- - Monday, July 24, 2017

SAN DIEGO | Amid Comic-Con’s inclusive geek culture, it is not uncommon to see men dressed up as Wonder Woman and women showing up as Batman — though they will be quick to tell you they were in fact Bat Girl.

“I’ve noticed the cosplay here doesn’t adhere to traditional gender roles,” said indie writer/director, John Burr, who was at Comic-Con looking for distributors for his latest film project.

The 48th annual Comic-Con, the world’s biggest comic book and nerd culture convention, illustrated this shifting landscape of diversity, with panels focusing on inclusion in Hollywood and pop culture in general.

“The needle is moving, still too slowly given how diverse our actual world is, but it is moving,” noted National Public Radio television critic Eric Deggans, who has written about entertainment for 20 years.

“I think comic fans have been begging for this for a while,” Mr. Deggans told The Washington Times. “The crowds here are incredibly diverse; they want a superhero universe in films, TV and print which reflects their [own] reality.”

With black superhero characters like Black Panther, Luke Cage, War Machine, Black Lightning and The Falcon stepping into the limelight, there is a “clear indication” that things will continue to improve, Mr. Deggans said.

He added that media companies that produce big-budget superhero movies and TV shows have been “overly careful” about which characters are part of the biggest stories.

“That has made diversifying these projects more difficult, particularly because they often build on each other,” he said of the interlocking nature of comic franchise films. “But they are being created for a generation of young consumers who already live in a diverse world. And it feels odd to them to watch the heroes they love operating in a world where that diversity is absent.”

Mr. Deggans, who moderated the panel on the upcoming CW TV series “Black Lightning,” cited the new “Spider-Man” movie, where “both love interests are nonwhite,” and last year’s “Captain America: Civil War,” which had three black superheroes, as examples of ethnically diverse casting.

“We are getting there,” Cress Williams, star of “Black Lightning,” exclusively told The Times at the Entertainment Weekly party. “The key is just more … roles and stories that transcend race. The more this happens, the more we even the playing field.

“I remember watching ‘Lost’ when it first came out, and it was so diverse. I was like, ‘We’re moving now into the future.’

“Black Lightning” will shoot on location in Atlanta and premiere early next year.

“It can’t only ever be about race. It just has to be more color blind casting and telling everyone’s story,” Mr. Williams said.

Mike Moh, one of the stars of ABC’s upcoming “Inhumans,” prides himself on being part of a show that boasts several other Asian-Americans besides himself in the cast.

“Asian-American kids don’t have a lot of Asian superheroes to look up to, so to see them front and center on this show has been thrilling,” Mr. Moh, a native of Atlanta, said. “With my character, they didn’t have to go Asian with my role. They could have used anyone and put them in [prosthetics], so the fact that they chose me makes me happy to represent these kids.”

Hawaiian-born castmate Sonya Balmores grew up watching actors like Lucy Liu, Maggie Q and Kelly Hu, and now she too will join that storied lineup of Asian-American actors.

“I never had the thought in my head that I could [not] be part of it,” Miss Balmores said. “I feel really lucky because I am part of this new generation.”

“During the series, there is no comment about race,” added Ken Leung, known for his role on ABC’s “Lost” and NBC’s “The Night Shift”. “I love that we are so diverse, and yet we are a family. I think that is saying something.”

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