The Friday Fiver: Top 5 Black Comic Book Characters of All Time
Black History Month is a time to reflect on the lessons preached and taught by so many different influential Black leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and authors such as Maya Angelou. They, along with so many other prominent figures, have taught us to become more compassionate to others, not only by means of words, but through action. GU would like to take this opportunity to thank all of these powerful people by taking a look at the Comic Industry’s top 5 most influential characters of past and present.
5.) Luke Cage
First appearance: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1, June 1972 (Marvel Comics)
Fierce, hot-headed, bouncer for the Avengers—call him what you will, but there’s no denying that Luke Cage, real name Carl Lucas, has earned his role with the world’s most popular superhero team. Created by Archie Goodwin and John Romita Sr., Luke Cage, aka Power Man, has been featured in titles and storylines such as World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Civil War, Daredevil and New Avengers.
Falsely convicted on drug charges, Carl Lucas found himself as an inmate at Seagate Prison. In exchange for parole, he agrees to undergo an experiment that should have allowed him to become immune to all diseases, but instead gave him his trademark superhero abilities: enhanced strength and a steel-skinned exterior. Lucas took on the Luke Cage persona after escaping from the prison, and began his own “hero for hire” business. Kids, with a little entrepreneurial spirit, you too can become a superhero for pay!
In recent years, Cage led the Thunderbolts, appearing as a regular in the series beginning with issue #144. The title eventually changed its name to Dark Avengers with issue #175. Cage’s love life has received some attention after marrying Jessica Jones in the 2006 New Avengers Annual #1. During last summer’s Avengers vs. X-Men series he decided to take a leave from the Avengers so that he could shift his focus to his parenting duties. Dude’s gotta be a healthy father figure, right?
First appearance: X-O Manowar #4, July 1992. First Full Shadowman appearance: Shadowman #1, May 1992 (Valiant Comics)
Jack Boniface was an everyday New Orleans jazz musician, until the dark Coven society equipped him with the “Darque” power so that he can battle the villain Master Darque. In the wee hours of the night, Jack becomes Shadowman, as he fights supernatural forces of evil with his abilities of nightvision, superhuman strength and mysterious voodoo powers. As a child, he kept a necklace that his mother had given him. Upon discovering his parents’ criminal history, Jack threw the necklace into the ocean in a fit of anger. Unaware of its power to protect him from the curse of the Shadowman, Jack becomes the dark alter-ego without possession of the necklace.
Created by Jim Shooter, Steve Engelhart, David Lapham and Bob Layton,Valiant Comics debuted Shadowman in May of 1992, and the title experienced strong sales, selling over 100,000 copies on a monthly basis. By its second year, Shadowman was topping the comic sales charts, out-selling popular titles such as Batman, Fantastic Four and Thor. Valiant was eventually purchased by Acclaim Entertainment in 1996 for $65 million, which saw the relaunch of Shadowman under Acclaim Comics. The title’s popularity gave birth to the 1999 Shadowman video game, which sold over 2 million copies on consoles such as PSX and N64. Acclaim Entertainment discontinued publishing comics in 2002. Last November, Valiant Entertainment relaunched a new ongoing Shadowman, with writer Justin Jordan and artist Patrick Zircher taking charge.
First appearance: WildC.A.T.S #1, August 1992 (Wildstorm, relaunched in 2011 under DC Comics)
Originally published by Wildstorm in 1992, WildC.A.T.S #1 introduced readers to Priscilla Kitaen, an exotic dancer who’s a mix of human, Kherubim and Deamonite all wrapped in one person. Brandon Choi and Jim Lee created Voodoo as part of the WildC.A.T.S team, with the unique ability of the “Sight,” a gift that allows her to detect a person being controlled by a Daemonite. She also possesses telepathic abilities, regenerative healing and shapeshifitng powers.
DC Comics discontinued the Wildstorm label, and relaunched the self-titled Voodoo with issue #5 in 2011 as part of the New 52 lineup. Writer Ron Marz and artist Sam Basri joined creative forces to put a fresh spin on the character, including a different origin story from Voodoo’s original early 90’s version: after having been abducted by Daemonites, Priscilla undergoes experiments before escaping. The Daemonites create a Voodoo clone of her with some leftover genetic material, while the real Voodoo vows to defeat her clone after it goes on a murderous rampage throughout the United States.
Although the Voodoo character has endured a presence in the comic world for two decades, the New 52 title didn’t experience much success. DC Comics canceled Voodoo last September with the #0 release. Also receiving the axe that same month: Resurrection Man and Captain Atom.
2.) Black Panther
First appearance: Fantastic Four #52, July 1966 (Marvel Comics)
Created by comic industry legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Black Panther was the first Black superhero regularly featured in American comics. There were other Black comic characters before his debut, such as Dell Comics’ Lobo and Private Gabriel Jones of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, but Black Panther is credited to be the first super-powered Black character.
T’Challa’s mother died while giving birth to him, leaving the heir to the Panther Tribe of Wakanda to be raised by his father—King T’Chaka—and his second wife, Ramonda. T’Chaka was later murdered by Ulysses Klaw. As a child, T’Challa traveled the world in pursuit of a sound education, later to return to Wakanda at the age of 19 to claim the throne of the most technologically advanced nation in the world. He defeated his uncle, Wakanda ruler S’yan, in battle to seal his right to the throne.
While on a Wakandan rite of passage ritual, T’Challa met and fell in love with Ororo Monroe, the young weather-controlling mutant known universally as Storm. Despite their differences, T’Challa later married Storm in Black Panther #18, published in September of 2006.
So what’s Black Panther up to these days? Partying it up as a bachelor? Well, not exactly. Black Panther is currently featured in writer Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers, as part of the Marvel Now! Relaunch of certain titles. Along with the other members of the clandestine Illuminati—possessors of the Infinity Gems—the team unites to prevent the collision of another Earth against our own planet. Now this may be a situation T’Challa can handle, but marriage, well that’s another issue altogether. Who can blame him? Love ain’t easy.
First appearance: Giant Size X-Men #1, May 1975 (Marvel Comics)
As the former Queen of Wakanda, Storm is the embodiment of a fearless leader and a powerful woman. She’s withstood the test of time, and since her 1975 Marvel Comics’ debut, she still captivates audiences within the pages of comics, on the small screen through animated series, and on the big screen, including three X-Men movies in which she is played by none other than Halle Berry.
Storm was created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, with the intent as a new addition to be featured in Legion of Superheroes. The character’s original name was meant to be The Black Cat, but Cockrum felt she was too similar to other female feline characters such as Tigra. He redesigned the character to include her signature white hair and long black cape; thus emerged the Storm we’ve come to know and love today.
Ororo Monroe hails from an ancestral line of royalty dating back to the origins of humanity. Her mother, N’Dare, married an American photojournalist, and both parents were killed in Egypt during an Arab-Israeli conflict, leaving Ororo an orphan. Harnessing the ability to manipulate the weather, Storm eventually married King T’Challa (Black Panther) of the African nation of Wakanda. The couple ended their marriage due to differences stemming from the Avengers vs. X-Men debacle. Who ended it exactly? Well, in AVX #9, Storm did throw her wedding ring at T’Challa, before basically calling him a lousy husband. Love’s tough.
Post-AVX days, Storm is busy as Headmistress of the Jean Grey School (check out Wolverine and the X-Men) and currently leading a new X-Men b-squad along with telepathic ninja Psylocke (check out Uncanny X-Force).