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Your heroes are not dead

By Sean Cabot

Kamala Khan – a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, is a Muslim-Pakistani American comic book superhero created by G. Willow Wilson.

She is a notable legacy hero who inherited the Ms. Marvel identity from Carol Danvers, a white woman who herself took up the mantle of Captain Marvel from a male predecessor. Her series deals with her position as a teenage superhero and a Muslim adolescent in modern America.

She is set to feature in a “Ms. Marvel” Disney+ series, played by Iman Vellani, and a feature film alongside Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers.

However, I cannot stop thinking of the response the character is still receiving from a vocal sect of comic fans. And she is not their only target.

In recent years, comic producers like Marvel have frequently passed the mantles of prominent heroes to female and minority characters – some established crime-fighters, others new.

Examples include female Wolverine Laura Kinney, Mexican-American Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes, female Thor Jane Foster, and most famously, Afro-Latino Spider-Man Miles Morales.

These are only a few of the legacy heroes met with vitriolic detractors like YouTuber Richard Meyer, who claims that modern authors are killing sales of western comics and the industry itself by prioritizing diversity and politicking over good stories.

However, the opposite seems to be true. Kamala Khan’s original run sold phenomenally well, and Jason Aaron’s Jane Foster Thor noticeably outsold a previous Thor run that he wrote.

And while I cannot speak for any group represented by these characters, I can personally attest that the stories of heroes such as Laura Kinney or Robbie Reyes are eminently enjoyable.

Quality or sales aside though, these critics’ arguments are still fundamentally [awed. To start, comics have always had a political edge to them.

The biggest example is “X-Men,” which, under Chris Claremont’s guidance, went from an

underperformer to pop-culture icon status in part due to its power as a Civil Rights allegory. These themes remain consistent and unmistakable to this day.

It even originated Marvel’s first openly gay superhero, Northstar, who commented on the AIDS crisis and paved the way for future LGBTQIA+ heroes such as Hulkling, Wiccan, Viv Vision, and Nico Minoru.

But these characters are not themselves legacy heroes, bringing up another common refrain: shouldn’t we just make new superheroes instead of replacing old ones?

First, “completely new heroes,” like the Asian-American Silk don’t seem to get a pass from diversity detractors either. Second, there is great potential in stories about the expectations and responsibilities of inheriting heroic mantles.

Third, legacy heroes are an iconic fixture of superhero comics. For DC Comics, Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern and Barry Allen’s Flash are much more famous than Alan Scott or Jay Garrick, their respective predecessors.

This could even be said for Kamala Khan herself, who is now far more widely known as Ms. Marvel than Carol Danvers ever was.

And finally, both the original characters and their successors hold many of these mantles

simultaneously. My favorite examples are Wolverine, Hawkeye, Wasp, and Spider-Man.

Principle isn’t why these comic buffs are mad, and neither is quality. Conscious or passive, it’s prejudice.

And this toxic mindset is now so ubiquitous that the reveal of the “She-Hulk” Disney+ series provoked an identical response despite the character being over 40 years old and not a legacy hero.

As a white guy who loves Wolverine and Spider-Man, I think I should remind people that their favorite white male heroes are too profitable to go anywhere.

Ultimately, part of the reason I prefer Marvel to DC is the latter’s startling lack of new heroes. Latino Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes is one of their best modern characters, and he debuted in 2006.

Marvel hasn’t always gotten great books from this approach, but sub-par comics are as old as the medium itself. And not only do I adore Marvel’s legacy heroes alongside their forerunners, I think they speak to an admirable creative integrity that’s decades old.

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