Black Panther is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics universe. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he first appeared in Fantastic Four #52(July 1966). He is the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, and his debut was soon followed by other Black mainstream superheroes including Marvel’sFalcon (1969) and Luke Cage (1972) and DC Comics‘ Tyroc (1976), Black Lightning (1977) and John Stewart (1971). First appearing in July 1966, the character just barely predates The Black Panther party, which was founded in October 1996. Original designs, however, had the character named “Coal Tiger” and donning a very different costume.
Beyond the mask, the current Black Panther is known as T’Challa is a super genius warrior king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. He is one of the smartest men in the Marvel Universe, a former Avenger, and has been romantically involved with X-man Storm. T’chall’s father T’chaka preceded him as King of Wakanda and as the previous Black Panther before he was killed protecting his family.
In 2011, BET partnered with Marvel to create an animated Black Panther series, that is so incredibly dope. With characters voiced by talent like Jill Scott, Kerry Washington, and Djimon Hounsou as Black Panther, you definitely want to check this out. And just to make it that much easier for you… peep the first episode below:
Last week brought us lots of Geeky Outsidery awesome. So, we decided to consolidate it all into one giant post of awesome to get your geek on and week started off right. Happy Sunday!
Gotta headline with this week’s best news! Amandla Stenberg, that dope actress who played Rue in the Hunger Games, will be joining the cast of SleepyHollow! After a less-than-awesome (read, horribly racist) experience after her Hunger Games debut, it puts a huge smile on the geek gods faces to see this great tiny actress join a diverse cast on a fun show with an awesome dynamic Black female lead. Win.
Speaking of winning, Marvel gave us the gift of a new badass superhero. The teenage shapeshifter from Jersey will be debuting in her own title series as the new Ms. Marvel in February 2014! Real name Kamala Khan, this young new superhero grew up in Jersey but has Pakistani roots and joins the ranks of the few Muslim superheroes in mainstream comics! Written by G. Willow Wilson, Khan made her first appearance in last week’s Captain Marvel #17(yep. Go get it!). (via CBR)
Awesome freelance artists (and video game industry professionals!) Audran Guerard and Daniel Roy had the beautiful idea to put together a graphic novel adaptation of the life of Frederick Douglass. Based on his two biographies The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Novelwill be published as two 50-page volumes featuring some beautiful watercolor art. Support ’em (and dibs a copy!) on Kickstarter.
Marvel is bringing Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones to the small screen! Specifically, they signed a deal with Netflix for four separate new live-action TV series, one for each of the characters. And here’s the dope – these four shows will lead to a team-up in a miniseries for TheDefenders! (via IGN)
Featuring one of the most diverse superteams ever, Al Ewing and Greg Land’sMighty Avengershas been one of the most anticipated comics of the Fall, and this first issue matches the hype with a just the right dose of action and a rich introduction to our new team’s leaders and the motivations of the new team-up.
Brian Michael Bendis really developed the character and storyline for Luke Cage in his New Avengersrun, daring to do something few creators have worked into superhero plotlines — giving him a wife and a child, which not unexpectedly resulted in his retiring from the Avengers. But that didn’t sideline him completely. Cage has still very much been a part of Marvel storylines, presenting a conflicts of interest and new motivations for the character regarding his new role as a family man.
This issue really draws those strings together and gives us a relatable and real reason for Cage’s desire to lead a team again. Aside from the fact that the regular line-up of Avengers is busy fighting alien militia in space, Cage really wants to get back in the game to make his family proud. The brief glimpse we get of Cage’s relationship with the young hothead Powerman promises an interesting dynamic between the two, something of father-son like mentorship that is clearly impacted by Cage’s new role as a father.
In this issue we also get a solid look at the return of Monica Rambeau, who’s underuse in the Marvel universe over that past 10 years has been criminal. An incredibly powerful hero and a smart leader with an interesting backstory, Monica was the first Black female superhero to have her own self-titled comic in Captain Marvelin the late 80’s.
After leading the Avengers in the 80’s when she was Captain Marvel, she quit when she briefly lost her powers and returned to her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite an appearance as the leader of the C-list superhero team in Nextwave,Monica never really quite made it back to prominence. It seems an odd fate for such a smart and incredibly powerful hero. Ewing and Land’sMighty Avengers aims to bring her back with a vengeance… and a perm.
(Not gonna lie, it seems a little out of character to see Monica, who’s always sported natural hair, with her new straightened shaggy bob cut. But it’s great to see her back, no matter the hairstyle.)
In this first issue, Ewing and Land certainly captured just how powerful Monica is, as well as her very serious dedication to her duty as a hero. Despite her new costume and her brand new moniker (that one can only hope she’ll manage to hang on to this time) as Spectrum, she’s still the same amazing Monica.
