Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Year With Marvel: POC Writers For Diversiverse

Banner reading A More Diverse Universe 2015, October 4-7, #Diversiverse. The background is a muted red. An icon of a brown hand with a star on the palm appears to the left of the text.

We’re now mere days away from the start of A More Diverse Universe, a reading event focused on people of colour. Organizer Aarti asks participants to read and review at least one book by a non-white author during the event.

As Aarti always says (and I always quote, because it's always true):

Reading diversely may require you to change your book-finding habits. It ABSOLUTELY does not require you to change your book reading habits.

Book-finding is the kicker in the comics industry, where white creators get a hell of a lot more opportunities--and the press that goes along with them--than their POC counterparts. It's rare for a non-white writer to get as much press as Ta-Nehisi Coates received surrounding his upcoming (and, sadly, limited) run on BLACK PANTHER.

This is at least partly because Marvel, to their shame, has hired relatively few POC writers over their history. (We’ll talk about POC artists next week.) They exist, but you’ve gotta dig through extensive yet unspecific resources like the the Cartoonists of Colour Database or more focused but less search engine-friendly resources like individual bloggers’ recs lists to hunt ‘em out.

And even once you've compiled a halfway decent reading list, the majority of this small minority are men. As far as I can tell, Marvel has never hired a black woman writer, and they’re horribly light on WOC of other ethnicities. Numerous searches gave me far more information about WOC characters than the women who’ve (hopefully) written them, and Marjorie Liu is the only WOC writer I’ve personally encountered in the year since I started bingeing on Marvel.

Which is to say: this wee recs list of POC Marvel writers whose work I’ve enjoyed is no more gender balanced than it is exhaustive. It's a highlights reel designed to reflect some comics that stood out to me, not a comprehensive resource.

In many cases, too, these writers have published a lot more than what I've talked about here. I’ll also point you towards A More Diverse Marvel Universe, my own contribution to the wealth of unspecific information out there, for further reading. Alas, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve had the time or the mental energy to update the list, so it remains incomplete, but I hope you’ll find some more stuff to explore.

Cover of Storm Volume One, featuring a black woman with a dramatic crest of white hair. She has her back to the viewer, but her head is twisted so she appears in profile. Lightning flashes behind her.
Greg Pak

Greg Pak is the writer behind STORM, the first ongoing series about Marvel’s premiere African superhero. I pushed the first story arc up my TBR list specifically so I’d know whether to rec it to you today, and it drew me in but good.

STORM [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon | comiXology] finds the protagonist solving a variety of smaller and/or more personal problems in and around her work as a prominent superhero and headmistress of the Jean Grey School. It showcases her status as a compassionate, driven powerhouse who will not back down from injustice, and I want you to read it ever so much.

Cover of Black Panther volume 1. A man in a form-fitting, face-covering black bodysuit adorned with a cape and panther ears stalks directly towards the viewer through tall, yellow grass.
Reginald Hudlin

Reginald Hudlin revitalized Marvel’s other premiere African superhero, Black Panther, when he took over writing the character in 2005.

The first arc of the ongoing BLACK PANTHER series [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon | comiXology] is a great introduction to T’Challa, the country of Wakanda, and the challenges one faces as the ruler of a fabulously wealthy, technologically advanced society. (Basically, the stuff we all face on a daily basis.) The series’ later arcs cover T’Challa’s courtship with and marriage to Storm, as well as their involvement with the superhuman Civil War and several smaller conflicts focused on Wakanda.

Cover of Wannabe, featuring a pale-skinned girl with long, dark hair and claws coming out of her knuckles. She kneels with her back to the viewer and her face twisted towards us. She wears a stereotypical schoolgirl's uniform in clear disarray, sans shoes and stockings.
Joe Quesada

Joe Quesada has also worked as an artist and editor-in-chief of Marvel in addition to his writing. He’s a multi-talented fellow.

His NYX: WANNABE [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon | comiXology] is a miniseries that introduces Kiden Nixon, a girl from the rough part of New York, who runs away from home when she develops a mutant power with potentially deadly consequences. Unnoticed by Professor Xavier et al, she finds a new mutant family for herself on the streets. POC and neuroatypical characters abound.

Cover of X-23 Volume One, featuring a pale-skinned girl with long, dark hair. She's kneeling, her arms outstretched to attack. Two long claws emerge from the knuckles of each hand.
Marjorie Liu

Marjorie Liu is one of my most recommended Marvel writers, partly because the titles she's worked on are easy entry points and partly because she’s pretty durned great (as you may intuit from the length of her segment compared to everyone else's).

Liu is perhaps best known for her work on the later numbers of ASTONISHING X-MEN [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon | comiXology]. She was behind Northstar’s highly publicized wedding, which brought a greater (and, alas, temporary) focus on queer characters to Marvel’s line.

I came to her via NYX: NO WAY HOME [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon], a sequel to Quesada’s abovementioned miniseries. I read this before that, and can assure you they work in any order.

I also rave about X-23 [Marvel Unlimited | Amazon | comiXology], an ongoing series about Laura Kinney, the young, female Wolverine clone who was raised as a living weapon and must now learn how to simply be a person. Beware of the second arc, which can get rather confusing as it crosses over with DAKEN: DARK WOLVERINE.


  1. Wonderful post! I'm joining Diversiverse, as well, and was looking for some woc comics (not exclusively Marvel though) and your post helps a lot. I'll have to take a look at the cartoonists of color database. I managed to find Black Panther and X-23 to my Scribd library. I wish they had Ms. Marvel's Kamala Khan!

    1. Marvel should totally add more recent comics to their Scribd archive!