Ever since I was a little kid, I have been reading and collecting comic books. I just could not get enough of them. I am sure that is what has really sparked my passion to read and write so much. As a kid, I spent most of my time and allowance on reading DC comics. I was a particularly a fan of Firestorm, the nuclear man. As a boy, I never saw color or race. So, despite the fact most comic books were of white superheroes, that did not bother me at all. I was into the action and the drama, and of course the art. Firestorm was a very unique character that gained his power from a accident at a Nuclear Power plant that (through nuclear fission) joined two people (Ronald Raymond, high school jock, and Martin Stein, Scientist) into one man.
I loved this character because he was different from the rest. He could beat Superman and Wonder Woman at the same time. Which was always a favorite argument of mine back in the day. Reading Firestorm lead me to read other books that became my favorites as well. Books like the Justice League of America, Flash, and Green Lantern. I will say that Green Lantern became a quick favorite of mine. These books, to me was also very much about the man behind the mask as much as it was about the hero and the powers. At the time, Hal Jordan was always going to be Green Lantern just as Bruce Wayne will always be the Batman.
However in 1983, something curious happened that took me for a loop. Hal Jordan quit being Green Lantern and this sparked a big thing…who was going to take his mantle? Much to my surprise it ended up being a man called John Stewart and he was black. This upset me! How are you going to change Green Lantern? Up to this point, DC had two black superheroes and that was Black Lightning and Cyborg; I was so no interested in either of them! Hal Jordan was a test pilot and John Stewart was an Architect…what fun was that? All of a sudden this book went from an all white cast to a practically all black cast.
This began my introduction to a world larger than myself. It is not that I thought black people could be superheroes, it was the was now apparent to me that there just wasn’t enough. Black Lightning quite frankly was wack. Here is a guy who’s mask is attached to his Afro! So to take off his mask he would have to take of his Afro, which is fake. I wasn’t buying it. Cyborg was ok, but I just didn’t connect.
Which brings me to the world of Marvel Comics, which has Spiderman, X-men, Iron Man, and Captain America. I started collecting X-men and Spiderman when I was in High School. At this point, Firestorm was cancelled and I was mad. But, I did keep an eye on the Black Hero situation for both companies. Marvel barely had any either. They had Black Falcon (Captain America’s sidekick…ok), Storm, and Black Panther. Storm, I liked. Strong black woman who could just kick your ass with her powers or just duke it out with you. Black Panther was ok, never saw him all that much. But, what I did know was that he was a King for a country in Africa! With the exception of Storm, these character we just under used. I lost faith in the ever seeing a true black representation in Comic Books.
There was a time that I did stop collecting. In my years in college I just did not have enough income from my work study position to buy comics. But once I graduated and moved back to New York City, I started getting the itch. I need to know what I missed. So, I started buy a small number of comics starting with the Ultimate Spiderman and Ultimate X-men, which is a different spin on Marvel. The main point that shocked me was that the main character in all these books was a man named Nick Fury and he is black. So for those who saw the clip in Iron Man after the credits were done will know why Samuel Jackson was there.
Black heroes were making it in modern comics and I can tell you that they are too many to name. But what really put the icing on the cake was a cartoon called. The Justice League. The main characters of course are, Superman, the Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawk Girl. In role of Green Lantern is John Stewart. Not only was black back in comics but it was cooler than ever.
During this month, I will feature certain Black Superheroes and break them down contextually and conceptually. Some heroes will be dope and some wont. But I will hold no punches in what I analyze. Hopefully by the end you will also see why I love comic books so much.
Oh, and on a side note…Firestorm was reborn…as an African American Teenager. He will be first on my list…