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The 25 Most Memorable Black Comic Book Characters
Topic Started: Feb 16 2014, 07:40 PM (3,474 Views)
Doctor Magnus Warlock
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The 25 Most Memorable Black Comic Book Characters
BY JASON SERAFINO | FEB 4, 2013 | 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

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1. Black Panther (Marvel Entertainment)
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #52 (1966)
Creators: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Sometimes, you get it right the first time. Black Panther was one of the first black mainstream comic book heroes to ever hit shelves and he’s still the best. In 1966, during the American Civil Rights Movement, Black Panther took readers by storm. It was a year after the assassination of Malcolm X, and two years before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.—the introduction of a black superhero, while insignificant in the scope of national politics, was a big step forward for the community.

Hailing from the fictional country of Wakanda, the Black Panther brought a new kind of pride and strength to the comic book world. His grace and nobility were in stark contrast to the tights and colorful personalities of his contemporaries. More than just a token character, Black Panther was a dignified warrior with a lush mythology and a rabid fanbase.

Over the years, the Black Panther has played a large role in the company’s various crossover events and blockbuster miniseries, while also helming critically-acclaimed solo stories. With Marvel pumping out more movies every year, it’s only a matter of time before Black Panther makes his silver screen debut.

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Edited by Doctor Magnus Warlock, Feb 16 2014, 08:23 PM.
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2. Storm (Marvel Entertainment)
First Appearance: Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975)
Creators: Len Wein, Dave Cockrum

As the X-Men’s resident weather goddess, Storm is one of the most important members of Marvel's merry band of mutants. Notably, Storm's inner-strength and personality are grounded in her Kenyan roots, which Marvel has whole-heartedly embraced since her debut. Her heritage is a huge part of what makes her tick, and to Marvel’s credit, the company has always treated her ethnicity with respect and dignity.

Storm’s powers have grown more and more powerful over the years, to the point where her ability to control the weather now rivals that of Thor and the other gods of the Marvel Universe. Though she has the power to destroy towns and cities with tornadoes and hurricanes, she's always been a composed hero, always looking for a peaceful solution first. Still, if she needs to kick ass, she will.

At no point was that more true than in the ‘80s, when she got herself a punk rock overhaul, complete with a leather costume and stylish mohawk. Since then, she's taken on a larger role as a leader of the X-Men, and was even briefly married to the Black Panther, before he annulled the whole thing behind her back. Not a good idea. This is a woman who can shove a tornado down your throat.

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Edited by Doctor Magnus Warlock, Feb 16 2014, 07:44 PM.
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3. Luke Cage (Marvel Entertainment)
First Appearance: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972)
Creators: Archie Goodwin, John Romita Sr.

Created in 1972, the original Luke Cage was very much in the mold of the blaxploitation films that were popular at the time. His garish yellow costume and Harlem upbringing made him stand out from the WASPy members of the Marvel Universe, like The Fantastic Four and Iron Man. Cage was streetwise and had an attitude that spat in the face of your typical superhero.

Unlike most wealthy heroes who fight crime on the side, Cage needed to pay the bills. Thus, his “Hero for Hire” phase. Cage started a private superhero agency in the ‘70s and it flipped the entire genre on its head. This was a man from the same means of the readers he was entertaining. His business savvy and bulletproof skin made the bright spandex and monogrammed logos of his contemporaries look goofy.

Recently, Cage has become a staple in the New Avengers lineup and married Marvel’s resident superheroine, Jessica Jones. This relationship is noteworthy because she’s white, making it one of the few interracial couplings in comics right now. He may have super strength and the ability to pound villains into gelatin, but it’s Luke Cage the man that has endured for over four decades.

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4. Spawn (Image Comics)
First Appearance: Malibu Sun #13 (1992)
Creators: Todd McFarlane

When Image Comics was formed in the early ‘90s, it was hailed as a safe haven for writers and artists to create daring comics without the restrictions of pre-established universes like DC and Marvel. One of the first, and easily the most successful, properties to debut during the company’s early days was Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. Complete with jaw-dropping art and mature themes, Spawn hit shelves in 1992 with the force of a Tyson haymaker, changing the industry forever.

Before becoming Spawn, Al Simmons was a black Marine, meaning that, not only was Image banking on a completely original character becoming a household name, the publisher was confident that Simmons’ skin color wouldn’t be an issue. And they were right.

Spawn #1 hit shelves to the tune of 1.7 million copies sold. The character remained a top-seller for years, until a drop in quality during the last decade turned readers off. Still, this remains a great lesson, not only for comics, but movies and TV as well—if you give people a compelling story, they will cling to it, no matter the race of the character.

