During the African American Civil Rights movement in the United States (1955-1966), there were protests for equal rights for the Black community, especially those in the South. Southern states had in place the “Jim Crow” law, which prohibited African-Americans from sharing the same bathrooms, restaurants, and theaters with white individuals. It basically marginalized them because of their race.
In 1963, Marvel Comics released the first issue Uncanny X-Men, written by Stan Lee; this comic book is what begin the X-Men franchise. “The X-Men” are a group of mutants that are feared and hated by humans just because they were mutant; the correlation of this story with the events occurring in this era was obvious.
In 1982, Chris Claremont, a longtime writer of X-Men comic books, said, “The X-Men are hated, feared, and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have…intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry, and prejudice.”
In these comic books, one of the villains, Magneto, believes that humans should be completely destroyed by mutants so that mutants could live in peace, while Professor Xavier, who is a protagonist, believes that humans and mutants could live in harmony without any violence. These two opposing ideologies resemble those of Martin Luther King. Jr and Malcolm Little (Malcolm X). Little thought that the black community should forcibly fight for their rights, while King believed that they should fight for their rights by means of peaceful action.
In 1966, still during the Civil Rights era, Marvel introduced the first mainstream black superhero in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #52. In this issue of the Fantastic Four, the heroes pay Black Panther a visit in his fictional African country of Wakanda, where he shows them his power by hunting them.
In later issues, he fights alongside the “Fantastic Four,” a group mainly composed of white members. These comics not only show Marvel’s inclusion of minorities but also their implied opinion of laws like the “Jim Crow” law. By having heroes of different races and backgrounds fight alongside one another, it showed that they were against any sort of segregation and marginalization.
Marvel went on to prove this even more by creating the first openly gay superhero called Northstar in 1979, a year after the first openly gay politician, and gay rights activist, Harvey Milk, was assassinated by Dan White, who was charged with manslaughter rather than murder. In 2013, “Ms. Marvel” (Carol Danvers), a white superheroine, was rebooted into a Muslim, Pakistani-American teenager called Kamala Khan in Captain Marvel Vol.7 issue #14. Ever since 9/11, the United States has been undergoing a transitional period where the Muslim population are now those being marginalized because of their religion by some people in the country.
Recently there was a law put in place by President Donald Trump that banned refugees and citizens from certain Muslim countries. Katie M. Logan of The Conversation, in an article called “Why America needs Marvel superhero Kamala Khan now more than ever,” said that Kamala Khan “challenges the assumptions many Americans have about Muslims and is a radical departure from how the media tend to depict Muslim-Americans. She shows how Muslim-Americans and immigrants are not forces that threaten communities – as some would argue – but are people who can strengthen and preserve them.”
Today Marvel Comics is currently the leading comic books publisher in the world because they take pride in diversifying their comic books.