The creators and characters in this collection are vital, diverse, exciting and necessary. Marvel has had its finger of the pulse of American culture for decades, and I see no sign of that really changing. What I do see on the horizon is a broader spectrum of stories, experiences, creators and characters that illustrate the transformation of what it means to be a hero and what that hero may look like. Some people may not like this change because change is frightening sometimes; it’s fraught with the unknown. The tale of the hero gives us a sort of distance from that fear so that we have perspective to deal with the future. Marvel has helped many a reader move forward through their favorite characters. Every creator who is featured in this collection grew up loving comics and projecting themselves onto characters that didn’t actually represent them. That fact is rapidly changing, not only at Marvel Comics/Entertainment but across all media and every nook and cranny of popular culture. Guess what? That’s a good thing! Because every invisible man and woman, every native son and daughter deserves to see what it’s like to be at the center of a story; to matter. We can all wear the mask because we too…are American.
Marvel didn’t seek to make comics for just one type of person. Marvel wanted to make stories for everyone to enjoy, and they have kept pushing boundaries to achieve that end. This book is a celebration of that fact. It’s a reminder that stories are empathy machines that can connect us and help to see the things that we have in common, because that is a hard thing to see these days. So yes, James Weldon Johnson’s song is nicknamed the “Negro National Anthem” because it speaks of different but just as central narratives to the American experience. However, the actual title isn’t “Lift Every Black Voice and Sing” it’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” He was making room for everyone, just like Marvel has been striving to make room for everyone as well; little by little…one panel at a time.
JOHN JENNINGS is an Eisner Award-winning scholar and artist and is a New York Times best-selling author for his artwork on the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred. Jennings is also a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside and is founder and curator of Abrams Megascope, a new imprint from Abrams ComicArts that focuses on primarily speculative graphic novels by and/or about people of color.