When it comes to pop culture, it is undeniable that this is a superhero's world, and we are all just living in it. Once considered a lowbrow art form, comics sprang up during the lead up to World War II and introduced heroes like Superman who were battling to restore justice in a war-torn world. For quite some time, though, black superheroes did not receive much attention in comics, but this has gradually changed.
Ask most people to name some black superheroes, and you will get a list with maybe three names. However, there has been gradual exposure for black superheroes, like Black Panther getting his film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Luke Cage on Netflix, and Cyborg in the Justice League movie.
Are there any black superheroes?
The answer is a resounding yes. Here is a look at some of the most iconic black comic book characters of all time.
1. Black Panther
The first black superhero on the list is Black Panther. Known to his local countrymen as T'Challa, the Black Panther is the King of Wakanda and T'Chaka and Ramonda's eldest child.
As the Wakandan monarch, he became the holder of the Black Panther mantle. Following his father's death in the bombing attack orchestrated by Helmut Zemo, T'Challa had set out to kill the Winter Soldier, who was widely believed to be responsible for the attack.
During his attempt to find the Winter Soldier, Black Panther joined a Civil War between the Avengers, where he sided with Iron Man. T'Challa is undoubtedly among the most popular black Marvel superheroes.
2. Cecilia Reyes
Cecilia is a doctor and former X-men member. She can generate a force field that is tied to her life force. Reyes was born into a low-income family of Puerto Rican heritage in a lousy neighborhood.
She spent 19 years studying and made her way out of her poor neighborhood and went to medical school, eventually becoming an intern doing her residency at Our Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Bronx.
All this time, she managed to keep her mutant powers a secret.
3. James Rhodes (War Machine)
Tony Stark's friend James Rhodes is one of the few to wear the Iron Man armor other than Tony Stark himself. While Rhodes does not have superhuman powers per se, the War Machine armor designed for him by Tony Stark gives him unprecedented strength and a massive arsenal of weapons.
War Machine can fly at Mach 2 and is equipped with various projectile weapons such as repulsion rays, bombs, guns, and missiles.
He also has a uni-beam in the chest plate that can project virtually every light spectrum, a laser beam, and an electromagnetic pulse generator that can shut down electronic devices within a 50-yard radius.
Cyborg is one of the best-known black DC characters. The character was a high school athlete at odds with his brilliant scientist father, Silas Stone, before being caught in an explosion at STAR Labs when a nearby Father Box detonated.
Cyborg's father saved his life by using experimental technology to turn him into a machine-like being in the Red-Room. Formerly known as a member of the Teen Titans, Cyborg was established as a founding member of the Justice League in DC's 2011 reboot of its comic book titles.
5. Sister Night
Detective Angela Abar, also known as Sister Night, is the main character and main protagonist in HBO's Watchmen. She possesses several abilities, including peak physical condition and martial art skills. Sister Night demonstrated immense fighting prowess in combating the Seventh Kavalry.
6. Storm (Ororo Munroe)
Ororo Munroe, also known as Storm, is the descendant of an ancient line of African priestesses, all of whom have white hair, blue eyes, and the potential to wield magic.
Born Ororo Munroe, her mother, N'Daré, was the princess of a tribe in Kenya who married the American photojournalist David Munroe and moved with him to Manhattan, where Ororo was born.
When Ororo was six months old, she and her parents moved to Cairo, Egypt, and, at the age of five, a plane crash destroyed their home.
7. Jongo (Eli King)
Eli King is a kind-hearted hip-hop dancer. When his father is murdered, King finds an alien crystal that gives him unexplained superpowers. While Eli tries to find the ones responsible for his father's death, he quickly realizes that the crystal may have been the root of it all.
As a relatively new entrant to the comic world, Jongo is among the least-known black male superheroes.
8. Lucas Bishop
The mutant known only as Bishop was born in the 21st Century AD of alternate timeline Earth-1191 in which the mutant-hunting robots called the Sentinels had taken control of North America.
In this timeline, Professor Charles Xavier and most of the mutant team members he founded, the X-Men, were killed by the Sentinels. Mutants were killed or imprisoned within mutant relocation camps.'
The man, only known as Blade, came into this world as an orphan. Bitten while in labor by the vampire Deacon Frost, his mother died during childbirth. Blade was taken in and raised by his mother's friends.
Determined to avenge her death, he fashioned himself into a vampire hunter before he reached adulthood. After stalking the night on his own for several years, Blade became the leader of a small band of like-minded individuals hunting Dracula.
He first encountered the dark lord while in Japan, after many months of searching. Blade lured Dracula into an ambush, and the vampire was slain with a wooden stake. However, Dracula soon was resurrected by his servants and exacted revenge by murdering Blade's entire band of vampire hunters.
