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Top 5 Black Superheroes

Updated on March 13, 2017

Black characters in comics date back to Lothar who appeared in the comics strip Mandrake the Magician in 1934. For the last 80 plus years, black characters have had representation in American comics. From Lobo, the western hero from the 1965 Dell Comics publication by the same name.to the Miles Morales Spider-Man of Marvel Comics. Some amazing writers and artist have lent their talents to telling interest stories from many different perspectives. Legends like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Pioneers like Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan have used these characters to tell the stories of people who were at one point under-represented in comics. This is a list of my personal favorite black superheroes

1. Black Panther

Origin

Created by Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist) Black Panther made his debut in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #52 (1966). Born prince T’Challa in the fictional African Country Wakanda, his father king T’Chaka was murdered by Ulysses Klaw iwho was trying to seize the vibranium mound. (In the Marvel Universe vibranium is a vibration-absorbing mineral native to Wakanda that has mystical properties which make it highly sought after and the cause of many conflicts). In Wakanda, the ceremonial title of Black Panther is given to the country’s leader and as the heir to King T'Chaka, T'Challa was next in line but until he was ready his uncle S'yan is given the title after successfully passing the trials to become the Black Panther.

After his rites of passage, T'Challa returned home to complete his trials to become the Black Panther. He beat his uncle and took the Heart-Shaped Herb, which is a plant mutated by a giant vibrainum meteorite that Wakandans believe links the beholder of the mantel Black Panther to Bast the panther God.

His powers, some of which are the result of Heart-Shaped Herb include:

  • Skilled hunter, tracker, strategist, politician, inventor, and scientist
  • Trained acrobat, martial artist and gymnast
  • Superhuman senses
  • Enhanced strength, speed, agility, stamina, durability, healing, and reflexes
  • Genius-level intellect
  • Alchemical protection against mystical attacks and detection
  • Wields vibranium uniform, boots, and equipment

The Black Panther is the first black character in mainstream American comics. Throughout the years he has been a part of teams like the Avengers and Defenders and most recently in a limited series comic run written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The Black Panther always spoke to me because he was shown as the leader of a technologically advanced country, who is deeply rooted in cultural pride as well as being a strong symbol for his people.

In Other Media

He has appeared in an animated series Black Panther which aired on BET. He also appeared in animated series The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heros. Black Panther made his live-action debut in Captain America: Civil War being portrayed by Chadwick Boseman. Boseman will reprise the role in Black Panther which will be directed by Ryan Coogler and is scheduled to be released on February 16, 2018.

2. John Stewart (Green Lantern)

Origin

Created by Denny O'Neal (writer) and Neal Adams(artist) John Stewart made his comics debut in Green Lantern #87 in December of 1971. Stewart was the 4th character to hold the Green Lantern title and the first black superhero in DC Comics.

The Green Lanterns are an intergalactic police force created by ancient immortal inhabitants of the planet Oa known as the Guardians. As an architect from Detriot, Michigan, Stewart was selected as the backup to Green Lantern Hal Jordan after his original backup, Guy Gardner was seriously injured. Jordan took Stewart on his first mission which was to protect a racist politician to which Stewart for obvious reasons had an aversion to. When an attempt to assassinate the politician happens, Stewart does not stop it because while it was happening he was stopping a gunman from killing a police officer. At the same time, Hal Jordan was chasing a decoy. It turns out the politician set up the assassination attempt and Stewart in the process proved to be a worthy choice for Green Lantern Corps.

Stewart filled in whenever Jordan was unavailable. He became the full-time Green Lantern when Jordan was forced to choose between love and the power ring and gave up being a Green Lantern. He has been involved in many stories as a member of the Justice League as well as his own titles.


Powers

Member of the Green Lantern corps wields a power ring known as the most powerful weapon in the universe. The ring allows its user to create hard constructs that are only limited by the wearer's imagination and as strong as their will. Stewart's history as an architect and member of the U.S. Marine Corps leads him to do well in combat and have solid well-built constructs. He was also the first Green Lantern who's willpower was shown to exceed the limit of his ring.

When suited up as a Green Lantern John also doesn't wear a mask like most Green Lanterns because as he says "This black man lets it all hang out! I've got nothing to hide!" I always identified with the Green Lanterns because it involved the power of the mind and one's will.

In Other Media

John Stewart was a prominent character in the animated series Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Stewart is also expected have a large role in the upcoming live-action Green Lantern Corps though no casting has been announced.

