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Blacks In Comics
By Dan Corbett


Slush was inspired to profile comics' most interesting black characters when publisher Brian Jacks attended a Black History Month lecture by an African-American general at the Army's JAG School. The speaker touched on famous blacks throughout history, in this case all American. But there exists another corner of the universe where a group of blacks is carving out their names in our collective psyche...the universe of comic-dom.

This list is by no means complete, and there is no order to which they are presented. Our writer says, "I narrowed down my initial list by relevance, influence, and being great, solid characters, and if they pushed the social boundaries, not just stereotypes."

So without further ado, we now present our feature, "A Tribute To Blacks In Comics."

Black Panther (T’Challa)

1st Appearance: THE FANTASTIC FOUR #52, 1966:

The first of Marvel's long lineage of African superheroes broke the mold of how black characters had been depicted in comics up until then. Instead of being street thugs, comical supporting characters or tribal savages, the people of Wakanda were sophisticated and technologically advanced and their ruler, Prince T’Challa was dignified, intelligent and highly respected. With incredible athletic ability, agility and strength, Black Panther is a fearsome fighter who’s more apt to solve conflicts with his brains rather than his brawn.

Icon (Augustus Freeman IV)

1st Appearance: Icon #1, 1993:

You may find yourself scratching your head and thinking, “Who?” Icon was the Big Dog of the short-lived, but critically applauded Milestone line of comics. Again, you’re probably saying, “What?”

Milestone was an imprint of DC comics beginning in 1993 that created a truly multi-cultural universe, of which Icon was their “Superman.” He was an alien that crash landed in southern America in the mid-1800s and was taken in by a plantation slave. His adventures spanned the next 150 years fighting for social equality and African-American rights.

Besides being very well-written, this was one of the most socially-aware comic series of all time, and one of the best representations of a black superhero, especially the depiction of his partner Rachel, who was the first single teenage mother superhero in comics.

Power Man (Luke Cage)

1st Appearance: LUKE CAGE: HERO FOR HIRE #1, 1972:

While the Black Panther led the way for African-American heroes in the Marvel Universe, it was Luke Cage who starred in the first comic series named for a black character. Having gained super strength and invulnerability as a medical test subject while wrongfully imprisoned, he has taken his in-you-face attitude and newfound powers back to the streets. His tough skin and penetrating scowl may stop criminals in their steps, but it’s his kind heart and willingness to risk his life for others that show the real strength of this character.

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Storm (Ororo Monroe)

1st Appearance: GIANT SIZED X-MEN #1, 1975:

Goddess of weather. Pickpocket extraordinaire. X-Men cornerstone. Pop culture icon. These are all accurate descriptions of the Marvel mutant named Storm, one of the “Next Generation” X-Men that a young writer named Chris Claremont introduced to the world around the same time that comics saw a swelling of black characters. She was the first woman of color to join the X-Men, and in time became a respected leader, an exceptional warrior and one of the most powerful mutants ever.

Mr. Terrific (Michael Holt)

1st Appearance: SPECTRE #54, 1996:

From the brink of suicide to becoming the consummate superhero in the DC Universe, Mr. Terrific is one of the most prominent members of the current formation of the Justice Society of America. Besides being a brilliant tactician and master of several sciences (medical and technological), Holt has dedicated much of his life to improving the lives and the prospects of the gang-orientated youth that seem to fill some inner city streets. His motto of “Fair Play” is not only a mantra for the kids he tries to save, but also a philosophical stance that he follows in everything he does.

Spawn (Al Simmons)

1st Appearance: Spawn #1, 1992:

Tricked by the Devil to lead Hell’s army against Heaven, Al Simmons returns from the dead with unimaginable powers, a host of beings looking to destroy or manipulate him, and an unflinching desire to protect his now-remarried wife Wanda. He’s Image Comics first star and their longest running series that has spawned (pardon the pun) an empire: mainstream movies, an animated cable series, a line of action figures, videogames, numerous collectables, and multiple titles. He is simply the best-selling African-American character in comics.

Cyborg (Victor Stone)

1st Appearance: NEW TEEN TITANS #1, 1980:

Victor had the typical childhood. His parents were brilliant scientists at S.T.A.R. Labs who unwittingly opened a dimensional portal releasing a dangerous creature that killed his mother and left him with a mangled body and half a face. So his father used the technology that he was working on to save Victor’s life and forever making him more than normal, but in his mind, less than human. Typical, right? But Victor went on to become the Titan’s most respected and versatile members. His is a story of self-acceptance and relying on the support of those around you.

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