This issue hints at many of the tensions and dynamics we’ll have to look forward to throughout the series, including that between Luke Cage and Superior Spider-man, who seems anything but on board when the makings of a team start to come together as Thanos’ thugs attack New York. Otto Octavius’s snarky egotism is bound to clash with Cage’s no-nonsense leadership. And the youngins on the team, White Tiger and Powerman, already seem to have a clash of ideas about what it means to be a superhero.
Add to all that our mystery Ronin who Monica seems to have a bit of a past with, and this first issue has knotted this team together intricately and it’s looking to be a ton of fun to unravel.
With Ewing’s historical love for two of the most dynamic Marvel heroes Luke Cage and Monica, it looks like we’re in for a lot more than trash talk and jaw breaking. Mighty Avengers #1demonstrates that Ewing and Land intend to continue the focus on rich character development that Bendis brought to New Avengers. And here’s hoping we see the creative team bring up the tough issues with this awesomely diverse cast of heroes.
Verdict: Get it! Even if you’re a trade buyer, you’re gonna want to own #1 when this series gets all epic. A must-read.
In case you missed it, this past week Marvel announced a relaunch of an old team with a brand new cast of superheroes. In September this year, an all-new Mighty Avengers will hit the stands, featuring one of the most ethnically diverse casts to see the shine of a single-issue cover. The team includes Luke Cage, Monica Rambeau, Blue Marvel, White Tiger, Power Man, Ronin, She-Hulk, Superior Spider-Man, and Falcon.
That’s a long awesome list of superheroes from all over the Marvel universe, so we thought we’d give a little primer on who’s who for anyone who needs it. Also an excuse to talk about how awesome this team sounds!
Let’s start with the lesser known characters on the squad…
First appearing in 2008 in Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1, a five-issue mini-series, Blue Marvel (aka Adam Brashear) is a relatively new character in the Marvel universe. Created by screenwriter Kevin Grevious (Underworld), Brashear is a former Marine and a veteran of the Korean War, and he has a PhD in Theoretical Physics. During an experiment to develop clean energy went wrong, Brashear is exposed to radiation that turns him into Blue Marvel, endowing him with some of the most incredible powers in the Marvel universe, including flight, regeneration and near invulnerability, super-strength, speed, stamina, and heightened sense. He can also absorb and manipulate energy in various ways He’s so powerful that he was able to go up against the Sentry, which, if you don’t know the Sentry, is a huge deal.
Wearing a full-face-covering helmet, it was not known in the 60s that Blue Marvel was black. After this was revealed in an attack, then President John F. Kennedy asked Blue Marvel to retire, and the hero conceded. Coming to regret this concession later, Brashear returned to action.
The Power Man title has been used by various superheroes over time, including Luke Cage back in the 1970’s. The current Power Man is Victor Alvarez who first appeared in Dark Reign: The List – Daredevil #1in 2010, but doesn’t get his full story until appearing in Shadowland: Power Man#1, which ended after 4 issues. After surviving the deliberate demolition of his building, Victor began using his superpowers as a self-employed hero for hire and eventually took the name Power Man, which, naturally, caught Luke Cage’s attention. He’s been known to dislike Cage, considering him a “sell-out”, so the two working together in Mighty Avengers should be interesting… The son of a supervillain named Shades, Alvarez has the ability to draw energy from those around him thereby gaining super-strength and durability. He was most recently enrolled as a student in Avengers Academy and appeared in several issues of the now discontinued Avengers Academyseries.
Here’s another youngin… Several heroes have taken the White Tiger name. The current White Tiger is Ava Ayala, the younger sister of the first White Tiger Hector Ayala and her Latino heritage is very important to her. She first appeared in Avengers Academy #20in 2011. She inherited the jade amulet that gave her her powers after her aunt Angela del Toro, the previous White Tiger relinquished the amulet. The amulet gives her powers of super agility, strength and speed, making her an incredible fighter. She also has the ability to camouflage herself.
Monica Rambeau (Spectrum)
MONICA RAMBEAU! This superhero is a personal favorite, and one’s who hasn’t seen much action lately. After gaining her powers, Monica Rambeau initially went by the name Captain Marvel. She’s been through a saga trying get a name to stick and has gone through many, including Pulsar and Photon and now it looks like she’s going by Spectrum. Let’s hope this one sticks. Formerly a lieutenant in the New Orleans harbor patrol, Monica gained her powers when confronting a criminal trying to unleash a dangerous weapon. Her exposure to the explosion gave her the ability to transform herself into any form of energy and project that energy to inflict physical damage. These powers are incredibly powerful, but also taxing, and she can wear herself out and need to recharge. She was eventually recruited to the Avengers, becoming the first Black team member and eventually becoming the team’s leader in the 80’s. After temporarily losing her powers and returning to her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana to work for the family business, Monica had a brief stint in her own self-titled comic, before going on to lead a team of C-level superheroes in the hilarious comic Nextwave.It’s good to see her kicking it with the big-guys again.
