These days you can't go anywhere without seeing superheroes — or someone (rightly) decrying their lack of diversity.

As both a lifelong comic book fan and a lifelong white dude, I understands both sides of it. On one hand, it's exciting to see these iconic characters finally get the spotlight after 50-plus years of being relegated to four-color funny books. I mean, we get at least seven different superhero blockbusters this year alone, and that's not even counting television!

But on the other hand, well ... let's just say that guys like me have never been left wanting for role models that look just like us.


Fortunately, things aren't quite the same as they were back in 1939, when Superman first showed up on the scene. Sure, there are still plenty of characters (and fans) who stick to their traditions of Stoic Manguy Hero and The Sexy Lady That He Rescues All the Time. But now it's easier than ever to find comic books that accurately reflect the world we live in — where there are more distinctions between people than the color of their spandex over-the-pants underwear.

Here are just a few of our favorites:

1. "Spider-Man"

Wait what?! Don't worry, Peter Parker is still around. But a black Hispanic teenager named Miles Morales is also Spider-Man, thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, a Jewish-American comic book writer who wanted a more diverse role model for his adopted children. Originally introduced in 2011 as part of Marvel's "Ultimate" universe (a parallel alternate continuity ... because comics), the new Spider-Man comic launching in February will place him firmly beside all your other favorite heroes.

Image by Sara Pichelli/Marvel.

2. "The Wicked + the Divine"

"Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead." It's happening again right now — and this time, they're all beloved pop stars. That's the basic premise of "The Wicked + the Divine," which explores fandom, death, divinity, and the irresistible allure of pop music. While the book itself is set in England, the pantheon of deities pulls from every culture and historical period and mashes it together with a cast that spans the spectrum of race, gender, and sexuality. And it all oozes with a rock 'n' roll sex appeal.

Image by Jamie McKelvie/Image Comics.

3. "Midnighter"

When he was first introduced, Midnighter and his now-ex-husband, Apollo, were basically a gay homage to Batman and Superman. And if that sounds like the concept to a cheap sketch comedy, that couldn't be further from the truth. Midnighter is more powerful than Batman and at least as badass — if not more. (Let's just say his early appearances were part of DC's adult-oriented publications.) He was also the first gay male to headline an ongoing DC comic book, and the current iteration is the first time it's being scripted by an out writer, too.

Image by David Messina/DC Comics.

4. "Lumberjanes"

Speaking of adult content, "Lumberjanes" is probably the most delightful all-ages comic you will ever read. The girls at the (big breath!) Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types (yes, really) get into all kinds of fantastical mischief as they learn about friendship and about themselves. It's heartfelt. It's fresh. It's universal. It's like the best parts of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Scooby-Doo," and "Salute Your Shorts" all rolled into one. Did I mention that it also features a transgender cast member and can help kids and adults alike to empathize with issues of gender dysphoria?

Image by Brooke Allen/BOOM! Studios.

5. "Ms. Marvel"

If you thought Peter Parker was the only character who is relatable as the lovable loser whose superhero antics get in the way of getting his life together, then you haven't read "Ms. Marvel." Kamala Khan is a nerdy teenage girl living in Jersey City when she discovers that she has superpowers. Think about your own most embarrassing high school experience; now imagine that it happens when you're teaming up with Wolverine and that you can't tell anybody about it and that your parents still won't let you go to that party with all your friends — ugh. On top of all that, Ms. Marvel is the first mainstream Muslim superhero comic, scripted by a Muslim writer, and it doesn't shy away from all the complications that come along with that.

Image by Giuseppe Cammuncoli/Marvel.

6. "The Private Eye"

It's cool enough that "The Private Eye" is a pay-what-you-want digital comic about Internet privacy that was specifically designed to be read on a computer or tablet. It's also an incredibly compelling detective story with a bisexual, biracial protagonist, set in a near-future society after The Cloud burst and released everyone's private information out into the world. The international and highly acclaimed creative team have also made the book available completely DRM-free, with translations in English, Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese. You have pretty much no reason not to read it all right now, and the only reason you'll want to stop reading is just so you can change your passwords.

Image by Marcos Martin/Panel Syndicate.

