The mainstream comic book industry is in something of an awkward place when it to comes diversity.
On the one hand, we’ve got more well-rounded depictions of women, people of color, and queer people than ever before. The creative teams behind these characters, however, are still overwhelmingly straight, white, and male.
While there’s nothing wrong with white guys writing about communities other than their own, there’s no reason that the editorial voices behind the giants of the industry can’t be as diverse as their characters.
Luckily, there are plenty of indie titles being written by women and minorities about their experiences/dreams/fantasies that involve superheroes, mythical creatures, and the occasional goddess-turned-superstar.
1) Eth's Skin — Sfé R. Monster
Eth's Skin is the story of a gender-queer fisher named Eth living in a fantastical, alternate-reality version of British Columbia. Eth, like the other people living in their community, have a close relationship with the sea they depend on for sustenance. Massive, floating cities called "townships," drift along an ocean filled with sea serpents, merfolk, and other magical creatures.
One day while out fishing, Eth accidentally steals the skin of a selkie, a mythical creature that, while submerged in water, has the appearance of a seal but, while on land, transforms into a human. Queerness in terms of gender identity, romantic desire, and family structure are present throughout Monster's storytelling in a way that you'd be hard-pressed to find in your average webcomic.
2) Monster Pulse — Magnolia Porter
Pokémon featured monster in pockets, Digimon was about monsters made of data, but Monster Pulse? Monster Pulse is about kids whose body parts transform into sentient creatures that protect them with supernatural abilities. At its core, Monster Pulse is a love letter to all of those monster-themed cartoons that dominated kids' imaginations all throughout the late '90s.
Where many of the Japanese imports featured a rotating cast of be-goggled, big-haired young boys, Monster Pulse focuses instead on a young girl, Bina, and her heart-derived monster Ayo.
The series also does the important work of reflecting the kind of multi-ethnic audiences who grew up loving these kinds of stories. For comparison, the Pokémon world only just got black trainers and gym leaders.
3) Zodiac Starforce — Paulina Ganucheau, Kevin Panetta
Imagine if you took the best parts of Jem And The Holograms, mixed it together with a few doses of some Magic Knight Rayearth, and then topped it all off with the essence of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Now imagine that that thing was a comic and voila—you've got Zodiac Starforce.
Though these magical girls are still in high school, they're long-since retired from fighting mystical demons. Zodiac Starforce picks up with a resurgence in evil activity that brings the girls begrudgingly back into the playing field.
The girls of Zodiac Starforce deviate from the traditional magical girl mold, featuring a number of different races, ethnicities, and body types. Even if the magical girl genre is familiar territory for you (as it should be) there's something about Zodiac Starforce that reads as being less of a retread and more of a masterclass in the tradition.
4.) Nowhere Man — Jerome Walford
Sam Wilson is now Captain America and Jon Stewart is one of, if not the most iconic Green Lantern, but superhero comics featuring black, male leads have never been the industry's strongest suit. Jerome Walford's Nowhere Man is the kind of book that belongs on your shelf not just because it destroys the idea that characters of color can't be relatable, but because it's a blast to read.
Nowhere Man follows Jack Maguire, a second generation NYPD officer who is living with a fully-sentient alter-ego that takes over his body whenever he loses consciousness. Though Maguire's alter ego, Zade, gives him a range of electromagnetic super abilities, Zade gains more and more control over his body every time Jack decides to use them. The idea of a someone's super-activities getting in the way of their "normal" lives is repeatedly inverted as you're encouraged to see both Maguire and Zade as the real hero of the story.
In short, it's a solid indie offering that deserves your attention.
5.) The Wicked + The Divine — Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie
The pantheon of gods at the center of The Wicked + The Divine are more than just reincarnated deities living as young pop stars. They're a circle of tormented former mortals cursed with two years to live and blessed with fame, fortune, and the ability to perform miracles.
Every 90 years The Pantheon is reborn into the bodies of 12 humans, at which point they become responsible for inspiring the world through their various forms of musical art. The Wicked + The Divine draws from a wide variety of different cultural mythos to create a compelling story about a bunch of people struggling with existing somewhere between divinity and mortality. The cast of characters are fluid in their sexual, gender, and racial identities and the book's art is absolutely gorgeous.
Do yourself a favor and go find your nearest comic book shop, and buy. These. Books.