For most of their existence, comic book super heroes have been very white-centric. On the rare occasion when a minority character did show up, their race tended to be their most important aspect, with names like Black Panther, Black Lightning, Black Manta, Black Vulcan, etc. In recent times, minority characters have been given an overhaul, receiving a lot of actual character work istead of being treated as stereotypical tokens. Blank Panther has become a heavy hitter in the Marvel universe (did you know he beat up Captain America in the 40’s?) and Luke Cage, the street hero-for-hire no longer yells out vaguely jive terms like “Sweet Christmas!”.
DC comics has been making the biggest inroad into minority representation, especially throughout 2005 and 2006. A few characters to watch out for:
In the footsteps of the Ray Palmer’s disappearance, Asian professor Ryan Choi will be filling the Atom’s costume and teaching position at Ivy University. The Atom has the ability to shrink his body to various sizes, up to and including the sub atomic realm. He can also manipulate his weight and mass. For instance, he could shrink to the size of a fly, but jump onto someones foot with his full, normal body weight.
Jason Rusch, a black 17 year old, accidentally absorbed the life essence of the original Firestorm after said Firestorm exploded. Firestorm can fly, shoot bolts of and absorb nuclear energy, and use his special “Quark Vision” to rearrange the molecular structure of organic matter.
The Great Ten
An entire team of Asian superheros, The Great Ten are sponsored by and the protectors of China. Little is known about this recently revealed super team, but the team’s current line-up is: Accomplished Perfect Physician, August General in Iron, Celestial Archer, Ghost Fox Killer, Immortal Man in Darkness, Mother of Champions, Thundermind, Seven Deadly Brothers, Shaolin Robot, and Socialist Red Guardsman. Many of the teams powers seem odd to western eyes, many being rooted in Chinese mythology. For instance, Mother of Champions can give birth to a litter of 25 super-soldiers every three days. Ghost Fox Killer can control the ghosts of men she’s killed.
Jamie Reyes, a Hispanic teenager, found an ancient artifact once belonging to Ted Kord who was the last Blue Beetle. The powers of the new Blue Beetle seem to be somewhat mystical in nature, and have yet to be fully explained. He can hold his own against Green Lantern and helped Batman in a mission crucial to the survival of the universe.
Each of these characters has their own comic, except for The Great Ten, who will be receiving their own shortly. These are of course just a smattering of the newer racial minorities in super-hero comics. There is still work to be done, but finally minorities are starting to receive thoughtful characterization and mainstay mantels.