begin with, the history of black superheroes is not easily assembled
since early on, much of the work was not reported on. There aren't
volumes of books out there on the subject, and even if you look
at historical books put out by major publishers - the coverage on
their own black superheroes is sparse at best.
prefer to sweep any negative and stereotypical characters from their
past under the rug in order to preserve their images today. Therefore,
the search for early black superheroes turns up more negative images
than anything else. The history as a whole needs to be looked at
in order to fully appreciate the black superheroes being created
By the 1940's
both Marvel and DC Comics were enjoying major popularity as their
fantastic images made their way into the hands of kids everywhere.
They have shared a major share of the comics industry ever since.
Characters such as Marvel's Captain America, and DCs Superman
and Shazam shared most of the popularity and black superheroes wouldnt
appear until much later. Much like the movie industry - racism directly
impacted black comicbook characters who were cast in background
roles or as uncle tom sidekicks.
first black superhero was named Whitewash (the name
speaks for itself). Whitewash was a character drawn in full blackface
fashion who appeared in the 1940's war comic "Young Allies".
(images -1, 2, 3) Notice a common theme in all three cover images?
Created for comic effect only, Whitewash was portrayed as a helpless
bufoon whose only purpose was to provide laughs as he fell into
one dire situation to another. Full of the stereotypes you would
expect to see at that time in American history, negative black comic
characters were all too commonplace.
were also subject to the negative perceptions of the artists drawing
them at the time and therefore a parallel can be made to struggle
for equality in America. Marvels Black Panther appeared in
1966 (Fantastic Four #52) and wouldnt gain his own title until
11 years later (how's that for affirmative action?). Followed by
DCs Black Lightning and Marvels Luke Cage, poster children
for the entertainment industrys Blaxploitation of the 70s.
Where possible I have included some images from the comics themselves
depicting some of these racial situations as they appeared in print.
The progress of blacks in comics has an undeniable link to our society's
racial issues and I ask you to keep this in mind as we delve into
the offensive nature of some of the characters.
In recent years,
many African American artists and comics publishers have taken it
upon themselves to create and explore more black superheroes. The
impact of these independent comics cant be overlooked so Ive
included them in the museum because they are vital to bringing black
superheroes to the forefront of the public eye. With many more black
artists drawing, and new black superheroes being created everyday,
black heroes are on the rise. Over time, their success will only
help to broaden the minds of those who take the time to read and
enjoy them. In conclusion, if you know artists that are creating
comics, buy their books and support black superheroes!