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Diversity paying off for struggling comics industry
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A Marvel-dominated box office has certainly helped boost the comic book industry, but female Thor, Muslim Ms. Marvel and other diversity experiments are helping comics survive in the long term. - photo by Chandra Johnson
The verdict is in: Marvel's gamble with turning its Thor character into a woman has paid off. The change, announced last summer, has resulted in the new comic outselling the old by 30 percent, reports the Paste website.

While the comic industry is enjoying a fresh moment in the sun with a steady march of comic-themed hits in movie theaters, the diversity game both Marvel and DC Comics are playing may ensure the industry's longevity.

"Yes, the struggling industry is certainly helped by a never-ending parade of box-office smash superhero franchises," Salon's Matt Binder wrote. "But the comic book medium itself is working toward sustained survival through diversity."

Thor is not alone in the diversity spotlight. Marvel and DC are both seeing high sales with a Ms. Marvel revamp that sees the heroine as a practicing Muslim and a new imagining of Batgirl at DC.

In fact, recent comics that have retraced old tropes and storylines are being criticized, like the authors of the popular DC "Batgirl" comic have recently learned. One version of a recent cover depicts an emotional Batgirl being terrorized by the Joker who, in a landmark 1988 graphic novel by comic legend Alan Moore called "The Killing Joke," likely assaulted Batgirl's alter-ego, Barbara Gordon, as a way of getting back at her father, Gotham police commissioner Jim Gordon.

Public outcry against the cover was so great that DC pulled the cover from shelves after an apology from cover artist Rafael Albuquerque.

DC's move, as blogger Noah Berlatsky argued, was not only smart marketing, but recognition of the writing on the wall: Comics have a new breed of reader and publishers should pay attention.

"Albuquerque tried to sell comics by appealing to the fandom that would, once, have been Batgirl's audience guys for whom she was most appealing as a violated chit in someone else's psychodrama," Berlatsky wrote. "But Batgirl's fans, now, are there for Batgirl, not for anyone else."