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The rise of Black superheroes


Anthony Mackie as Falcon (Photo source: Marvel Studios)

It is nearly impossible to go to the movies and not see a trailer for the next up-and-coming superhero film. Ant Man dropped in theaters July 17, Fantastic Four starring Michael B. Jordan, will debut Aug. 7 and San Diego Comic Con just ended with a slew of trailers and teasers any fanboy/fangirl could ever want. Prime Black comic book characters have been around since the late 1960s, with Black Panther being the first African comic book superhero and Sam Wilson (code name Falcon) being the first African American. It’s been a long time coming, but we are just now starting to see more Black superheroes being played on the big screen, with some even getting their own stand alone movies (Black Panther July of 2018 and Cyborg April 2020). Even in comic books there are more minorities taking top spots, such as Miles Morales, of Black and Hispanic descent, who dons the mantel of Spider-Man. Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, is the leader of her squadron in an all-female X-Men comic book, there is even currently a Black Batman counterpart named Luke Fox who goes by Batwing. Comic book franchises are seeing the need for more minorities in their stories and slowly, but surely, they are translating this into their movies.

This year alone, Anthony Mackie has appeared (as his character the Falcon) in two Marvel Studios movies. Avengers: Age of Ultron debuted in movie theaters across the world this past May, at the end of the film when the new Avengers team is assembled, you can see the Falcon fly in, ready for action. The Falcon also receives a nice cameo fight scene in Ant Man and appears two more times: to spread the word the Avengers are looking for Ant Man, and in an after the movie credit scene where he and Captain American have captured Captain’s former sidekick, and recent assassin, Bucky Barnes the Winter Soldier. Mackie first slipped on the winged jetpack in last years Captain America: Winter Soldier where he was recruited by Steve Rogers who saw something special in Sam Wilson (Mackie’s character).


Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm (Photo source: 20th Century Fox)

Raising star Michael B. Jordan, plays Johnny Storm in the highly anticipated Fantastic Four reboot, a character who in the comic books is actually Caucasian. It was a bold move for Marvel Studios and director Josh Trank to change the iconic and the oldest Marvel Comics character’s race. But if you’re going to do it, why not get Jordan, who isn’t a stranger to comic book characters having lent his voice for half cybernetic and half human superhero, Cyborg, during 2013’s Justice League: Flash Point wherein time became completely altered when super speedster The Flash runs back in time to save his mother from being murdered. With such iconic movies like Red Tails (based on a true story of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program) and Fruitvale Station (also based on the true story of Oscar Grant III who was shot and killed in an Oakland, California, subway station in 2009), Jordan has displayed fervent acting abilities and will surely awe in this controversial next role of his.


Alexandra Shipp as Storm (Photo soure: 20th Century Fox)

Many Black thespians are to be praised for suiting up in roles of acclaimed minority superheroes. Alexandra Shipp, for example, will strike in as weather witch Storm in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse produced by Marvel Studios. Award winner and Oscar nominee Will Smith plays super villain assassin Deadshot in DC Comics’ Suicide Squad (slated for August of next year), which marks yet another race change in a comic book character. There is also Chadwick Boseman (known for his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in 2013’s 42 and James Brown in last years Get On Up) picking up the mantel of prince T’Challa of fictional Wakanda in Black Panther, and stage actor Ray Fisher transforms into a movie actor in Cyborg, who will appear in next year’s Batman vs. Superman.

It’s extremely encouraging to see more Black faces on screen and in comic books. It is especially vital in this day in age where movies, TV and social media is the prominent source for children and teens; they need characters who they can identify with more closely to and know that there are characters who look like them and have achieved greatness. Controversy surrounds characters who are White in comic books but portrayed as Black, such as Michael Clarke Duncan portraying criminal lord, King Pin, in Daredevil (2003). There are also the two characters referrred to previously, Johnny Storm and Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot. While comic book aficionados may have reason to be skeptical (any slight change in a comic book character has their eyebrows raised and their fingers typing on blogs), take solace in the fact that Jordan and Smith are phenomenal actors. The years is 2015, movies, television, media, are all evolving. Cinematic companies also know that statistically, more minorities means more viewership. Whatever the case, it is awesome when you get to see a stunning actors such as Anthony Mackie fly in as the oldest African American superhero, kicking butt (or in the case of Ant Man, getting his butt kicked) and inspiring young Black children across the globe.