DC Comics’ Latest Event Showed The Necessity Of Diversity In Superhero Media

by Isabel Sophia Dieppa

DC Comics has made it clear they are here to not only take film, television, and comics by storm, but they intend to do so consciously and with diverse representation in mind. 

On Saturday, DC Comics (which is a subsidiary of Warner Brothers) unveiled the first part of their two-part online event DC Fandome. The 24-hour fan event was jam-packed with celebrity appearances and the roll-out of new trailers for upcoming films, video games, and comic books. 

COVID-19 has forced all comic cons to be canceled and has essentially halted most television and film productions. It was a pretty grim summer with no cons, but like Superman, DC swept in to give us a full day of fun and our brains a break from the increasingly apocalyptic world we seem to be living in. Although most of the movies, like the new Batman and Suicide Squad films, are still being made and just currently halted due to the pandemic, the online event released teaser videos to help us get pumped for our post-coronavirus lives. It was like a reminder that there is indeed land outside of the ocean we seem to be swimming in.  

The theme of the online con was a celebration of fans. Celebrating fans means celebrating diversity and having that diversity represented in all mediums. Kicking off the celebration was the cast of Wonder Woman 1984: Patty Jenkins has already made history by being the first woman to write and direct the first female superhero film, Wonder Woman. The cast didn’t release any spoilers, but instead, they answered questions from fans around the world, including some from two well-known wonder women, Venus Williams and 1970s Wonder Woman Linda Carter. 

Wonder Woman has become a symbol and beacon of hope for everybody regardless of gender or race. “We are all Wonder Woman and that armor can mean something different for different people,” Jenkins said during the panel. 

Wonder Woman was the first female superhero, and there have been others who have flown out from the pages of comic books to movies and TV. But as Gadot points out, there must be more female heroes. “We’ve seen so many male superheroes but we haven’t seen enough female superheroes and for girls, little girls once they see it they believe it. For little girls to be exposed to these types of movies is so important because it’s so empowering,” Gadot said.

Between panels announcing new comics, movies and video games, there were special panels that talked specifically about diversity and diverse representation in film, television, and comics.

One of the panels had a conversation between Jenkins and Venus Williams, who released an exclusive Wonder Woman-inspired activewear line. They continued the conversation of what it’s like to be a Wonder Woman in real life. Both women grew up in households where they were taught they could be anything and the words “I can’t” were not allowed. The challenges the two women faced were from the outside world. 

The 24-hour event interwove sharing new stories while also highlighting the importance of storytelling. Panels that were not specifically about a new film, show season, or game mostly focused on why diversity in storytelling matters. 

During the panel “Bawse females of color within the DC Universe,” women from DC’s television shows and films spoke on the triumphs and backlash they felt when they were cast to portray well known comic book characters. 

The panel consisted of Meagan Good (Darla in Shazam!); Candice Patton (Iris West-Allen in The Flash); Nafessa Williams (Thunder in Black Lightning); Chantal Thuy (Grace Choi in Black Lightning); Anna Diop (Starfire on Titans); Damaris Lewis (Blackfire on Titans); Tala Ashe (Zari Tarazi from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow); and Javicia Leslie, who was recently announced as the first Black woman to ever play Batwoman.

When Diop was cast as Starfire, there was a lot of backlash because she was a Black woman. “I had to lean into my friends and my family and my faith in a way that I haven’t had to do before,” Diop said. 

However, casting outside of the box has also had a positive impact on viewers. Patton shared an experience she had on Twitter from a mother who said “her and her daughter are watching The Flash. And the daughter said, she’s so beautiful, does that mean I am beautiful too? I get teary-eyed to this day thinking about it. And I tweeted back saying, ‘yes, tell your daughter we are beautiful. Remind her that we are all beautiful.’”

The takeaway of the panel was to embrace who you are and think outside the box. Your superpower is being different. “The pivot for me was when I started getting booked for being different and that’s when I realized that being different was my superpower. Until it happens to you, you don’t feel it. I’ve always been that kid in the corner that thought a little bit differently. And unfortunately, there are not a lot of examples of thinking differently,” Lewis said. 

There were also two slam dunk comic book panels. The first featured the Dreaming Waking Hours from the Sandman Universe writer Willow Wilson. The Sandman Universe was created when Neil Gaiman wrote the graphic novel Sandman, which is slated to become a show on Netflix but, because of COVID, has been delayed. 

Fresh off her run with Wonder Woman, Wilson has created an entirely new character called Ruin who lives in the Sandman Universe. He is a sensitive nightmare who has appeared in the dreams of an exhausted Shakespeare scholar, Lindy, who has brought him to the waking world. Wilson has created an entirely new set of characters to win our hearts and become as legendary as other Sandman characters.

Additionally, the event announced the re-launch of Milestone Comics, an entirely Black universe of superheroes that launched heroes like Static Shock and the duo Icon, Rocket. The news was a complete surprise and, again, showed DC’s continued commitment to continuing to create diverse stories.

Another piece of big news in the comics world was the announcement that award-winning screenwriter John Ridley will write a four-part mini-series about a Black Batman. Who will be the new Batman? We don’t know, but there is a lot of buzz in the comics community. 

The overall reaction on social media of audiences watching the DC Fandome was positive: the event gave us hope that we will move beyond this moment into a better world. Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics, Jim Lee, made it clear the future of DC Comics and television is gender-inclusive and diverse. 

During this time when things feel so perilous with a shaky economy, an ongoing pandemic, continued racial injustice, and police brutality, stories remind us who we are, give us hope and help us become a community. 

If you missed the Fandome experience, you can catch the second half, DC Fandome: Explore the Multiverse on September 12 starting at 10 a.m. PDT. Additionally, on September 12, there will be a special DC Fandome exclusively for kids which parents and kids can access. DC Fandome for kids is where you’ll find information on the latest YA graphic novels and shows like Superhero Girls.  

Events like this give fans a sense of hope, community, and the opportunity to dream even through dark times. As Superman says, “Dreams save us, dreams lift us up and transform us.”

Top photo: Clay Enos & © DC Comics

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