman of islamic descent since August of 2013, and the Batman universe finally got a story centering around three women of color with Gotham Academy. October of 2014 introduced the dystopia of Bitch Planet where noncompliant women are sent off world to a prison planet, and only two women could even potentially be read as white amongst the group cast that has been running since December of 2014.

The refreshing part about these portrayals is that they read like real people. Instead of a token black girl in the background, these women of color are the main characters. Kamala Kahn struggles with how to create a superhero costume that will allow her to cover her body in a way that aligns with her religion. Olive Silverlock hates Batman for locking up her mother. Every woman on Bitch Planet has a story and a reason for not complying with their patriarchal dystopia. These characters are not defined by their skin color. Instead, they are defined by their beliefs, their pasts, their values—just like any other human being.

The other refreshing thing about these comics is the lack of prejudice due to skin color. There are a few moments where Kamala is made fun of for being a girl, and of course there is a massive tendency of prejudice towards women in Bitch Planet. However, Gotham Academy seems to be a very diverse setting in which every main character is a person of color. And while one might argue that since the setting for Bitch Planet is a prison and the cast is primarily made up of women of color that there is a racial prejudice that is inferred, there are no racial slurs, and the characters themselves don’t seem to acknowledge it. The respect for these characters is a welcome breath of fresh air.

The authors writing for these stories also warrant a mention. To begin with, all of them are women. Ms. Marvel is a girl of Islamic faith—and her writer is too! G. Willow Wilson has been writing for the new Ms. Marvel series since it started and is an Islam follower herself. Becky Cloonan is the first woman to write for the Batman comics universe. And Kelly Sue DeConnick is a local Portlander who is known for her feministic attitude.

With all that goodness hiding between the covers of these books, it might be time to visit your local comic book store!