Black Superheroes will be the future and we deserve them…
The early iteration of the superhero genre always had a knack for using harmful stereotypes. Take the use of Fu Manchu, the original iteration of Shang-Chi’s father as a prime example. In the upcoming film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the character is rewritten as Wenwu. He hasn’t been written with the racist messaging that was often associated with Asian characters in the comics. However, black superheroes have existed for a long time too. But, they’re rarely seen on screen until the last few years when Black Panther blew everyone’s minds.
T’Challa was the first black Marvel hero to given his own movie. This came despite Sam Wilson/Falcon being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe longer. It was because of Ryan Coogler and his team that made black superheroes became worthy for the big-screen treatment. The early days of the MCU at the time had Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, and Captain America who were all white.
It could’ve also been deemed as sexist as Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanov/Black Widow and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts were basically love interests with low-cut clothing. What message does that convey to a young audience? This also applies to the topic of black superheroes.
The black generation at the time of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Hulk’s introductions was left wondering why there wasn’t someone that looked like them. A hero of colour should’ve been introduced from the start.
For this post, we’re going to be going over some of the black superheroes from both DC and Marvel who have inspired the world.
Beth Chapel: A Force To Be Reckoned With
DC’s Stargirl is the latest DC series to hit the ground running. Created by Geoff Johns, the show focuses on Courtney Whitmore, a teenager who finds the Cosmic Staff amongst her stepfather’s belongings. Stargirl rallies behind her a new generation of superheroes in the form of the 21st Century iteration of the Justice Society of America. One of the members of the team is Beth Chapel who happens to be black.
What makes Stargirl the perfect example of diversity is how it has a diverse cast. Brec Bassinger (Stargirl), Cameron Gellman (Hourman II), and Luke Wilson (S.T.R.I.P.E.) are white while Anjelika Washington (Doctor Mid-Nite II) is black and Yvette Monreal (Wildcat II) is Latina. The actors playing Doctor Bridget Chapel and James Chapel are both black. Other examples include Nelson Lee (Dragon King), Meg DeLacy (Shiv), Stella Smith (Artemis), and Joy Osmanski (Tigress) are of Asian descent. When Season 2 drops, Ysa Penarejo (her role is possibly a green lantern), and Alkoya Brunson (Jakeem Thunder) will add even more diversity to the cast.
Going over to Beth and while she’s not a physical fighter, her brain is her superpower. Without her, the JSA would’ve gotten themselves killed during the last skirmish they had with the Injustice Society. However, many racist ‘fans’ see her as ‘useless’ because of her skin colour. We covered this in a post a while ago. We mentioned how if the character was male and white, he would be applauded.
While the brains of the operation mightn’t seem like much, it’s the size of her heart that is also a superpower. She is one of the few people who can talk down Rick. This is evident in the episode, ‘Shiv Part Two’ when news gets back to the JSA of Shiv almost killing Courtney.
James “Rhodey” Rhodes: Iron Man’s First BFF
What we love about James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine is how he is the one who steers Tony Stark in the right direction. He might not look intimidating but NO ONE messes with him and gets away with it, especially Iron Man himself.
Rhodey is as tough as they come, especially when it comes to putting up with Tony’s bullshit. He also has his own sense of humour. This is evident when he and Nebula go back in time and knock out Peter Quill whom he [Rhodey] dubs ‘an idiot’ after a moment of deliberating of what to make of Gamora’s main squeeze. It’s no question this is how he would respond given his experiences with Stark.
What makes Rhodes such a loveable character is he is willing to challenge the orders given to him. This becomes obvious with Secretary Ross in Avengers: Infinity War when he basically shuts the government official down. Despite his loyalty to Tony, he is also not afraid to call him out when he’s being a turd.
T’Challa: The King Who Changed Everything
The last of our black superheroes we’re going to talk about is T’Challa played by the late Chadwick Boseman. Black Panther and the success that it bought paved the way for other black heroes. One example is Riri Williams aka Ironheart. For a while there was rumours that she would be getting her own movie or series but nothing was concrete. This changed at the 2020 Disney Investor Day where Kevin Fiege announced a limited series.
Black Panther can also be thanked in a way for Anthony Mackie finally getting the recognition he deserves. Not to mention, it also means that Sam will also be the central focus on a fourth Captain America movie according to Full Circle Cinema. More on that in another post. The film allowed Isaiah Bradley and his grandson, Eli to be included in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Like with any good story, there would’ve had to be a reason for the Bradleys to appear in the MCU. While they couldn’t do Isaiah being the first Captain America, there was another way they could do it; including race discrimination. This is a plot device used in Black Panther as well. It became one of reasons why King T’Chaka was reluctant to open Wakanda up to the rest of the world. It was also something his brother, N’Jobu had been fighting for as he mentions this prior to his death.
There are so many incredible black superheroes out there that it would take us forever to write about them. We chose the ones above because we know the most about them. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier opened up a conversation that needs to be had about how the lives of black people matter. The backstory of Isaiah shows how racism was a massive issue during the Korean War and still acts as a scourge today.
This is the reason why Sam was hesitant to pick up the shield and be Steve’s successor as Captain America. As far as the government was concerned, John Walker was their Cap. They didn’t care what the original Captain America wanted. Nor did they think twice about how a black man could do just as good a job as someone who looked like them.