So this is not a secret: Comic boo characters over the last 80 years have been represented by white males. Now, here at Fan Helix, while we love the likes of characters such as Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Captain America, these characters during their rise to fame in America pop culture and symbolism never truly represent people of color during their time and when these characters did exist, they only existed in small roles. It wasn’t until the late 60s where bold comic book writers and artists like Stan Lee, Dwayne McDuffie, Marv Wolfman, and other contributors decided to a gamble with the attempt to bring characters of color into the forefront of American comics. This gamble has now paid off, as we now see more characters of color that have flourished, not only in the pages of comic books, but other forms of media as well.
In honor of Black History Month, we here at Fan Helix have chosen our personal favorite black characters that not only played a big part in their respected comic book universes, but have also gained recognition in other forms of media.
1. Static Shock
Created Dwayne McDuffie, and Denys Cowan
Static #1( June 1993)
Static Shock #1 New: 52 (November, 2011)
Static Shock is one of the more important superheroes during the milestone era of comics in the early 90s, as he was one of the first young superheroes of color to be portrayed in comic books. The character named Virgil Ovid Hawkins was a typical young fifteen year old from Dakota City who was into comics, loves science, was bullied at school, and had to deal with gangs and drugs in his community. Until one night, where Virgil was doused with experimental chemicals during a gang war that gave him electromagnetic powers. Static can almost be considered a rival towards one of Marvel’s characters named Storm with his electromagnetic power theme. He can generate electric shields, levitation for flight when used with his flying disc (or any metal surface, for that matter), can shoot balls of lighting, and can protect his brain from mind control and has a healing factor to repair most of his wounds overnight. With his scientific mind and tactical analysis, he’s a great strategist in battle and even created the Tim Drake Robin’s battle suit in Teen Titans during his time as a S.T.A.R Labs member.
His popularity soon took off once his character was integrated into the DC Universe and received a popular television show that ran on the Kids’ WB in the early 2000’s, which ran for four seasons. Static was a character that is very much like black version of Peter Parker, as he had to deal with the struggles of everyday teenage life
Created by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
The Tomb of Dracula #10 (July 1973)
With his first introduction in the Tomb of Dracula Issue #10 in 1973, Blade is no newcomer to the world of comics, and movies for that matter. For those that don’t know: Blade. a.k.a Eric Brooks, is a half-vampire, half-human vampire slayer. Although his staking antics are not only confined to the realm of the undead, he does not hesitate in dispatching of anything supernatural that threatens humanity. His powers and abilities include being a master of many forms of martial arts, superior skills with bladed weapons, being immune to vampire bites, superhuman strength and stamina, an increased healing factor, the ability to sense the supernatural, and being resistant to aging.
He began as a supporting character in the popular horror comic as a longtime adversary to Dracula himself. He was the combined creation of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, becoming a recurring character for a while before being pulled out of major story arcs for fear of him eclipsing the other main characters in the series. Blade went on to fight Morbius, the scientifically created vampire in Adventure into Fear in 1974, but it was not until later that year that he got his first standalone story in Vampire Tales #8. The following year saw Blade in a few standalone segments and appearances alongside heroes such as Spider-Man, The Punisher, and Ghost Rider in his team up with the Nighstalkers.
Finally in 1994, Blade received a standalone comic that unfortunately ran for just a year and with only ten issues. The short lived standalone’s are now being blighted by only having a mini series which continued to plague the creative and off-beaten path of this Marvel hero, even to this day. Partially, I believe this is because of his attitude towards other heroes and major conflicts happening within the Marvel universe. When there’s a large scale, universe changing event, Blade tends to be absent. Usually the reason is the same: he does not give a shit because it doesn’t have anything to do with vampires or the supernatural, which is ok for his character, and most definitely does not make him any less important in the scope of things when it comes to anything else in the Marvel Universe.
When it comes down to it, he always gets the job done, even if it’s against his free will, like when S.H.I.E.L.D forces him to be a part of larger events. Regardless of all of these things, without Blade, Marvel movies in my opinion wouldn’t have had such an opportunity to thrive as they have since the release of the film adaptation of Blade in 1998, where he was played by Wesley Snipes. The huge success of this movie paved the way for other heroes to shine on the big screen. Since the release and success of that first movie in the three movie series, regardless of the opinions regarding the quality of the 2nd and 3rd installments, Marvel movies have exploded in popularity.
3. Green Latern
Created by Dennis O’Neil and Artist Neal Adams
Green Lantern vol. 2, #87 (December, 1971)
This new Green Lantern was introducing in Vol. 2 #87 in December 1971 to reflect the current change during the racial tension in America. A U.S. veteran, marine and architect from Boston, Massachusetts, Stewart became the replacement of the previous Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, who was also supposed to be replacement to Hal Jordan if anything where to happen to him in the series.
