The first time my son saw Miles Morales, his eyes lit up, he snatched up the magazine that the picture was in, and he hugged it tightly. When he finally found the words to talk, he said, “Daddy, it’s me.” It was an absolutely heartwarming moment for me. As a former educator, I have long been a proponent of representation in media. I have always understood its importance and seen the difference it has made for my students, but to see it affect my son so strongly — to see him hug that advertisement for Miles Morales so tightly — was truly life-changing.
That’s one of the many reasons I love comic books. They have been around for almost a century and have always been a reflection of our society. They have brought to life some of the most iconic characters in popular culture, and as the medium has evolved, so has the diversity of its characters. So here are 10 characters in comic books worth checking out that aren’t your basic white man.
- Miles Morales (Marvel Comics): Miles Morales was introduced as the Ultimate Spider-Man in 2011 and has become a fan favorite. Miles is a young Black and Puerto Rican teenager from Brooklyn who inherits the mantle of Spider-Man from Peter Parker after his death. He has his own unique set of powers, including the ability to camouflage himself and turn invisible. Miles represents a new generation of heroes and has become a symbol of diversity and inclusivity in the comic book industry.
- Kamala Khan (Marvel Comics): Kamala Khan is a Pakistani American teenager from Jersey City who gains shape-shifting abilities after being exposed to Terrigen Mist. She takes up the mantle of Ms. Marvel, becoming the first Muslim character to headline a comic book series for Marvel Comics. Kamala has been praised for her relatable character and her ability to address issues of identity and representation in a way that speaks to readers of all backgrounds.
- America Chavez (Marvel Comics): America Chavez is a Latinx superhero who possesses superhuman strength, flight, and the ability to travel between dimensions. She has become a fan favorite for her brash attitude and her unique perspective as a queer Latina character. America has been an important representation for the LGBTQ+ community in comic books and has been featured in several series, including the acclaimed Young Avengers.
- John Stewart (DC Comics): John Stewart is a Green Lantern who was introduced in the 1970s as a backup character. He later became a fan favorite and the first African American Green Lantern to be featured in the Justice League. John’s character is defined by his sense of duty and his unwavering commitment to justice and has long been a favorite for many Green Lantern fans.
- Bunker (DC Comics): Bunker is a Mexican American superhero and a member of the Teen Titans. He has the ability to create psionic bricks out of thin air, which he can use to build walls or other structures. Bunker has been praised for his unique personality.
- Moon Knight (Marvel Comics): Marc Spector, also known as Moon Knight, is a Jewish superhero who suffers from multiple personality disorder. He has been depicted as a vigilante who fights crime on the streets of New York City, and as a member of the Avengers. Moon Knight has been praised for his unique take on the superhero genre and his ability to address issues of mental health.
- Renee Montoya (DC Comics): Renee Montoya is a Latinx lesbian character who was introduced as a police detective in the Batman animated series. She later made the jump to comic books, where she became the second character to take up the mantle of The Question. Renee has been praised for her complex character and her ability to address issues of identity in a way that speaks to readers of all backgrounds.
- Shatterstar (Marvel Comics): Shatterstar is a mutant superhero who possesses the ability to channel sonic energy into powerful concussive blasts. He is also an openly gay character in the Marvel Universe, having been in a relationship with fellow X-Man Rictor. Shatterstar has been praised for his representation of the LGBTQ+ community and for his unique powers and personality.
- Kate Kane (DC Comics): Kate Kane, also known as Batwoman, is a highly skilled crimefighter who is not only a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but also Jewish. Her backstory includes being expelled from the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which motivated her to become a vigilante in Gotham City. Batwoman’s intelligence, physical strength, and expertise in combat make her a formidable hero, but it is her determination to fight for justice and equality that truly sets her apart. In addition to her ongoing solo series, Batwoman has also been a member of various superhero teams, including the Justice League and the Outsiders.
- Aqualad (DC Comics): Aqualad, also known as Jackson Hyde, is a DC Comics superhero who is the son of an African-American father and an Atlantean mother. He possesses the ability to breathe underwater and control water, and he has been a member of both the Teen Titans and the Young Justice team. Created by writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis, Aqualad made his first appearance in Brightest Day #4. His introduction was significant as he became the first openly gay character in the DC Universe to headline his own series, 2019’s Aquaman: Deceased.
These ten characters are just a small sampling of the many amazing heroes that exist within the manic comic book universes. They represent a step forward in terms of diversity and representation, and they provide important role models for readers who may feel underrepresented in other areas of media. As comic book creators continue to push for inclusivity and representation, I look forward to even more diverse characters being introduced into the world of comic books.