Chicago comics artists bring a more diverse cast of heroes to the shelves

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ANDERSONVILLE -- The world of comic book superheroes has long been dominated by Batman, Superman, Spider-Man – and a number of other mostly white characters – but as super hero movies and TV shows have taken on a bigger and bigger role in pop culture – the diversity has grown, too.

One of the people of at the forefront of the changing narrative is Chicago artist Ashley Woods. She’s part of a new generation of black comic book writers and illustrators who are increasingly asserting the right to tell their own stories.

Recently she was signing copies of her newest work – “Lady Castle,” inside of Alley Cat Comics, located in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. Selene Idell, the shop’s owner, said the diversity on the shelves is finally reflecting the diversity on the streets.

“I think it’s great that this is happening,” Idell said. “There are so many great artists, writers, letterers, inkers, everybody who makes all the comics.”

“Lady Castle” is a story set in medieval times – in which women take control of a world traditionally dominated by men.

The new ‘king’ of the castle is actually a queen – a woman of color. It’s a twist Woods hopes will help connect the story to more young girls who look like her.

“I believe that everybody should have somebody out there who looks like them – a hero,” Woods said.

Black superheroes have been few and far between. In 1966 black panther debuted in marvel comics, then in 1967 Ertha Kitt played the villain “Cat Woman” on the Batman TV series. In the 1970s Luke Cage came on the scene – all are still staples.

“It is nice to see everything change and different groups of people have a platform or a hero to represent them in a story,” Woods said.