Superheroes have always played a crucial role in the definition of American culture, but until very recently, the image that these heroes portrayed was often one of unimaginative homogeny. Characters, or more often, their various forms of media such as comics and movies, would rely on extremes and overused character tropes, with representation and diversity barely a consideration. Fundamentally, the field was dominated by male characters, from the god-like Superman to the brooding vigilante of Batman, and the occasional female superhero, no matter how powerful or interesting, seemed to have a mandatory addition of over-sexualization and objectification, wearing skimpy outfits and often having to use their femininity as a weapon in itself. But as time passed, we saw a gradual shift in the demographics of the superhero playground. With the emergence of characters like Squirrel Girl, young girls saw a hero figure who had a realistic body type and taught computer science classes. Miss Marvel showed children of color that they too had a voice and place in this fictional, yet extremely significant, universe, where a superhero could be an intelligent young Muslim girl who fought crime whilst staying true to her family’s traditions.
The 2020 DC Comics Lineup is the next step in this progression, featuring not only characters who come from a diverse plethora of backgrounds, but also authors, artists, and illustrators from different cultures and backgrounds as well. Eac story elegantly balances representation and sending a broader message about inclusion, while maintaining traditional characteristic features of a superhero narrative that truly make the storytelling medium unique. Stories like The Oracle Code take a new approach to the usual ”hero vs villain, epic fight sequence” trope by adding a more psychological twist, where the main character also happens to be a victim of a gun shooting in a rehabilitation center. As stated from DC Comics directly, “In The Oracle Code, universal truths cannot be escaped, and Barbara Gordon must battle the phantoms of her past before they swarm her future.”
Through this release, DC Comics has proved that they’re not afraid to take a completely new approach to what they, and subsequently, most of America and the world, defines as a superhero comic. The release itself includes Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Louise Simpson, Shadow of The Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn, The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp, Gotham High by Melissa de la Cruz, Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel by Michael Moreci, Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson, You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, and Teen Titans: Beast Boy by Kami Garcia. In creating more complex stories, they’ve also creatively paralleled the real world, where it’s never 100% clear who’s truly the “good guy”, and personal bias and upbringing often influence judgment. DC Comics has embraced a more imperfect view of society and its youth, one where representation is an authentic yarn woven immovably from the fabric and foundation of the story and universe as a whole.