For decades, comic books have been in colour, but now they truly reflect all the hues of society. The new Captain America is black. A Superman suspiciously similar to US President Barack Obama recently headlined a comic book. Thor is a woman, Spider-Man is part-Puerto Rican and Ms Marvel is Muslim. Mainstream comic book superheroes - America's modern mythology - have been redrawn from the stereotypical brown-haired, blue-eyed white male into a world of multicoloured, multireligious and multigendered crusaders to reflect a greater diversity in their audience. Society has changed, so superheroes have to as well, said Axel Alonso, editor in chief at Marvel Comics, who last month debuted the All-New Captain America with Samuel Wilson, the first African-American superhero taking over the red, white and blue uniform and shield. "Roles in society aren't what they used to be. There's far more diversity," said Alonso, who has also shepherded a gay wedding in the X-Men , a gender change from male to female in Thor and the first mainstream female Muslim hero in Ms Marvel . The change to a black Captain America is already having an impact outside of comics. Even before the first issue was published, unauthorised images of the black Captain America were shown at a town hall meeting in St Louis following the funeral of Michael Brown, who was 18 and unarmed when he was killed by a white police officer. This Captain America had his hands up saying "Don't shoot", a slogan protesters have used to highlight the number of African Americans killed by police. "When you take an African-American man and dress him in the red, white and blue of the flag, of the United States flag ... there's symbolism in that, that is more potent and more thought-provoking, evocative" than other kinds of changes, Alonso said. The new diverse characters are far from the first: Marvel introduced the world to Samuel Wilson as the Falcon, the comic's first African-American superhero, in 1969 as a sidekick to Captain America. In 1977, DC Comics introduced Black Lightning, a teacher who gains electrical powers to become a superhero. And Marvel isn't the only company looking at diversity. An alternative black Superman, one who is president of the United States, is part of a team in DC Comics' The Multiversity . DC also brags of having more comic books featuring female leads than any other company, including Batgirl , Catwoman , Batwoman and Wonder Woman , the longest-running comic book with a female hero. "Our goal is to tell the best stories while making sure our characters reflect our diverse readership," DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson said. But not everyone is happy with the changes: a contingent of vocal internet fans are currently protesting against a reboot of Marvel's Fantastic Four at the movies, turning one of the quartet - Johnny Storm - from blond and blue-eyed to black. Noah Berlasky, author of the upcoming Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948 , said portions of the largely white, male comic audience don't want favoured characters to change. "Changing people's race or changing people's gender can feel more threatening or a bigger deal than changing Thor into a frog," said Berlasky, referencing a popular storyline in which the Norse god transforms into an amphibian. "There are cultural lenses which make it seem like a bigger deal if Johnny Storm is black."