Thursday, January 21, 2010

MLK Week Special: Black SUPER Power Part 5 of 5

The End is here! Then back to blathering on about TV and celebrities and toys and such. But for now, here are the pinnacle (and nadir) in black super heroes. How did I rank them? Basically, I made the whole thing up. Well... I mean, I weighed a few factors, mostly impact on comics (both in the real world and in terms of sales and notoriety in the imaginary comic universes) as well as overall cultural impact, licensing and other adaptations. Like I said, The Falcon ranks so highly because his owners, Marvel Comics, made a point of including him on pretty much every Marvel licensed product in the 70s and 80s.

Along those lines, I realized that there was one black super hero that EVERYONE knows, but that I didn't include because he's not that big a star in actual comic books...
Honorable Mention: Blade, Vampire Hunter
Why didn't Blade make the cut? Because while he's starred in three hit blockbuster movies, the comic book version of Blade had starred in approximately ZERO hit comic book series. Let me weave this overly complex metaphor for you. The comic book Blade is like a seed, which Wesley Snipes and the writers and producers of the Blade movies took, planted, grew a tree from, cut down the tree, turned it into boards and built a house. Does that make sense? In other words, the movie Blade kicks ass. The comic book Blade sucks ass. For whatever reason, Marvel's never been able to capture the awesomeness of the Blade movies on the printed page.

As I stated last blog, in doing my research, I realized I omitted a really great hero who should have made this list over, say, Mal Duncan, so just forget Mal and replace him with...

10: Cyborg (Victor Stone)
Cyborg is one of the best-written characters in comics, being one of the rare super beings who HATES his super powers. His body was nearly destroyed by one of his scientist father's experiments... the same experiment which killed Vic's mother. Vic's father saved his son's life by replacing his damaged body parts with cybernetic enhancements. However, for all the powers and abilities Victor now has, he can never feel that he is a normal person or live alongside normal people. A former athlete, Victor now feels that all his abilities are no longer his, but due to his freakish nature.
Cyborg helped form the New Teen Titans in 1980 and quickly became one of the hottest new characters in comics... so much so that he was added to the animated Super Friends cartoon lineup and included in the spin-off Super Powers toy line. He assumed a mentor role to a new generation of Teen Titans, and most recently graduated to the Justice League of America.

His tortured struggle, coming to terms with his status as a cyborg was one of the most interesting story lines in comics, and thanks to his allies in the Titans, he eventually realized that despite his outward appearance, his humanity is never in question.
He was also included in the Teen Titans cartoon and toy line in the 2000's.
He has appeared on a number of licensed products, including toys, DVDs, clothing, stickers, books, bedding and even a video game. Like Green Lantern, he also had a children's Halloween costume made in his likeness, based on his depiction on the Teen Titans cartoon.
Okay! Enough of that! Ready for the big winners and loser? Let's start with the loser, shall we? The worst black super hero ever is...
#1: The Black Bomber (a.k.a. The Brown Bomber)
When DC decided it needed a black headliner, the original idea was for a character called The Black Bomber. The origin someone concocted was that a white supremacist could gain super powers... by turning into a black male super hero. In the original scripts, The Black Bomber would rescue people without seeing them fully, in once case, a baby in a stroller, only to react in disgust when he discovered that he's risked his life to save a black person! According to writer Tony Isabella who was handed these scripts, the character would make some racist slur at this point! On top of that, Black Bomber's costume looked like a glorified basketball uniform. Isabella convinced DC to discard these scripts and he set about creating Black Lightning instead, who eventually did become DC's first black headliner.

No artwork was completed for the Black Bomber, but African American writer Tony Isabella made reference to it in a recent parallel universe story in Justice League of America, referring to this character as the Brown Bomber.
Classy! No white writer could get away with a C.P.T. joke!

And now for the top two BEST black heroes:
#2: Black Panther (A.k.a. T'Challa, The Black Leopard)
The very first black super hero in comics, The Black Panther was the king of the mysterious African nation Wakanda, visited in the comics, by The Fantastic Four. Wakanda was a wonderland as could only exist in comics... a land where people still dressed in traditional African garb and carried spears, but that possessed incredible scientific wonders at the same time. It is also the only place on Marvel Earth, where the powerful metal Vibranium can be mined. Stronger than steel, Vibranium can absorb any force directed at it and was used in the creation of Captain America's indestructible shield.
The Black Panther has enjoyed a long and illustrious career in Marvel Comics, joining The Avengers (at one point, serving as Captain America's replacement) and The Fantastic Four. However, like many other characters like The Sub-Mariner and Aquaman, being the king of a foreign country political demands often pulled him away from super heroics.

After the formation of the militant group The Black Panthers, Marvel briefly changed T'Challa's codename to The Black Leopard.
In recent years, his popularity has grown with a hit comic book series and an animated series on BET. He even gained mainstream press coverage when he married...
#1: Storm (Ororo Munroe)
... making them the comic book equivalent of Barrack and Michelle Obama... or Jay-Z and Beyonce'. Either way, they are comics mightiest power couple! Kneel before them!
Debuting in 1977, as a member of "The All-New, All-Different X-Men," Storm was comics first black super heroine and was an immediate break-out star! Possibly the most powerful X-Men, Storm can control the weather, summoning Tsunamis and hurricanes as simply as Wolverine can pop out a razor sharp claw.
When the X-Men's leader, Cyclops left, Storm easily slipped into the role as the team's commander and has remained a leader of the team ever since, even after Cyclops eventually returned. Storm steered comics' most popular team through it's most acclaimed times (with critics as well as fans), during the late 70s and 80s, well into the 90s. She has appeared each time the team has been adapted into other media, first in animation in two episodes of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, then in a late 80s TV pilot, then eventually in the long running hit X-Men series and subsequent adaptations, X-Men Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men.Halle Berry portrayed Storm in the three blockbuster X-Men movies, with another, X-Men: First Class on its way. (The role will most likely be recast.)
In 1996, comics' two leading publishers combined their universes and allowed fans to vote for who would win in a fight between the most popular characters from both companies. Thanks to the fans, Storm defeated comic's leading lady, Wonder Woman in combat!
The two women were then merged into one, in the special one-shot comic Amazon!
Storm very possibly is the most licensed female super hero, appearing on a legion of action figures, dolls, statues, clothes, books, posters, stickers... even candy!
Storm isn't just the queen of Wakanda, she's pretty much the Queen of Super Heroes, appearing nearly everywhere super heroes pop up! Not bad... for a girl!

Finally over! Thanks anyone who read all this! We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming!