DC Comics’ Batwing-First Black Batman
Marvel Comics’ Falcon
DC Comics’ Aqualad
Marvel Comics’ X-man from the future, Bishop
Black super heroes have been present in the comic book industry for years and continue to have a powerful presence.
By Brian W. Carter Sentinel Staff Writer
In honor of Black History month, we will once again look at African American representation within the comic book medium, this time focusing on Black, male superheroes. Whether they worked alongside popular super heroes like Superman or Captain America, or saved the world solo, Black super heroes have been entertaining readers with their amazing exploits and powers for decades.
Black super heroes didn’t arrive on the scene until the late 1960’s during the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the early superheroes like Black Panther and the Falcon were the first to give comic book heroes a Black face. Though some characters fell victim to stereotypes of the time, many were written in refreshingly strong and proud portrayals.
These initial portrayals of African Americans in comics would set the standard for writers to come. The late Dwayne McDuffie along with partners- Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, Derek T. Dingle and Christopher Priest founded Milestone Media (MM).
MM was one of the most successful minority-owned comic companies ever. The MM brand would feature popular comics such as Hardware, Blood Syndicate, Icon and Static, which would become the animated series, Static Shock on the then Kids’ WB! block in 2000.
Many Black super heroes have become popular, mainstays within the comic book industry. Here are few of those heroes.
The character John Stewart first appeared in Green Lantern Vol. 2 #87 in Dec. 1971/Jan. 1972. He was created by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams. He was a recurring character within the Green Lantern stories and one of DC Comics first African American heroes. He would become the premier Green Lantern in the animated Justice League TV series.
Within DC universe, there are thousands of Green Lanterns, who act as intergalactic police throughout the universe. John Stewart was one of the few humans from Earth chosen to become a Green Lantern. Limited only by their imagination and will, a Green Lantern’s ring can create objects, shapes and constructs to fight evil.
In the comics, John Stewart is an architect and U.S. Marine veteran from Detroit, Michigan. He was chosen to become a Green Lantern when another Lantern was seriously injured.
Luke Cage first appeared in Marvel Comics in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 in June 1972. He was created by Archie Goodwin and artist John Romita, Sr.
Luke Cage AKA Power Man was a streetwise youth who ended up in prison. In exchange for parole, Cage underwent an experiment, which was supposed to give him immunity to illness. He ended up gaining superhuman strength, durability, stamina and a healing ability. He became a street detective that lent his abilities to those who needed help.
Luke Cage was a character that represented the Blaxploitation genre of the 1970’s. He used heavy slang of the time, had an Afro and was portrayed with a thuggish style. Today he sports a baldhead and maintains an urban swagger. Luke Cage is a part of the one of the premier groups in Marvel Comics, the New Avengers. He’s also married and has a child with another Marvel super heroine, Jessica Jones.
Cyborg was created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez and first appeared in the special DC Comics Presents #26 in October 1980.
Victor Stone, best known as Cyborg of the Teen Titans, gained his cybernetic parts after an accident. Now, with most of his body covered with metal prosthetics, he is part man, part machine.
His shady past with a troublemaking friend leads him to pursue being a super hero. Cyborg possesses numerous weapons all over his body with different functions, superhuman strength and thanks to his scientist parents, superhuman intellect.
A prominent member of the Teen Titans, in the New 52 DC universe, Cyborg is set to become a part of DC’s Justice League.
In the mainstream Marvel Universe, Nick Fury is portrayed as a Caucasian man, who is a spy/agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. He was created by artist Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee in May 1963. In an alternate universe, Ultimate Marvel, now Ultimate Comics, Nick Fury was reimagined as a Black man in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In his first appearance in 2001, Nick Fury was portrayed a black James-Bond-type of agent equipped with high-tech weapons, devices, a suit and eye patch. He first appeared in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up and later in Ultimate X-men.
He later resurfaced in 2002 in Ultimate Marvel’s, Ultimates, in the likeness of actor, Samuel L. Jackson. The character has since gained a lot of popularity in some ways overshadowing the mainstream Nick Fury of Marvel. Fury is the general of S.H.I.E.L.D. and leader of the Ultimates, the Utlimate Comics version of the Avengers.
The Ultimate version of Nick Fury has been featured in cameos and small roles in the Marvel movies portrayed by Jackson himself. He will have a greater role in the Avengers movie this summer.
The superhero and vampire hunter known as Blade was created by writer, Marv Wolfman and penciller Gene Colan. He first appeared in Marvel comics’ The Tomb of Dracula #10 in July 1973. The character Blade was born in a whoreshouse in England in 1929. A vampire bit his mother during his conception giving him all the abilities of a vampire and the ability to walk in the daylight. Blade fights the forces of darkness equipped with stakes, guns, swords and martial arts skills.
He was based off a host of Black actors including NFL football legend and actor Jim Brown. He would be featured in recurring roles until his solo story came in Marvel Comics’ black-and-white magazine Vampire Tales #8. Blade would take off in the 1990’s along with a host of dark and macabre-like heroes such as Ghost Rider and Image Comics’ Spawn.
Blade made his TV debut in Spider-Man the animated series in the early 90’s. In the late 90’s into the 2000’s, Blade would get a movie trilogy portrayed by actor Wesley Snipes. In the late 2000’s, Blade the TV series debuted on the cable network, Spike, portrayed by rapper/actor Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones.
Snipes & Jones as Blade respectively
Spawn is another hero who draws his abilities from dark or evil elements. He was created by writer/artist Todd McFarlane and appears in Image Comics. He first appeared in Spawn #1 in May 1992.
Spawn tells the story of, Albert Francis Simmons, an officer of the United States Marine Corps, who eventually makes his way into the CIA. He loses his life on a mission and his soul goes to hell because of his line of work in the government. He makes a deal with the devil to serve as a Hellspawn in exchange that he get to see his wife one more time.
Spawn is an antihero who uses a variety of magical and supernatural abilities to take on evil. Many of his stories have him conflicted with his demonic nature and the consequences of his choices.
Spawn got an animated miniseries in the late 90’s on HBO entitled Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, which received two Emmy awards. Spawn was voice by Keith David. In 1997, actor Michael Jai White portrayed the character in Spawn the movie.
Michael Jai White as Spawn
Black super heroes have become more than just a part of comic book history—they are a part of Black history. They have shown us that in the realms of fantasy and adventure, Black folks can save the world too. They stand as icons for many readers, both Black and White, to admire and be inspired by for years to come.