3. Luke Cage

Origin

Luke Cage also known as Power Man was created by Archie Goodwin (writer), John Romita (artist), and George Tuska (artist). He first appeared in Luke Cage Hero For Hire #1 in June of 1972. Luke Cage was the first black superhero to be featured as the title character in a comic book. Born in Harlem as Carl Lucas, Cage in his youth was a member of a gang called the Rivals. After he was set up by his friend and fellow gang member Willis Stryker who planted drugs in his apartment, he was sent to jail. While in jail Lucas was targeted by crooked prison guard Albert "Billy Bob" Rackman. At Seagate prison, a prison off the coast of Georgia, Scientist Dr. Noah Burstein recruited Lucas for an involuntary experimental cell generation procedure similar to the program that turned Captain America into a super soldier. While submerged in the chemicals Dr. Burstein left temporarily giving Rackman time to tamper with the procedure trying to seriously injure or possibly kill Lucas. Rackman's attempt failed and actually ended enhancing Lucas giving him superhuman strength and durability. Lucas used his newly gained powers to break out of Seagate prison and he made his way back to Harlem.

Becoming A Superhero

In New York he picked up the alias Luke Cage and began to use his abilities is for profit becoming a "Hero for Hire". Luke Cage eventually joined the Defenders and after evidence was found to acquit him he teamed up with Iron Fist in a comic line that ran for hundreds of issues. Luke had a relationship with fellow superhero Jessica Jones whom he had a daughter with. He has also been a member of the Avengers and Thunderbolts. Luke Cage stands out to me because he is a street level superhero. A lot of the stories he is a part of involves more street level problems as opposed to the global destruction storylines that superheroes like that Iron Man may deal with.

His powers include:

  • Superhuman strength and durability
  • Unbreakable skin
  • Accelerated healing factor

In Other Media

Luke Cage appears in the animated series Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes as well as Ultimate Spider-Man and made his live-action debut in the Netflix series Luke Cage portrayed by Mike Colter. Colter will also be playing Luke Cage in the 2017 Netflix Series The Defenders.

4. Storm

Origin

Storm was created Len Wein (writer) and Dave Cockrum (artist) making her first appearance in giant size X-Men #1 in May of 1975 for Marvel Comics. Storm was born Ororo Munroe in Manhattan, New York. Her mother was the Kenyan princess N’Dare and her father was an American photojournalist David Monroe. She is the descendant of an ancient line of African princesses that all have the potential to wield magic. When she was six months her family moved to Cairo, Egypt. At the age of 5, her parents were killed when a plane crashed on top of their home burying her and her parents. After her parents' death, she became an orphan living on the streets and ended up joining a street gang.

She wandered Africa many years eventually meeting up with T'Challa. She joined the X-Men after being recruited by their founder Charles Xavier whom she had met as a youth when she tried to pick his pocket. She has been one of the preeminent members of the mutant group known as the X-Men. Her storylines have involved her becoming the leader of the X-Men, leaving the X-Men and returning to Africa where she married T'Challa.

Powers

  • Flight
  • Weather manipulation
  • Ecological empathy
  • Expert thief, and a skilled, cunning and gifted hand-to-hand fighter
  • Willpower/Telepathic Resistance
  • Energy Vision
  • Magical Potential

Storm has one of the strongest wills among the X-Men. She has also been said to have omega level mutant potential which are mutants with the most powerful genetic potential of mutant abilities.

In Other Media

Storm has been portrayed in many forms of animation such as the X-Men series and X-Men Evolution. She has also had multiple live-action appearances in the films: X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: Last Stand, and X-Men Days of Future Past portrayed by Halle Berry. and most recently X-Men: Apocalypse portrayed by Alexandra Shipp.

5. Cyborg

Origin

Created by Marv Wolfman (writer) and George Pérez (artist) Cyborg, also known as Victor Stone was a former high school athlete. After being seriously injured by and alien attack his father scientist Silas Stone does all he can to save him by injecting his son with nanites and installing experimental robotic parts.

Since making his debut in DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980), Cyborg has mostly been portrayed is comics as a member of the Teen Titans. After DC Comics rebooted with the New 52 in 2011, Cyborg became a founding member of The Justice League. Being that some of his parts contain technology of the New Gods he played a major role in defeating Darkseid in Justice League Vol.2.

Powers

  • Genius-level intellect
  • Highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat
  • Most body parts replaced with advanced prosthetics granting:
    • Super Strength
    • Adaptive Evolution
    • Technomorphic Healing Factor
    • Technomorphing: Cyberspace Immersion
      • Computer Interfacing
      • Interactive Holographic Projector
      • Cyberspace/Digiverse immersion
      • Shape-Change
    • Enhanced Human Ability
    • Technopathy
    • Superhuman Speed


In other Media

Cyborg has most notably been featured in the animated series Teen Titans and made his live-action debut in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice portrayed by Ray Fisher. Fisher will be reprising the role in the upcoming films Justice League, November 17, 2017, and Cyborg scheduled for release April 3, 2020

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    • Priya Barua profile image

      Priya Barua 8 months ago

      Great article. Love it.