Marvel has seriously been stepping up its representation game and making Black women more visible on the comic rack and the big screen. Now, it’s starting to do better in the writers’ room, too.
Author Roxane Gay has made history by becoming the first Black woman to ever write for Marvel Comics. The New York Times reports she’ll be working on a spin-off of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther called World of Wakanda, where women will be the center of the story. The series will focus on members of the Dora Milaje.
“My agent was not thrilled that I was taking on another project,” Gay told the Times. She, on the other hand, is excited to take on this new challenge. “It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done, and I mean that in the best possible way.”
Speaking of Black Panther, the cast for Marvel’s adaptation of the series made its debut at San Diego Comic Con and it was glorious! We already knew that Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan had signed on for the film, but io9.com reports Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead will be rounding out the main cast.
It was also revealed that Lupita and Danai will be playing Nakia and Okoye, who are both members of the Dora Milaje. Michael has been cast as the main villain, Erik Killmonger.
This came weeks after Marvel announced a Black girl named Riri Williams will be the new Iron Man. The news sent several outlets spinning about who could possibly be cast as the 15-year-old MIT student should she ever make it to film. However, Williams’ co-creator Mike Deodato stated that actress (and Azalea Banks slayer) Skai Jackson was the inspiration for the character.
But before any of that makes it to the big screen, Creed actress Tessa Thompson is going to star opposite Chris Hemsworth in the next Thor movie, according to Deadline.com.
It all adds up to Marvel’s latest show of love to Black women.
For a very long time, “diversity” in the comic book world has been exhibited by sprinkling in a few Black heroes. And almost always those heroes have been Black men. Every publisher was guilty of using this good-enough approach to adding a little color to their panels and products.
But, as of late, Marvel has expanded its representation of Black women and I am here for all of it. Finally! Better late than never.
On the comic rack, Marvel had a pretty decent roll-out last year for one of the titles in the all-new, all different universe called Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.
Marvel introduced the heroine Lunella LaFayette on Instagram, and it quickly went viral. Prospective readers gravitated towards the intelligent, adorable brown girl with the glasses and the Afro puff. Adding her to the narrative helped introduce a lot of new readers to Marvel because Black women were committed to supporting this new title.
The comic book publisher also assembled a new team of intergalactic fixers with the Ultimates, which is almost entirely comprised of Black people. Better still, the Ultimates cover people from different parts of the African diaspora, and the female characters are complex and engaging. They aren’t simply there to fill a quota for the readers, the authors took their time incorporating Monica Rambeau (the first woman ever to be Captain Marvel) and Miss America Chavez.
Getting back to Coates’ run writing Black Panther; he’s made women essential to driving the story forward with the Dora Milaje.
While the Dora Milaje are supposed to be a group of wives in waiting, that’s not all that they are. They’re actually a group of warriors from Wakanda, and they are some of the fiercest fighters on the planet. As such, Coates is not simply using them as background. He’s giving them a voice.
Adding Gay to the writing team isn’t just a smart move, it’s a necessary one because incorporating her perspective as a Black woman will only mean richer storytelling that is more true to a feminine (and powerful) point of view. Of course, that’s not all Gay can bring to the table, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. (Hopefully, Brian Michael Bendis will follow Coates’ example when writing Williams’ narrative).
And, if you’re paying attention, you’ll peep a member of the Dora Milaje briefly making an appearance in Captain America: Civil War, facing off with Black Widow.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (not to be confused with 20th Century FOX or Sony properties), Black women are playing a major role in the upcoming Netflix series Luke Cage.
Simone Missick, will be playing Luke’s right-hand woman Misty Knight (a character once voiced by Tamera Mowry). We don’t know what Misty will be doing in the show, but we do know she’ll be taking no prisoners because although she doesn’t have any super powers, she is a highly skilled martial artist with police combat training. In other words, Misty don’t play!
Then there’s Tessa who will be a goddess in her role as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok. There are also whispers that she may even happen to be Thor’s love interest in the film.
The role (however big or small) will effectively make her the first Black woman to be featured in a major motion picture for Marvel Studios as a central character.
I can’t wait to see what Tessa and Simone will bring to the MCU. I’m even more excited to just bask in all of the majesty that will be Black Panther’s continued run in print and the coming film. And with Moon-Girl, the Ultimates, and Iron Man featuring Black girls, we have more places to turn for reflections of Black Girl Magic. Now we have Gay to help keep our depictions true to us.