7. "Bitch Planet"

"Bitch Planet" is a science-fictional feminist riff on '70s exploitation movies, set in a dystopian future where "non-compliant" women are sent to an off-planet prison where they learn to be subservient — so, maybe not so different from the real world. The allegory is obvious, but the action and the characters are anything but. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick never shies away from going there, wherever "there" might be. Think "Orange is the New Black" but in space. Or maybe Margaret Atwood meets "Inglorious Basterds." Either way, it's awesome. 

Image by Valentine DeLandro/Image Comics.

8. "Black Panther"

We've written before about why we're excited to see MacArthur-Award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates take over the new "Black Panther" comic book, but it still bears repeating. The leader of a highly-advanced African nation, T'Challa is a super-powered super-genius who has served as a member of The Avengers as well as the Fantastic Four. And, oh yeah, he has that movie coming out soon, after his upcoming debut in "Captain America: Civil War." Let's just say that it's about time he had his chance to shine. While Coates' comic doesn't debut until April, you can currently catch Black Panther in the Marvel comic "Ultimates." (Not to be confused with the aforementioned Ultimate universe continuity of ... oh, forget it. It's comics.)

Image by Brian Stelfreeze/Marvel.

9. "Virgil"

Like "Bitch Planet" above, "Virgil" is a twist on '70s exploitation films, only this time, it's a black, queer revenge story. Virgil is a Jamaican policeman who is forced to hide his sexuality from his fellow officers, especially when they use their authority to bully the brothels. But when his secret is exposed and his partner is kidnapped — well, to say the least, there aren't any funky "Shaft" guitar licks during Virgil's brutal, bloody odyssey to save the man he loves. Added bonus: "Virgil" is a complete graphic novel (as opposed to a collected series of comic book issues), which means you get the whole story in one book. But speaking from personal experience, I should warn you not to crack it open right before bedtime or you won't go to sleep.

Image by JD Faith/Image Comics.

10. "Batgirl"

Barbara Gordon is more than just a Batman knockoff in a purple suit. The current "Batgirl" comic makes her into her own force to be reckoned with, an incomparable computer hacker and crimefighter who's still dealing with the ramifications from a traumatic crippling at the hands of The Joker.

Also? Her roommate and friend Alysia Yeoh is the first transgender character in a mainstream superhero comic (which made her recent wedding the first transgender wedding in a mainstream superhero comic, too).

Image by Daniel Sampere and Vicente Cifuentes/DC Comics.

11. "Trees"

10 years ago, 10 strange alien monoliths — the titular "trees" — landed on Earth. And ever since, they've ... just kinda been there, as if these extraterrestrials had come to Earth in search of intelligent life but just gave up. "Trees" explores the personal lives of its international ensemble cast and the ways they've been affected — or not — by the presence of the Trees. From Slavic scientists to Brazilian drug-runners to Manhattan businessmen to queer artists in China's quarantined "cultural zone," it's a socio-political tapestry about the aftermath of the most disappointing alien invasion ever.

Image by Jason Howard/Image Comics.

These stories and characters might be fiction, but that doesn't mean they can't reflect the world we live in.

People are resistant to change, and we can't change that about them. But stories can help us empathize with other people and understand the way we live.

So while it is important to applaud the diverse casts in these and other books, what makes these comics great is the same thing that makes any comic great: a cast that we connect with, regardless of their gender, race, age, or sexuality. Even if you're a white dude like me, there's still a lot that you can learn from a super-powered Pakistani-American girl. (Which is only fair, since we've expected everyone to empathize with us for so long.)

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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Kayla Sullivan nails the reality of toddler tantrums in her mock news report.

Anyone who's ever had a 2-year-old knows that they can be … a lot. Adorable for sure, but … a lot. Toddlers are just starting to figure out that they have their own free will, but they have zero idea how to wield it or use it for good. They want what they want, when they want it—except when they change their mind and absolutely do not want what they just wanted—and they don't really have the emotional maturity or verbal acuity to adequately express any of these things without crying, whining or screaming.

There's a reason they're so darn cute.

For parents, handling a 2-year-old's 2-year-oldness can be a challenge. You can't rationalize with them. You know they're not being little toddler terrors on purpose. You know that they're just learning and that it's a stage and a phase that won't last forever, but when you're in it? Phew.

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