2016 has been quite a year, and we can only imagine what 2017 will bring. As I look back at what superhero comics have been in the past year, I can't help but think about what the future holds. DC Rebirth, I admit as someone who was skeptical going in, has overall led to some great comics. Civil War II has been less encouraging, although there have still been some very good Marvel comics this year.
DC and Marvel comics seem simultaneously to always be relaunching and never changing. But there are changes creeping in around the edges if you pay attention. With that in mind, I've put together five hopes --- five suggested resolutions if you will --- for what I'd like to see from mainstream superhero comics in 2017.
Don't Fear The Queer
Gay characters America Chavez, Iceman, and Batwoman are all getting solo titles in 2017, which already feels like a better year than queer superheroes had in 2016. But let’s be real, the major comics companies, especially Marvel, still seem pretty timid around LGBT issues. It’s time to let that go, and let the many queer creators in comics (as well as the straight creators who are just trying to build a more realistic world) tell the stories they want to tell.
More Diversity at Every Level
Queer representation may be my own pet issue, but obviously diversity across every axis is important as comics move into the future. More characters of color, more characters who are immigrants and children of immigrants, more characters living with real world atypical conditions, more characters who belong to minority religions and other historically oppressed groups. And more creators who share those experiences to tell their stories. While I love what Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay are doing with the Wakanda books, I’d love to see more creators of color get hired by mainstream comics publishers without having to reach the very top of the literary field first.
Go Against the Grain
There are a lot of people in comics, and even more in comics fandom, who aren’t interested in progress, and even fear it. Actually I shouldn’t limit that to comics, because it's happening everywhere. Recent events on the world stage have shown that people who fear change will fight tooth and nail to keep it from happening. But inside or outside of comics, it doesn’t pay to let people like that win. The future is coming, and trying to resist it benefits nobody. So ignore the haters, and embrace progress. The readers of the future will thank you for it.
Let Characters Evolve, And Let Changes Stick
I have to admit, I’m happily surprised that we’re leaving 2016 with Laura Kinney still Wolverine for the forseeable future, and the Logan of the main Marvel Universe still resting in peace after his heroic death in 2014. Change of any kind is a rare commodity in superhero comics, but sometimes you have to let time pass to tell stories worth telling. This relates to the previous points I’ve made, of course, but it’s more general. For readers to continue to care what happens in comics, stories need to have consequences, and characters need to be able to evolve. Resist that old temptation of the illusion of change, in favor of the real thing.
Take Chances and Try New Things
And lastly, don’t be afraid to create books unlike any that have been done before. Mix genres and embrace strange takes on characters. There’s room for comedy superhero books like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, coming-of-age superhero books like Supergirl: Being Super, and even gothic romance superhero books like Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. And there’s room for takes on superhero characters that are unlike anything that’s yet been imagined. Find the creators who have those takes, and give them the freedom to explore them.