Saturday, May 18, 2024

Revolution Not Evolution: Black Superheroes More Popular Than Ever

alverne ball pic
Alverne Ball

*Superheroes are everywhere. They’re in hugely successful movies, Emmy-winning live-action television shows, cartoons targeted to children and adults, and, of course, the penciled pages of comic books.

For years the more prominent, well-known and heavily marketed characters were Caucasian. That’s certainly changed. Now more than ever Black superheroes have become main attractions, which is a far cry from Fat Albert and his gang scrabbling to a television to watch The Brown Hornet.

In fact, the buzz for several of the Black characters is tremendous, and it’s not from gradual development overall. Glyph Award-winning comic, novel, screen and teleplay writer Alverne Ball tells EURweb associate Mr. Joe Walker:

“I don’t know if they’ve evolved as much, as Black superheroes have always had a swagger about them.”

Ball, a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, has created comic books and graphic novels for McGraw-Hill, Paramount Pictures, and DreamWorks Pictures. With projects like Zulu, a comic starring a super power-endowed teen possessed by the spirit of Shaka Zulu, Ball understands why the entertainment industry has opened up to the uniqueness of Black heroes.

“Now the mainstream, as well as the creators that have created [Black superheroes], are no longer looking to mask that swag,” Ball says.

Coming off the billion-dollar dominance of Disney and Marvel Studio’s film Captain America: Civil War, audiences can’t wait for masked African king, Black Panther, to take the lead in his solo movie slated for release February 16, 2018.

black panther chadwick boseman
Chadwick Boseman to play Marvel’s Black Panther character

The creation of Marvel legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Black Panther first appeared in 1966 comic book Fantastic Four #52. The first mainstream Black superhero and one of the most popular members of superhero team Avengers, Panther’s Civil War portrayal by actor Chadwick Boseman was his first live action interaction.

Marvel Comics’ bulletproof strongman Luke Cage made his live action debut on Netflix in November 2015, appearing in season 1 of Jessica Jones. Played by Michael Colter, Cage gets the spotlight on Netflix when his series premiers September 30; its trailer was shown at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, immediately becoming the talk of the event.

michael colter - luke cage
Michael Colter is Luke Cage

Adding to the excitement was the announcement that Colter will reprise the role in The Defenders, a Netflix mini-series featuring a team of Cage, Jones, Daredevil and Iron Fist. And that’s not all. A new Luke Cage comic titled “CAGE!” created by Emmy-winning legend Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Lab, Star Wars: Clone Wars) goes on sale this October. Cage’s first comic book appearance was in 1972’s Hero for Hire #1, created by Archie Goodwin and John Romita Sr.

Ball says comic developers are “more conscious of the fact that we must wear our unique perspectives on our chest as a symbol of pride, least it becomes appropriated and lacks the true meaning and essence of strength from which it was created.”

This year Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis created Riri Williams, a 15-year-old Black girl who will take over the role of Iron Man from iconic character Tony Stark.

riri williams - iron man
Marvel’s new Iron Man is a WOMAN! (RiRi Williams)

In 2014 another iconic Marvel character, Steve Rogers, passed on the mantel of Captain America to Sam Wilson aka Falcon, the first African-American superhero created by Lee and Gene Colan in 1969. On the big screen Falcon is portrayed by Anthony Mackie, Cap’s most trusted ally.

black captain america
Sam Wilson is now Captain America

In DC Comics’ Multiverse, a Black character named Calvin Ellis is his own best ally, as he’s both Superman and President of the United States. Writer Grant Morris confirmed in several interviews the character was modeled after Barak Obama.

calvin ellis - black superman
Clavin Ellis is now Superman, and POTUS!

Wally West aka Kid Flash, who was brought to DC Comics’ The Flash #110 in 1959 by Carmine Infantino and John Broome, will debut on The CW’s The Flash season 3 on October 4th. Traditionally Caucasian, this fan-favorite speedster will be portrayed by Black actor Keiynan Lonsdale.

Ball mentions his favorite superhero is Blade the vampire hunter “because he’s such a bad mother…shut your mouth!”  On the big screen Marvel’s undead-butt-kicking comic book warrior was portrayed to perfection by Wesley Snipes, a role credited for changing the impression of superhero movies. For Ball, Blade’s toughness isn’t the reason this Black superhero resonates.

“The real reason I tend to like Blade is because he’s a man – okay, vampire – that is constantly fighting not to lose his humanity while protecting a society that’s afraid of him; not because he’s a vampire, but because he’s Black,” Ball says. “Imagine the dual dialogue one could create in a story such as that and it doesn’t have to be preachy or accusatory.”

mr joe walker
Mr. Joe Walker

Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, Mr. Joe Walker has been a biographer, entertainment journalist, and columnist for 18 years; his acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online for numerous publications including, Kalamazoo Gazette, and Notion Magazine. Walker’s currently writing for EURweb, Concrete Magazine’s,, and Hood Illustrated Magazine. Like him on Facebook, follow on Twitter @mrjoewalker, and visit his official website.


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