10. Darla Dudley
Darla is an orphan like the rest of her foster siblings, and the youngest of them all. After Freddy Freeman, she is the second of the siblings to learn Shazam's identity, keeps it a secret, and was ecstatic when her other siblings figured it out independently.
Darla is threatened along with the rest of her foster siblings by Thaddeus Sivana to gain Shazam's power. However, all of them were granted Shazam's power, allowing them to defeat the villain and his demonic allies.
Frozone is a superhero who appears in the film The Incredibles and its 2018 sequel. Frozone is one of many superheroes who has ice powers. He is an ally to the Incredibles and a friend to the Parrs, who he knows in both of their lives.
Nubia is an Amazon whose origins have changed through various incarnations of the character. Nubia was Wonder Woman's sister, created from black clay, just as Diana was created from white clay. Both were brought to life by Aphrodite.
13. Vixen (Mari McCabe)
Mari McCabe is a Zambesi-born American businesswoman and model. She fights crime as Vixen with the Tantu Totem aid that allows her to wield the powers of the animal kingdom.
In ancient Africa, there was a legend that the warrior Tantu asked Anansi the Spider to create a totem that would give the wearer all of the powers of the animal kingdom if they would use the power to protect the innocent.
14. Green Lantern (John Stewart)
John Stewart is the third Green Lantern of Earth, after Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. Like Gardner, he foregoes a secret identity.
John Stewart was an architect who was selected by the Guardians of the Universe as Hal Jordan's backup after Guy Gardner was seriously injured in a disaster.
Although Jordan objected after seeing that Stewart had a belligerent attitude to authority figures, the Guardians stood by their selection.
15. Falcon (Sam Wilson)
Sam Wilson grew up in Harlem, listening to his minister father Paul deliver life-affirming sermons that instilled a sense of justice and fairness in his young self. While trying to break up a gang-related fight, Paul was killed in front of his son.
Sam's mother, Darlene, was later killed during a mugging, leaving him alone to raise his brother and sister. After living through the murders of both of his parents, young Sam embraced his father's ideals and decided to strive for goodness.
Along the way, he developed a talent for communicating with birds. His world travels eventually brought him to a falcon named Redwing, who would become more of a friend than a pet.
16. Miles Morales
In an alternate reality of Earth-1610, a young New York City teen was bitten by a genetically enhanced spider. When the Peter Parker of that dimension was killed, the teen named Miles Morales was inspired to take up the fallen mantle.
Bruce Wayne publicly announces that he has been financially funding Batman and wants to globally expand Batman's war on crime through an organization called Batman Inc.
Lucas Fox, son of Lucius Fox, takes interest and begins to carry out a number of actions to get Batman's attention, including saving Bruce Wayne's life.
Although Batman notices Luke's efforts, he decides to choose David Zavimbe instead. After Zavimbe resigns from his Batwing position, Batman chooses Luke Fox as the new Batwing.
18. Luke Cage
This black superhero is arguably one of the most popular in the modern-day. After a sabotaged experiment leaves him with super strength and unbreakable skin, Luke Cage becomes a fugitive trying to rebuild his life in modern-day Harlem, New York City.
He is soon pulled out of the shadows and must fight a battle for his city's heart, forcing him to confront a past he had tried to bury.
19. Misty Knight
Misty Knight is one of the black Marvel characters created by Tony Isabella and Arvell Jones. Misty was among the black female superheroes mentioned in Marvel Premiere #20 (January 1975) and appeared in the next issue.
Within the Marvel Universe context, Knight is a former NYPD police officer whose arm was amputated following a bomb attack. After receiving a bionic prosthetic from Tony Stark, she started a private-investigation agency with a close friend, Colleen Wing.
The two would later form Daughters of the Dragon, one of the best Marvel black superheroes crime-busting duo.
Spawn is a fictional superhero appearing in a monthly comic book published by American company Image Comics. Created by Todd McFarlane, the character first appeared in Spawn #1 (May 1992).
After his death and subsequent rebirth, Simmons, also known as Spawn, arrives on Earth in a daze, off-balance and disoriented. With only vague recollections of his past and how he came to be, he only knew his name, 'Al Simmons,' and that he died, but nothing else.
What percentage of superheroes are black?
Black super heroes make up slightly above 10% of all superhero characters in comics. This is significantly below the ideal diversity score of 23%. However, the current figures represent massive improvements over the situation 3-4 decades ago.
Black superheroes are gradually gaining more exposure in different comics throughout the universe. While they may still be years away from catching up with their counterparts, the current trend is definitely encouraging.