SDCC 2016: Marvel Comics Hires First Black Female Writers

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Marvel had a LOT of exciting news to offer fans the last few days from San Diego Comic Con including trailers, casting news, and exclusive looks at their new films, but perhaps the most exciting comes from the world of Marvel comics. During the convention Marvel announced that they were adding not one, but two black, female comic writers to their roster.

Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey will write a Black Panther spin-off called Black Panther: World of Wakanda featuring characters from the current run written by Ta-Nehisi Coates with art by Brian Stelfreeze. The story written by Gay will follow the characters Ayo and Aneka, soldiers and lovers from the Doja Milaje, the elite female guards who protect T’Challa. In an interview with Marvel.com Gay gave a little preview of the kind of story she wants to tell.

“My book is going to be pretty intimate. There’s going to be all kinds of action, but I’m also really excited to show Ayo and Aneka’s relationship, build on that love story…I love being able to focus on women who are fierce enough to fight but still tender enough to love.”

Harvey will have a 10 page second story that features the revolutionary Zenzi, another character who also appears in the current Black Panther comics. The art for the new series will also feature black female artists, Alitha Martinez with covers by Afua Richardson.

This news could not be more exciting or come at a better time. Gay is an important writer known for her books Bad Feminist and An Untamed State. She writes essays, poems, and nonfiction. She founded PANK, a literary magazine promoting emerging poets and prose writers. She’s an associate professor of English at Purdue University. She has a PhD. She is openly bisexual.

Harvey is an award winning poet (she won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award in 2014). She is an assistant professor for the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

And now they are writing for Marvel.

Marvel faced backlash recently when it was announced that the new Iron Man story where Riri Williams, a black 15 year old girl becomes the new Iron Man, would be written by the character’s creator Brian Michael Bendis- a white man. In hiring two well known black writers they are taking a step in the right direction-adding diversity to the creative teams, not just the characters.

We now have female screenwriters for Marvel’s first female superhero film Captain Marvel and a diverse cast for Spider-Man: Homecoming in the MCU and characters like Riri Williams and Amadeus Cho and Jane Foster as Thor in the comics. Slowly but surely the superhero world is getting more and more diverse on the page and behind it. And in this case especially, we have black female writers telling the stories of characters who look like they do.

In her interview with The New York Times Gay said, “The opportunity to write black women and queer black women into the Marvel universe, there’s no saying no to that.” This is a big step. But is also only the beginning to making media that represents the world it comes from. I eagerly look forward to more stories by more writers from all race, genders, and backgrounds.

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