10 Progressive Marvel Comics That Pushed Boundaries On Race, Gender, And More

Published September 5, 2016
Updated July 24, 2018

The Black Panther

Black Panther

MarvelThe cover of the first issue of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther.

The Black Panther, first created by Stan Lee in 1966, was the first African-American superhero in mainstream American comics.

This year, Marvel revamped The Black Panther and put it in the hands of Ta-Nehisi Coates, an African-American journalist and writer known for his memoir about racism in America, Between The World and Me. Coates’ Black Panther sold 250,000 copies in its first month and received much critical praise.

Coates told the Guardian that the comic “pulls from the archives of Marvel and the character’s own long history. But it also pulls from the very real history of society – from the pre-colonial era of Africa, the peasant rebellions that wracked Europe toward the end of the middle ages, the American civil war, the Arab spring, and the rise of Isis.”

Government Surveillance

Civil War


Civil War was a 2006–2007 Marvel Comics storyline (and recent movie) built around a seven-issue limited series that spilled out into several other comic books in the Marvel universe. The plot centers on the U.S. government’s decision to pass a Superhero Registration Act they claim will regulate super-powered individuals, similar to the regulation of law enforcement. Superheroes opposed to the act, led by Captain America, end up fighting those supporting it, led by Iron Man.

The pro-registration superheroes become increasingly controlling, and Captain America in particular becomes increasingly unhinged. Ultimately, he surrenders out of angst at the bloodshed unleashed by the conflict and Iron Man’s side wins, with some dissenting superheroes the going underground or moving to Canada.

The clear subtext of this storyline was the Patriot Act and the increasing surveillance of US citizens by their own government — so much so that said subtext inspired at least one academic paper on the matter. More broadly, writer Mark Millar has stated that the series’ theme is the perennial tension between freedom and security.

Next, check out which two Marvel heroes are set to appear on official NASA insignia very soon. Then, have a look at the best (worst) comic book of all time.

All That's Interesting
Established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together a dedicated staff of digital publishing veterans and subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science. From the lesser-known byways of human history to the uncharted corners of the world, we seek out stories that bring our past, present, and future to life. Privately-owned since its founding, All That's Interesting maintains a commitment to unbiased reporting while taking great care in fact-checking and research to ensure that we meet the highest standards of accuracy.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.