The biggest issue that comic companies have faced with both of these approaches is that either's success doesn't typically justify continuing the storylines. Changing the core of the characters in TV and film is often faced with backlash because it challenges viewers' expectations of the character or feels lazy.
The comic industry has continued to struggle and solve the issues of diversity in its stories. However, writer Rebecca Roanhorse and artist Luca Maresca may have found a way to tackle this problem for good.
Whether you are a fan of Detective Comics and their trinity of heroes, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, or the Marvel Juggernaut of super teams like The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and X-Men - there is one problem that both companies have always struggled to solve - diversity. Even with female characters like Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and Jean Grey, or Black voices like Black Panther, Storm, and Cyborg, many of the female or POC characters end up playing secondary roles alongside the white, male superheroes like Superman, Iron Man, Batman, or Captain America. However, writer Rebecca Roanhorse and artist Luca Maresca may have found a way to tackle this problem for good.
In the past, the attempt to create diversity has taken one of two different approaches.
1- Take already established characters and changing their race or gender, or having a POC take on the mantle of the former character. Changing a gender or race of an already established character is more common on film or television with examples such as the West family in Flash, Mary Jane in the Spiderman movies, or Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. The latter is a common approach in the comics. Whether it is an Asian character Amadeus Cho taking over as the Incredible Hulk, Sam Wilson as the new Captain America, or Jane Foster as Thor, there is no shortage of these attempts in modern media.
2- Creating new and exciting characters to bring representation. You can look to characters like Wonder Woman, Black Panther, and Shang Chi to see how creating new characters can succeed. And all you have to do is look at the crowds in their respective films to see how they can influence their community. However, those examples are the exceptions to the rule. And without the recent depictions in movies, Wonder Woman is the only one that rises above the status of B-character or side character to people that don't read comics.
The biggest issue that comic companies have faced with both of these approaches is that either's success doesn't typically justify continuing the storylines. Changing the core of the characters in TV and film is often faced with backlash because it challenges viewers' expectations of the character or feels lazy. Having someone else take up the mantle is typically less successful in the comics (we'll see if that changes on-screen with Natalie Portman becoming Thor and Anthony Mackie becoming Captain America). It becomes more profitable to retcon the original storylines again.
Enter Rebecca Roanhorse and Luca Maresca and their new mission, Maya Lopez and Echo.
While Maya Lopez was a Cheyenne-born female character, she was set up to check off two different boxes for diversity - however, she was poised to suffer a similar fate as other attempts. Her superhero name, Echo, seemed to be more appropriate in an ironic way than anything else. Her backstory echoed Daredevil's, a more popular white character. Daredevil suffered an injury that blinded him, and he honed his ability to see using echolocation. Kingpin, one of Marvel's biggest supervillains, then killed his father, setting Daredevil on the path to becoming a superhero. Lopez was born deaf, and Kingpin also murdered her father and was instrumental in setting her on her way to becoming a superhero.
Echo rose to popularity in the most recent Enter the Phoenix storyline. The Phoenix Force, one of the most powerful entities in all of the Marvel Universe made famous to the casual audience by Jean Grey in the X-Men films, returned to Earth and staged a tournament between Marvel's heroes and villains to choose its next host. Everyone from Captain America, Black Panther, and Dr. Doom turned out to get their hands on it, but ultimately Maya Lopez was chosen by the Phoenix Force.
Roanhorse and Maresca are now on board to write a follow-up to explore what happens next for Maya Lopez. She will return to her roots on the reservation and search for answers to her past. All while figuring out who she is now that she has fused with more power than anyone else in the world. Could this approach be the new way to bring more notoriety to the characters of color?
Instead of taking on a mantle previously held by a white character or changing a character to check a box, this approach of a deeper storyline and focusing on raising a female POC character to the top of the Marvel power rankings could solve the diversity problem that the superhero genre (both written and on-screen) have always faced.