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UPWARD TO ENHANCED MAINSTREAM STATUS

EW Defenders coverNow it’s official: comics are a legitimate part of mainstream popular culture. Entertainment Weekly is our guide. The Defenders (Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Iron Fist) were on the cover of the January 20 issue; and the next week, TV’s “Supergirl” and funnybooks’ Patsy Walker: AKA Hellcat were numbers 4 and 5 of the week’s Must List—“the things we love this week.” Then a few weeks later, the movie about Marvel’s Thor was a cover feature. And so it goes. Validation.

Then the February 6 issue of Time magazine did a two-page serious review of “Riverdale,” the “dark” TV version of the Archie Universe. How dark? Archie is getting over an affair with his music teacher; and a murder is afoot. Time is a supposedly serious newsmagazine; EW is cake and cool whip. After Time coverage of Archie, we need look no further for the ultimate validation.

But it goes on. The following week, Time took up the matter of National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing comic books — specifically, Black Panther. And when Coates produced a story Black Panther & The Crew with Black Lives Matter symbolism, Coates responded to a question: “This is in the air. It’s not like I looked at a Black Lives Matter protest and said, ‘Hey, I want to write a comic book about that.’ But you’re confronted with it every EW Thor coverday. So when I sat down to think about what is this story with four black protagonists about, that rose up. The events of the day are with me.

“These issues are all over comic books,” he continued, “— and particularly throughout the history of Marvel. What weighs on me is reading X-Men as a child. They were charged. They dealt with discrimination. They dealt with being an outsider. They dealt with the things that I was feeling. The comics I’ve always read have always had a philosophical thread. The Black Panther books are not just a story about a king trying to rule. I’m trying to answer other questions, philosophical questions, social questions.”

Time accompanied the interview with sidebars about “comics we can’t wait for” — Motor Crush, Steven Universe, Batwoman (“perhaps the highest-profile queer superhero”), Extremity, and America (“queer Latina superhero America Chavez gets her own comic”), all illustrating the premise that “comic books have become ground zero for new kinds of heroes.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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