His first adventure had him and Hal Jordan working together to expose a racist senator that tried to frame the black community for all the violence that has been happening in the urban community, and his name wasn’t going to be John Stewart in the beginning. During panel at Comic-Con, O’Neil revealed that the DC executives wanted to name him Lincoln Washington, which more referred to a slave name (a name that probably would not go well with the black readers) until O’Neil suggested the name John Stewart. I think we can all agree that John Stewart was better choice of name.
Just like the other green lanterns, he wields a green ring which is strengthen by willpower and allows him to conjure up anything that he wants during battle, making him one of the most versatile and most powerful superheroes in the DC Universe. His popularity didn’t take off until his character was featured in the rebooted Justice League in the early 2000s instead of Hal Jordan. There’s was much confusion to a lot of kids who grew up watching the modern day Justice League when they saw Hal Jordan being played on the movie screen (and maybe, this serves as one of reason the Green Lantern movie it didn’t do so great in the box office.)
Created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980)
Cyborg, also known as Victor “Vic” Stone, was the son of two scientists, Silas and Elinore Stone, whose experimental tests led to their son’s enhanced intelligence. During an inter-dimensional portal project at S.T.A.R. Labs, his parents accidentally released a gelatinous monster that resulted in Elinore’s death, and the dismemberment of Victor. After Silas managed to send the beast back to its realm, he saved his son through the use of prototype metallic prosthetic limbs. Although his life was saved, Victor resented his new body and found it extremely tough to re-enter normal society looking the way he does.
Cyborg had issues with the way he looks, and his restrictions frustrated him because he wants to feel and live the life that he once had. His character is a great source of inspiration because of the many struggles he has to deal with, considering that people look at his condition as being handicapped. This could also be seen as a parallel with racism in the United States, and the way people of color feel are being stigmatized. Cyborg is a fighter who started out as a minimal character, and eventually became a member of the Teen Titans, and most recently becoming a founding member of the Justice League. Cyborg started at the bottom and worked all the way to the top, becoming a superhero like no other. He is a huge badass, and an extremely important member of the Justice League. No matter what team he is a part of, Victor always continues to prove himself to be a valuable asset, and a protector overall.
5. Amanda Waller
Created by John Byrne, Len Wein, John Ostrander
Legends #1, (November 1986)
Suicide Squad #0 (September 12 2012)
Amanda Blake Waller is probably one of the boldest and powerful characters in comics. Amanda Waller has been able to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Batman, Superman, and DC’s craziest villains. Because of her determination, intellect and ruthlessness, she’s one of the most respected players in the DC Universe.
Amanda Waller started to gain recognition in her appearances on Justice League Unlimited as the person who originally formed the Suicide Squad: a bunch of vile villains from the DC Universe who were force by Amanda Waller to work together and take on dangerous and top-secret missions, all while having “kill chips” implanted in the back of their heads. She is also the Director of A.R.G.U.S: a secret government agency in charge of doing covert operations for the protection of America’s National Security (just like Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D).
Her reintroduction in the current DC 52 gave her a complete makeover from the chubby appearance to a more sexier “leading lady” look. Along with her appearance change, her new series even gives her a better backstory as her days as an operative to working alongside the likes of Deathstroke. Her character has been gaining more recognition in film and television as played by actresses by the likes of Pam Grier (Smallville), Cynthia Addai-Robison (Arrow), Angela Basset (Green Lantern), and Viola Davis (Suicide Squad).
Created by Todd McFarlane
Spawn #1 (May 1992)
Todd McFarlane’s demonic anti-superhero which put Image Comics on the map, and the superhero I didn’t know was black until I watch the 1997’s Spawn movie in high school (featuring Michael Jai White as lead role; his face was covered up a majority of the time.) Not only that, the Spawn comic had short cartoon series on HBO that same year which became a cult classic and kept in touch with the dark themes of the comic book.
Before this character became Spawn, there was Al Simmons, a highly trained assassin for the CIA who later got promoted up the ranks after saving the president. After being promoted, Al later discovered that the CIA and government’s actions were not all honest and he constantly questioned the agency he served. With Simmon’s questioning of the CIA methods, he later approached his superior Jason Wynn, and later on was hired by his partner’s friend to kill him (yeah… forget having enemies.)
Simmons was killed in a blazing inferno and his soul was sent to hell due to his acts of killing innocent lives during his time with the CIA. Simmons then makes a deal with the devil to return back to the human world, only to comeback to life all scarred and deformed. As Spawn, he became a living weapon where his symbiotic suite can from sharp objects, produce chains and anything else he desires. Mix in the fact that he has superhuman strength, agility, and years of combat training all while looking like a total bad ass that many wouldn’t want to miss with. Also, Under Todd McFarlane himself, Spawn’s character launched the expressive stature and toy action figure craze that is now popular in the industry.
So that was our top picks for popular black characters in the world of comic books and superheroes. Is there a particular black superhero or character that you’re fond of and feel that they should have been mentioned in this list? Let us know in the comments below!