Marvel Comics’ latest incarnation of their legendary Captain America character is a black man, the comic book industry giant announced late Wednesday.
The new Captain, Sam Wilson, will embody the superhero with a different sensibility—one that’s more in touch with the issues people face today—and with new powers, too, of course, as he joins Falcon's wings with the Captain's shield.
“[H]e’s a modern day man in touch with the problems of the 21st Century. For most of his professional life, Sam has worked as a social worker, so he’s seen the worst of urban society up close, and how crime, poverty, lack of social structure and opportunity can affect the community. So he’s got perhaps a greater focus on the plight of the common man, and perhaps a greater empathy for the underprivileged,” editor Tom Brevoort told Marvel.com.
The announcement comes on the heels of the announcement that a woman would be picking up the iconic hammer of Thor.
"The inscription on Thor’s hammer reads ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’ Well it’s time to update that inscription," comic editor Wil Moss in a statement.
Back in 2011, Marvel created a new Spider-Man who was half-black and half-Hispanic -- a move that drew the ire of Glenn Beck. “The new Spider-Man is really quite great, he looks just like President Obama,” Beck said sarcastically on his radio show at the time. “I think a lot of this stuff is being done intentionally.”
The world of comic books hasn’t always been particularly racially diverse or tolerant: The earliest African-American superheroes first appeared in the 1960s and '70s, and many of the characters carried the word ‘black’ in their titles, such as DC Comics’ Black Lighting, or were often subject to stereotypical dialogue and culturally insensitive plot lines.
Earlier this year, comic book fans protested the casting of a black man as the Human Torch, a character originally drawn as a white man, in an upcoming big screen reboot of "The Fantastic Four". Similar complaints were lodged when a black actor, Idris Elba, played the traditionally white character of Heimdall in the "Thor" films.
Nevertheless, these changes have continued as the traditional comic book reading demographic grows and expands. For instance, young women are now the fastest growing audience for comic books, according to Publishers Weekly.
Meanwhile, the comic book arena has been increasingly making headlines for promoting equality. On Wednesday, the famous red-head Archie Andrews died in the final installment of “Life with Archie,” saving his gay friend.