Tonight Marvel Comics announced the latest in their series of attempts to make racist, misogynist fanboys' heads explode: Captain America is now black. Or more specifically a black guy is now wearing the Captain America costume.
Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, will be assuming the Captain America mantle from Steve Rogers, who has become impossibly old thanks to losing the Super Soldier Serum*. There have been a couple of guys who have worn the costume who aren't Steve Rogers, and they've all lasted varying lengths of time. I'd guess Sam lasts around as long as Bucky did after Steve was killed (but not killed and rather sent careening through time, which see the asterix below if that is hard for you to swallow), so like a year or two. Steve will be hanging around in the meantime, kind of Batman Beyond-ing it.
It's worth noting that Sam Wilson isn't the first "black Captain America"; that honor goes to Isiah Bradley, who was an early test subject of Project: Rebirth, the Super Soldier program**. Still, Wilson's ascendance is a big deal and, along with the new female Thor, speaks volumes about Marvel's new dedication to diversity.
It's a complicated issue - giving non-white male characters runs at the big Marvel names carries a lot of weight, but at the same time we all know these characters will eventually stop being Thor and Cap. The white men will, eventually, return. The status will be quo again. But in the meantime there's a big statement being made. Still, it's not a complete win - Falcon deserves his own book, and a black Captain America probably deserves a book with a black creator on it. All-New Captain America will be written and drawn by (hugely talented) white dudes.
Like I said, it's complicated. This is a great step, but it doesn't mean it's far enough. Marvel should be praised and applauded, but that doesn't mean we should stop pushing them to do more. They're steps, but the journey isn't finished. They're damn good steps, though, and this week has made me proud once again to be a Marvel Zombie.
Also worth noting: a new Avengers team has been announced, along with a new Iron Man armor. Iron Man is getting a new series, so it's possible that we're still getting one more major diversity announcement this week. In the meantime check out this Avengers NOW! line-up, heavily influenced by the movies:
That team includes Scarlet Witch, The Winter Soldier, Medusa (of the Inhumans), Angela (a Spawn character Marvel bought and has positioned as Thor's long-lost sister), new Thor, new Cap, new Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Inferno (a new Inhuman), Ant-Man and Deatlok (who is on Agents of SHIELD). Of course Avengers teams come and go, but it's interesting to see how heavily the Marvel Cinematic Universe is impacting this line-up.
Check out Comics Alliance, where Andrew Wheeler has a strong analysis of what these changes mean, and what they leave lacking.
* which I don't think makes sense as he has lost it before, but whatever, it's a comic book story. Sam WIlson also talks to fucking birds and I can accept that.
** Although I'll be honest and say the timelines here never made sense to me. Technically Cap is first, having been created in 1940 before Pearl Harbor and Bradley came later, but it seems like it should be the other way around.