Seemingly overnight, Marvel changed from a comic book icon with few major female characters to one of the more diverse major sequential art producers. The most recent All New, All Different Marvel change-up – which swapped Bruce Banner for Amadeus Cho as the Hulk, brought about Riri Williams as Iron Man, and reinforces the standing of two major female characters, Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan and Captain Marvel, among others – took some readers by surprise.
However, the company's transformation wasn’t quite as sudden as fans think, nor was it by accident. Whether true believers love or loathe the new look, the architect of Marvel's more diverse lineup, Sana Amanat, has done amazing work so far.
Co-creator of one of Marvel’s most popular rebooted characters, Ms. Marvel, Amanat – who is an editor and the Director of Content and Character Development – has been a driving force behind the company’s move to reach for a more diverse audience. Since her inception seven years ago, the New Jersey native (and Muslim-American) pushed the number of female character-fronted titles from zilch to 20. Speaking during EW’s Con-X, a free fan-based event near SDCC, Amanat discussed the expanding audience as viewed through convention-goers:
“It shows how much the audience has changed. You go to the convention floor, you see how much the audience has changed. It’s really awesome. It’s incredible for the comic community at large.”
Lauded for her role in bringing a Muslim-American superhero, Kamala Khan, to prominence, Amanat’s role in the company and the media’s broadening has brought her in contact with some significant figures as well. Last March, she was a guest of President Barack Obama, among others, at the White House. Her meeting with the President revealed a simple and significant truth behind her work and the work of others to develop the comic book world.
“The fact that him or his staff even think about bringing comics into that kind of space and bringing the dialogue about what’s happening in comics within the White House is so freaking awesome.”
The Marvel creator and editor summarized the speech to the president, saying: “Diversity is not a trend: It is simply life.”
The atmosphere in this country has become very divisive as of late. Opposing sides of the mass-media debate often hurl buzz phrases like ‘whitewashing,’ and ‘politically correct’ back and forth. When delving into Marvel and its rapid diversification, one can view it in one of two ways: The world is a vast and multifaceted realm. Amanat's thrust to push comic book giant into the 21st century allows people of all stripes to finally add their stories into the mix. Secondly, Marvel is, first and foremost, a business. If Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales bring in more readers, Marvel as a company can continue to operate, make more comics and films, and satisfying their fan base of all ages, creeds, and colors.
Of course, the comic-book 'purist' argument is: Why swap out old comic book heroes for new, diverse ones? Why not craft an All New, All Different batch of superheroes? The answer isn’t quite as simple, though. Comic book sales are on the rise, post-diversification. Marvel can either hope its once-dwindling core readers can sustain its coffers, or they can reach out to new readers and keep their comic book wing alive and thriving.