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DC Comics taps 12 Years a Slave scribe for series honoring marginalized heroes

John Ridley will show the DCU from the eyes of John Stewart, Katana, Renee Montoya and more

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Green Lantern John Stewart in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #9, DC Comics (2016).
John Stewart, Green Lantern of Earth.
Robert Venditti, Rafa Sandoval/DC Comics

John Ridley, the Oscar Award-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, will pen the hidden, personal stories of the DC Universe’s superheroes who aren’t white, male or straight, DC Comics announced today.

The miniseries will be titled The Other History of DC Universe, and the company’s press release named several characters as its focus, while leaving room for even more to join the roster. Some of them are DC’s most prominent superheroes of color, like John Stewart, the African-America successor to Hal Jordan, the original Green Lantern; Vixen, very nearly the first black, female superhero to have her own ongoing series at DC; or Katana, a Japanese crimefighter oft associated with morally grey teams like the Suicide Squad and the Outsiders.

Some are women, like Supergirl, Superman’s orphaned, teenage cousin — who you might argue is also a refugee and immigrant. Others straddle a handful of intersecting marginalized identities, like Renee Montoya, a queer Latina police detective from Gotham City who is sometimes (depending on continuity) the superhero known as the Question.

The oddest inclusion is probably Gregorio De La Vega, aka Extraño, DC Comics’ first — and very embarrassingly handled — implied-to-be-gay superhero, who has only just reached the point of being revamped into something that isn’t an offensive caricature. There’s certainly a lot of potential in examining sociopolitical progress in the DC Universe through the eyes of a character so affected by the usual comics editorial attempts to respond to sociopolitical progress.

The Other History of the DC Universe is a miniseries, and will “analyze iconic DC moments and chart sociopolitical gains through the perspectives of DC Super Heroes who come from traditionally disenfranchised groups,” according to the DC Comics press release. “At its core, the series focuses on the lives of those behind the costumes, and their endeavors to overcome real-world issues ... The Other History of the DC Universe isn’t about saving the world, it’s about having the strength to simply be who you are.”

Promo image for The Other History of the DC Universe, DC Comics 2018.
A promo image released by DC Comics.
DC Comics

John Ridley’s work for DC Comics has been all about examining how the development of superheroes might walk hand in hand with the social politics of America. In the miniseries, The American Way, he imagined an alternate history where the United States government manufactured a group of super-powered performers to stage superheroic rescues and clashes in order to keep up national morale during World War II. Set in 1962, the book focuses on the controversy and deadly conflict that ensues after the team adds its first black superhero.

A currently publishing sequel, The American Way: Those Above and Those Below, picks up the story a decade later, with all the political tension of the ’70s put through the same lens.

DC Comics has not announced an artist or a release date for The Other History of the DC Universe, though it is “slated to launch in winter 2018,” once The American Way: Those Above and Below comes to an end on Jan. 31. Ridley is expected to share more details on Other History in a panel at DC Comics’ DC in D.C. event this weekend.

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