One of the better known characters on the team and also, like Monica Rambeau, a classic Marvel superhero, Falcon first appeared Captain American #117back in 1969 as the first Black American superhero in mainstream comics. Stan Lee was the co-creator of the character. Black Panther made his wing harness that allows him to fly, and the hero can boast being trained by Captain America himself whom he teamed up with in New York. He later joined the Avengers officially. Always having a strong interest in birds, Samuel Thomas Wilson adopted a wild falcon that he named Redwing. In a confrontation with the Red Skull, Wilson becomes empathically bonded with Redwing when the Red Skull used the Cosmic Cube. His affinity and bond with birds only grew over the years, making him more and more powerful. He now has power over all birds. He’s maintained a close relationship with Captain America and the Avengers throughout the decades.
Soo… huge spoilers if you haven’t been following, but… With the end of Amazing Spider-Man in issue #700, Peter Parker more or less died-ish, and Otto Octavius’ mind was transplanted into Peter Parker’s body. Since ten Octavius has been on a quest to prove himself better than Parker, taking down baddies and hitting on Mary Jane. But it turns out some part of Parker’s mind is still in there somewhere, and he’s got a tiny bit of control…
Jennifer Walters is Bruce Banner’s cousin. She became She-Hulk when she received a blood-transfusion from her cousin, giving her powers similar to the Hulk’s but at a reduced level. One of the busiest characters in comics, she’s been on numerous Marvel teams and is also a part-time lawyer, taking on mostly superhero-related cases and often engaging in activist efforts. After sorting out her own rage issues, she eventually decided to stay permanently in the She-Hulk state rather than changing back to her original appearance. After being accidentally exposed to radiation, her She-Hulk state became physically permanent anyway. She first appeared in Savage She-Hulk #1 in 1980 and has most recently been seen in Matt Fraction‘s FF filling in, alongside other superheros, for the original Fantastic Four members while they’re away.
Another iconic Marvel character, Luke Cage has been a major player in the Marvel universe since his first appearance in his own self-titled comic in 1972 Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1.Sent for prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he consented to an experimentation in exchange for parole, and, unpredicted by the scientists, the experiment gave him unbreakable skin. Upon being released he began using his powers for money, selling protection and heroics. He later begins working with the Defenders, before settling in with the Heroes-for-Hire team led by Iron Fist. Eventually he joins the New Avengers where he meets his now wife, and former superhero, Jessica Jones. After the two married and had a kid, he cut back on his superhero activities to be a dad and protect his family.
The first Ronin was revealed to be Echo (aka Maya Lopez), when she was recruited to help out the New Avengers on a special mission in Japan. Hawkeye (aka Clint Barton) later took the name briefly after Echo was taken by The Hand. And finally Black Widow’s ex-husband Alexei Shostakov assumed the identity in an attempt to assassinate Black Widow. Marvel’s announcement indicated that there will be a totally new Ronin joining the Mighty Avengers this September… Who could it be?!
These days it seems more and more the case that we are in a Golden age of Geekery. There are comics, cosplay, and gaming cons all over the world and new ones are popping up in unlikely places. And one look at the movie line-up for this year shows just how open are the arms embracing all that nerdery.
Iron Man 3 started the season off with a bang (and quite a few “boom”s). Star Trek: Into Darkness is still packing theaters. Man of Steel is right around the corner, and we’ve got Ender’s Game, World War Z, Thor, andThe Wolverineto look forward to this Fall. In fact, at least 25 films with sci-fi or superhero themes are premiering this year.
It is a glorious time to be a geek. But you’ll notice that the leading lads of all of these films are white guys. That, of course, is nothing new.
The industry has even been improving somewhat its representation of minorities with controversial casting choices like Viola Davis as Major Anderson in Ender’sGame or Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. John Cho as Sulu and Zoe Saldana as Uhura had major roles in the new Star Trek movie. A few other heroes of color, like War Machine (Don Cheadle) in Iron Man 3,Gail (Rosario Dawson) in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in the next Avengers film, are on the roster…
Black leadership in the U.S. has sometimes seemed to be a notion stranger than fiction. That Black leaders like Frederick Douglass and W.E.B DuBois could arise in the midst of intense subjugation is truly incredible. And the legacy has continued on through the civil rights movement and today. In fact, today is the birthday of MalcolmX, one of the most influential Black leaders in history. Yet though there are many real-world examples of Black leaders to choose from, science fiction, one of the most imaginative and visionary genres of art continues to struggle to imagine Black characters into lead roles. On Malcolm X’s birthday and in this golden moment of immense geekery with a huge line-up of sci-fi and superhero movies and tv shows, what better time to take a look at the state of Black leadership in science fiction?
