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Blacks In Comics By Dan Corbett
The inspiration for profiling comics' interesting black characters came when Slush Publisher Brian Jacks attended a Black History Month lecture by an African-American
general at the Army's JAG School. The speaker brought up notable points about culture and famous blacks throughout history, in this case all American. But there exists another corner of the universe where another group of blacks is carving out their names in our
collective psyche...the universe of comic-dom.
This list is by no means complete with noticeable exceptions, 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."
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.
(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.
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.
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 1st 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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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
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.
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.
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.