Diversity wasn’t always an important issue in the comic industry, but for an important reason. The audience served by the major publishers and titles were lily white, nearly exclusively all male and young. So the thinking was, “why cater to the black kid in Harlem or even the white girl in the suburbs?” True enough. Black characters were woven into the stories from the very beginning. But their integration into mainstream superhero comics has endured various obstacles and challenges. Critics have noted that black men and women have often been portrayed as jungle or ghetto stereotypes, and have often been portrayed as sidekicks opposed to primary characters.

That was fairly accurate for the first 40 years of the comic industry actually, coinciding with the rise and ending of the Golden Age of comics, when most of the major characters — Superman, Batman, Captain America, Green Lantern, etc – were introduced. But then the Silver Age began amidst the protests and tumult of the 1960s.

That era ushered in hundreds of thousands of new comic fans, many of them minorities. And so with this new era came new and diverse characters and heroes such as Black Panther, Black Goliath, Power Man, Black Lighting, Falcon and the like. There was even talk at one time of recreating the entire DC line of characters in the mid-1980s with a black Superman, an Asian Flash and a Native American Green Arrow; in fact, that was the favored plan of DC editor in chief Marv Wolfman for the post Crisis in Infinite Earths’ rebooted comic continuity — continuity that lasted for nearly 30 years.

Indeed, there’s even now room in the industry for independent companies such as Dark Child Studios and owner Corey Taylor, who created Kopy Kat and the Bomb Squad, an all black super-hero team. Taylor, a retired Air Force veteran, operates his company from Woodbridge, and is excited to introduce “concepts that I have never seen written for African-American superheroes or villains. What would a black superhero do if he was stranded in the past? Would you change history if you had the power? How do you handle racism as a black super hero? Who do you save? There are so many story possibilities for ethnic super heroes.”

So there’s no doubt that the comic industry is committed to diversity and equality.

Carl Tate is a columnist for The News Virginian. He lives in Stuarts Draft