Of the more than 25 major superhero and sci-fi movies coming out this year, only one, After Earth, starring Will and JadenSmith, features a Black character in a leading role. A handful of others, including Star Trek:Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, and the forthcoming Ender’s Game,feature major Black characters in their casts.
Black characters in science fiction and comics tend to be relegated to side-kicks or token roles (that is, if they’re not immediately killed off first… (*spoilers ahead) RIP random Black guy in last week’s episode of Defiance, Black guy in the first 10 minutes of Star Trek: Into Darkness,Luke Cage and Black Panther in Age of Ultron).It remains a rarity to see a Black character in a leading role in science fiction or superhero stories.
There are, of course, exceptions spread out over the decades: Abar, The First Black Superman(1977), Steel(1997), Spawn(1997), Blade (1998-2004), and Hancock(2008) are all examples of films with a leading Black hero. Granted, several of them were pretty bad…
In comics Batwing and MilesMorales in Ultimate Comics Spider-manare pretty lonely as two of very few Black characters leading their own major comics. Black Panther and Nick Fury however are at least in leadership roles in the Avengersstory lines.
The small screen today, however, has a lot more to offer. In sci-fi television right now Revolution’sCaptain Tom Nevilleis one of the only Black sci-fi characters in a leadership role. The show also features the mysterious Grace Beaumontin a recurring role. And Merlinwas so bold as to cast Black actress Angel Coulby as leading lady Gwynevere(to much of the usual internet rage and backlash).
Defiance’sTommy Lasalle, Falling Skies’sAnthony,Teen Wolf’sBoyd, and The Walking Dead’sMichonneare regularly recurring Black characters in science fiction tv; however, each of them plays a sort of “hired hand” or “body gaurd” role. Game of Thronesrecently introduced Grey Worm, the elected commander of the emancipated Unsullied army, who has had few lines and little screen time thus far, and he is quite literally a hired hand. Missandei, a translator for Danaerys, was also recently introduced. Though far from being a leader, she does get a bit of screen time. The now deceased Xaro Xhoan Daxos, a leader of Qarth was the only other Black character to be given substantial screen time in the show.
Characters like True Blood’sTara Thornton, Vampire Diaries‘s Bonnie Bennett, and Grimm’sHank Griffin are all cast in the role of best friend to the main protagonists. Hank Griffin more specifically is the protagonist Nick Burkhardt’s partner in the Portland police force
And there are some exciting new shows with Black leads to look forward to…
Sleepy Hollow, premiering this fall on Fox, is truly unique among sci-fi shows, casting Black actress Nicole Beharie in the leading role of Abbie Archer, a police officer and lead investigator on the supernatural case rocking her town. The show also features Black actor Orlando Jones as Lieutenant Frank Williams. The trailer seems to indicate that Jones and Beharie’s characters are the main characters along with Ichabod Crane himself.
While the idea of a modernized time-travelling headless horseman is a tad ridiculous, it’s such a rare sight to see a Black woman leading a sci-fi series that we’re crossing our fingers pretty hard that it will be good. . J.J. Abrams’ AlmostHuman, however, looks pretty dope. And the leading character’s robot partner, Dorian is played by Black actor Michael Ealy.
Science fiction is often a genre that looks ahead, that beats society to the punch, projecting fantastical futures, predicting technologies that will define our future, or showing us the possible outcomes of our current destructive behaviors. While there have been small victories in the inclusion of recurring characters of color in many tv shows, comics, and novels, it is hardly beyond the imagination of such a visionary genre as science fiction to create worlds where characters of color (because this conversation obviously extends beyond Black and white) are the main protagonists of a story, or perhaps *gasp* multiple characters of color are the leads! Of course, we have sci-fi writers who are placing characters of color at the center of their stories, like Samuel Delany,Nnedi Okorafor and Nalo Hopkinson and more. But unfortunately such stories are often considered “for Black people” rather than for general enjoyment, and so they remain outside the mainstream, never making it to movie adaptations or major network TV series… or even simply into the hands of a wide and diverse readership.
But how do we go about fixing that? Is this gradual route – slowly introducing more and more characters of color in increasingly leading roles – the right way to go? Is it working? What else might work?
*This is hardly an exhaustive account of all of the Black characters in comics and sci-fi, though we did attempt to capture the major players. Please feel free to add more in the comments! We look at a few current comics with major characters of color here.