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5. John Stewart (DC Entertainment)
First Appearance: Green Lantern #87 (1971)
Creators: Dennis O'Neil, Neal Adams

The ‘70s was a time of great social upheaval at DC, and one of the most important books during this period was the short-lived Green Lantern/Green Arrow. For one of the first times in a mainstream comic, writers Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams brought political and social commentary to the world of superheroes by exploring topics like religion, drug use, and race. John Stewart was born of this upheaval.

Stewart was introduced as Hal Jordan’s backup as the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, but he didn’t share the same buttoned-up personality as Jordan. Stewart was a brash ex-Marine with nasty feelings about authority.

Though Stewart was created as more of a statement about race than anything else, he's since grown to become an engaging, integral part of the DC Universe.

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6. Blade (Marvel Entertainment)
First Appearance: The Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973)
Creators: Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan

Much of Marvel’s success as a blockbuster media company today has to be credited to Blade. It’s easy to forget that in the mid-to-late ‘90s, the House of Ideas was completely bankrupt, and none of its characters were finding any success outside of the comic books, which were selling horribly at the time anyway. Then, New Line took a chance on a Blade movie in 1998, and the superhero genre has never looked back.

Created in 1973, Blade was only a moderate success in Marvel’s old-school horror line, his only real selling-point that he was among the most prominent black stars that the company ever produced. It wasn’t until the character’s movie trilogy hit theaters that he became much more than that. Thanks to those films, Blade's a star. His films helped usher in a new wave of vampire action movies and comics that pre-dated the trite Twilight era we're currently trapped in.

Armed with an array of weapons and intense super powers, Blade blasted onto the big screen in gory fashion, courtesy of the great performance by Wesley Snipes and the vision of directors like Guillermo del Toro. That mixture of horror and action brought Marvel back into the mainstream, and proved that audiences will always gravitate to an interesting character, no matter the race.

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7. Lobo (Dell Comics)
First Appearance: Lobo #1 (1965)
Creators: Don Arneson, Tony Tallarico

For decades, any character of color was often portrayed as a racial stereotype in comics. They were noble savages or pickaninnies, much like the infamous Ebony White from Will Eisner’s Spirit comics. We won't dignify those caricatures with a spot on this list, but we will talk about the creation that got the medium marching in a more progressive direction: Lobo.

Lobo starred in a two-issue western put out by Dell in 1965, and he’s often cited as the first African-American character to have his own self-titled book. He was a wealthy hero of the Old West, and was famous for leaving a gold coin with the letter “L” on his defeated foes. Lobo wasn’t a commercial success, but it got the wheels turning in the industry, inciting mainstream publishers to bring some diversity into their books.

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8. Black Lightning (DC Entertainment)
First Appearance: Black Lightning #1 (1977)
Creators: Tony Isabella, Trevor Von Eeden

Black Lightning might not have the most original name, or the most interesting backstory, but he was one of DC’s first prominent black characters that wasn’t a Green Lantern.

Born Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning became a fixture in the larger DC Universe, joining the Outsiders and the Justice League. His solo books never lit up the sales charts or revolutionized the superhero genre, but as part of a larger team, Pierce grew into his own, and remains a tribute to DC’s progressive views.

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9. Martha Washington (Dark Horse Comics)
First Appearance: Give Me Liberty #1 (1990)
Creator: Frank Miller

Enough with the Sin City and Dark Knight accolades. The world needs to give Frank Miller some credit for his landmark Martha Washington comics. Trapped in a dystopian future, Washington appeared in a four issue miniseries in 1990, titled Give Me Liberty, and a few one-shots. The books focused on Washington's fight to break free from her public housing project, and her ascension to hero-status, fighting in a second civil war in a fractured United States.

Miller used the character’s African-American heritage and the futuristic setting to prove that no matter how far we've come as a society, there will always be those who suffer at the hands of tyrannical governments and corporations.

Washington's a character of mythic proportions, with her story echoing the slave revolts of the 1800s.

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10. Falcon (Marvel Entertainment)
First Appearance: Captain America #117 (1969)
Creators: Stan Lee, Gene Colan

Falcon is Marvel’s first African-American superhero, and ever since his debut in 1969, the character has grown in popularity with each passing year. Originally introduced as Captain America’s sidekick, the Falcon soon became a fixture in Cap’s solo title, with the name of the book itself eventually changing to Captain America and the Falcon.

Where'd the Falcon come from? There was a man named Sam Wilson, who had his mind melded with a falcon named Redwing by the Red Skull while he was using the cosmic cube. Not only can he communicate with Redwing, he can also “see” through the eyes of nearby birds and fly, thanks to the use of a winged harness.

Falcon might not have found his own voice in the form of a long-running solo series, but as a part of Cap’s supporting cast, he's indispensable. In the upcoming movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the character will make his big screen debut, played by The Hurt Locker’s Anthony Mackie.

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