The Comics 8 Ball 2.24.14: Top 8 Moments in Black Comic Book History
Posted by Anthony Kennedy on 02.24.2014
From Spawn's platinum-selling debut and Storm running the X-Men to John Stewart taking over as Green Lantern, the rise of Black Panther and more, 411's Anthony Kennedy counts down the top 8 moments in black comic book history!
Welcome back to the Comic 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! This Black History Month 2014 may go down as the one where fanboys exploded (more than usual) across the net. (And I was prepared to rant on you guys responses to my listing of the Top 8 Black Comic Book Characters. Let me get this off my chest real quick.
Michonne is #1 and You are All Wrong!
The reason why Michonne was ranked #1 is I looked at not only longevity of the characters and impact, but the make-up of those characters.Take Storm and Black Panther for example, the leading candidates that people were outraged was ranked behind Michonne. The creators behind these two characters crafted a noble, regal and even god-like backstory for these two, essentially romanticizing their ideal black superhero. They couldn't be an African-American who had the "stain" of the Black struggle for equality, no they had to be relatable to the large Caucasian audience who could accept an African King and a transplanted African goddess. For black readers it was great that they were getting shine, however why couldn't a Misty Knight, John Stewart, Monica Rambeau or Luke Cage --ostensibly African-Americans-- be written and treated with this level of reverence?
And then you get to Michonne. Who is just a plain Black woman dumped into a situation (the Zombie Apocalypse) and we watch her grow and reveal pieces of herself throughout the series. She's not some regal figure that's "above" the African-American experience. She's very much a part of it and turns into a BOSS!!! Many might not understand the difference but for those that do, that portrayal with that 'stain' of the Black American experience makes a difference.
Fear of a Black Human Torch?
So let me get this straight. Of all the casting decisions for FOX's reboot of the Fantastic Four the issue you have the most problem with is not the weakling Jamie Bell --who looks like he should be Doctor Doom-- nor the very smarmy and douche Miles Teller? Nope, instead people are taking issue with the two capable actors of the quartet, Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood and Fruitvale Station) and Kate Mara (House of Cards) as the Storm siblings? I get it. This is a departure from the traditional presentation of the brother-sister duo. However, fanboy reaction has been asinine and, at times, downright racist. Let's break down their arguments shall we:
Argument #1: This is pandering to the Black community.
Dirty little secret, Black folk are only 13% of the entire United States population that accounts for just around 35 million people. We're not the largest movie going demo and when you take into account those financially capable of doing so that pie gets even smaller. Not to mention of that percentage how many are familiar with the FF source material or Michael B. Jordan from other than The Wire? If this were Kevin Hart or Jaden Smith or Chris Brown even, I could understand the accusations. But this actor for this film is not an example of pandering.
Argument #2: They're Blackwashing Johnny Storm
C'mon! If white women can play Cleopatra and Nefertiti and white men play King Tut, Moses, Jesus and Noah, are people really going to complain about the fictional character of Johnny Storm? And don't give me the whole "well if Black Panther, Blade or Storm were cast with white actors you'd have a problem with it." You're right I would. It's a double standard and not fair. Too Bad, Suck it up.
Argument #3: They're doing this to be PC and/or for diversity's sake.
Do I have to rehash the movie purchasing power of Blacks? And I'm quite sure non-Black minorities aren't going to bat for Blacks to achieve greater representation. This could be that rare case of getting the best actor for the job, as Michael B. Jordan is talented. The hot thing in Hollywood now, nope, he is not. Dirty little secret, Hollywood is not clamoring to put out films with Black leads, even with comic book legacy of a Black Panther, Luke Cage and, with proven box office results, Blade. The only think that crossed their mind, I'm sure if can they make it work and will the heat they generate pale in comparison to the revenue this film generates. That remains to be seen.
Now on to READER FEEDBACK!!!!
Ken Wood: I personally think Bishop deserves a higher spot on the list. I'm glad Spawn is on there, and I personally would have Storm at number one. Otherwise, I think this is a great list!
Believe me, I struggled HAAARD leaving Bishop and Rhodey off the top 8, but truly felt the other characters made huge impact in comics were more deserving on the final 8.
K. Bett dualgunner: The easy response to that is outside of Storm have any of these characters been one of the big three in their respective books for as long as Michonne? I love Panther but how many of marvels attempts to give him his own series last longer than five years? Blade was a "tales of suspense" character that became bigger after the films. War Machine is slightly above Jarvis in pecking order and Luke Cage was downright degrading at times.
