Who’d have thought Superman’s most daunting foe wouldn’t be Lex Luthor or Brainiac, but Playstation and the Internet? Today’s Grade Three demographic isn’t interested in reading about the X-Men, preferring to spend hours glued to an X-box.
With the new media onslaught, comic book publishers have seen a declining readership. Marvel Comics went bankrupt in 1996 and comic sales continue to nosedive but superhero spinoffs – TV shows, movies, video games, licensed merchandise – are billion-dollar industries.
Last Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, with shops across the continent giving away over two million complimentary comics to gin up readership. I applaud efforts to get kids reading. I devoured them as a kid and would love to see a comeback. But have you checked the comic book racks lately? They’ve succumbed to the kryptonite of political correctness.
Characters have been “re-imagined”. At Marvel, The Mighty Thor is now a woman, Spider-Man is a black Hispanic, and Ms. Marvel is a Muslim (minus a burka or hijab.) DC has new Green Lanterns -- one gay, the other Muslim. Don’t expect a crossover storyline between those two because it might not go well. DC’s social engineers already goofed with the Muslim Green Lantern whose forearms are covered with tattoos, strictly "haram" in Islam. Boy, it’s not easy being politically correct, is it?
Comic book publishers in the 70’s tried to be more diverse too, but today’s efforts seem more like pandering. They haven’t done a very good job -- every superhero on my decades-old "Friends Of Ol’ Marvel" poster is white. But instead of changing the race and sex of established characters, why not introduce new and interesting female and non-white characters? Or develop the cool and diverse characters that already exist like Black Panther and Luke Cage?
For now, the comic book universe seems to be caving to those whiny social justice warriors who demand change for the sake of change. Accepting this way of thinking might be politically correct but it doesn’t make for compelling storylines.