THE HISTORY OF BLACK SUPERHEROES IN COMICS By Geoffrey Pinkney
Black Superheroes in Comics
Comic books have been around in many shapes and forms since before we were born, but they didn’t get quite popular until the early to mid-1900s. Fast forward to 2023, and it could be argued that comics are still as popular, if not more. Comics and their iconic heroes have dominated mainstream and the juggernaut known as Hollywood with its vast, unique world of good versus Evil.
Superman, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and many more have been granted the key to mainstream success. Still, until recently, heroes with melanin were given that opportunity only a few times with movies including Will Smith and Wesley Snipes, but what about a young actor who’s been popular for almost just as long but would stamp his legacy only to not see it fully used to it’s potential.
I am referring to the late but great Chadwick Boseman, who donned the outdoor of Wakandan warrior the Black Panther in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. This was just the beginning, as the actor’s solo movie would sweep the nation two years later. People of color were more than stoked to see a representation of themselves on the big screen and were only chanting “Wakanda Forever” more and more as it marinated in our self-consciousness.
Life was good, but unbeknownst to the world, the actor struggled in his battle with Stage 3 colon cancer and would eventually lose on August 28th, 2020. A king has died, and we were all sad, but why were we all sad? We did not know him personally, yet we feel like we did. His presence on the screen resonated so strongly with us that it felt like we were staring at someone we grew up with.
How he fought for his people made us acknowledge him as the King of our hearts and the King of black superheroes, bringing us full circle. In the early to mid-1900s, when comic books were arguably in their prime could not do that. Neither could they accomplish that in the 80s and 90ss. We could argue all day, but it is clear that a significant factor in my argument is awareness and social media.
Black Superhero Reception Today
Social media has brought so many new feelings to life for men, women, and others, and it has only done the same with comic books showcasing the passion and love for black culture to those in America and beyond. Black superheroes have become so mainstream; it can be argued that the term “black superhero” could be retired as a Black Panther is looked at the same way as Iron Man, Superman, and many more.
If that’s not enough, let’s revert to the early model of Marvel’s Spider-Man. When Stan Lee created Spider-Man, he made him with a mask in hopes that everybody could envision themselves as him no matter their skin color. Since its inception, Spider-Man has had successful movies, tv shows, video games, spin-offs, and so much more. Could this be because his true superpower is to empower us all?
Black superheroes in comic books have come so far that it’s insane to think that things only get better with time. For all we know, this talk of black superheroes could be extinct because we find ourselves in a world where everybody is super, no matter their skin color, disabilities, mental problems, and anything else they deem an obstacle.
The history of black comic book superheroes doesn’t matter because, as of right now, the future is already in motion. All we need to do is continue to march until we reach a paradise where we can feel Chadwick Boseman smiling down on us all.
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