Thank you for breaking this down. This column is dedicated to the comics. Thus I did not their portrayals in other media adaptations into consideration. No one is denying most of those characters legacy and impact (at the time) and place in history, but overall as a character, Michonne has earned her place as #1.
Power Man: Wow, some of this list is a trip down memory lane....
When I was a kid my father got me all the Milestone collection including Icon, Hardware, *Static Shock, and *Blood Syndicate (* being my favorites); still have the first issues for all of them.
It's cool looking back now because I remember my pops not just being a big supporter of "black comics/heroes" (so I could see heroes I might better relate too) but the independent comic scene (especially Vertigo and Image) as well, bringing home comics like "Archer and Armstrong," "Sandman," "Young Bloods" & "Wildstorm," (loved Grifter Badrock and Diehard) "The Pitt", "The Maxx," "Cyber Frog".....I could go on and on though Spidey, Punisher, Hulk and X-men were my mainstays.
Two heroes I would probably add to HM would be Shadow Hawk and Night Thrasher; though at the same time one of my gripes with black heroes is due to the vast number that seem to be street level heroes fighting gangs and druglords or confined to groups/affiliations.
As for top 8 I believe Storm is ALWAYS #1 for most recognized, respected, well written and high powered (especially compared to her black peers - she is not a replacement/stand-in/copy/knock-off/poor mans version of another character, she controls the weather and can hold her own against some of the top guns). #2 Should be Spawn for perhaps the best original storytelling of a black hero (Top-selling, high powered, well developed and not weighted down by stereotypes - Todd Mcfarlane is the man!).
#3 Would be Black Panther for showing like the Cosby Show being black should and does not mean being relugated to the lables of "poor, uneducated and uncivilized."
Really good insight, thanks for sharing this. Amazingly, your statement on why Storm should be #1 made up most of my argument of why I put Michonne there.
CyberVenom: Awesome list! I might not necessarily agree with the order, though. Here's my top 10
10. Mr. Terrific
9. Monica Rambeau/ Photon/Captain Marvel
5. John Stewart
3. Luke Cage
1. Black Panther
Can't knock your choices but no Michonne??? You're the second person I've seen call out Monica Rambeau, I might have to scrimmage through my old Avengers comics and see if I'm missing out on a great character. I could never get passed that horrible fro they gave her.
Robert WowJustWow: There's nothing to read between. It was a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek comment that got a chuckle out of me, as well as I'm sure other people.
You didn't criticize the article. You picked out one line from said article, used that as a way to accuse him of "googling" everything, and now are trying to argue that there is more to it.
I still don't know why I'm feeding it. I'm bored, I guess. Next time, don't copy/paste the same insult. Come up with your own.
Thank you sir for appreciating a sarcastic joke when seen.
dualgunner: Rather than black characters that have made an impact in their respective realms, this whole list looks like it was built on what's current and or popular.
Walking Dead: current/popular
Black Panther: current/popular
Luke Cage: popular
Spawn is a legend so he's cool, Static X isn't that memorable, and ill admit I know little to nothing about Agent 355. As for my 8...
BLADE: Beside the comics his story was the reason the Marvel movies grew beyond the year 2000
JOHN STEWART: Just face it, he was a more badass lantern. Not sure if Hal was truly a better Lantern, but hey, everything looks better in black ;)
STORM: Just a true icon for ALL races of fictional female characters.
BLACK PANTER: Yes he is current and popular, but the fact that he runs his own nation that is highly revered is a huge feet for any (black) man in the Marvel universe.
SPAWN: Single handedly went up against DC and Marvel!
MARTIAN MANHUNTER: The fact that he (mainly) choses to appear as a black man when he takes a human form says a lot.
AMANDA WALLER: The unconfirmed mother of Jackie Brown lol! This lady is BAD! She has no problem starring down the Justice League and telling them off as a mere human.
STEEL: Now hear me out. DC tried to create "black superman" and its appreciated, BUT the "John Henry" feel/look wasn't the best choice IMO.
Appreciate the feedback and challenging me on my selection in a well thought out argument. But my selections were not chosen on current/popular and you do realize that three of your selection made my Top and another three got HM so we have similar mindset on these! Martian Manhunter I would never include as he's an alien and goes into the social question of is it culture or birth that makes one Black.
sisti: great list, unique and something i have not seen done before...
the only changes i'd make personally is putting Bishop on, and i'd put him at about 4. that may be due to me getting into comics in the 90's and watching a lot of X-men. i'd also put Storm at 1 and Luke Cage a couple spots better. overall though, enjoyed reading this
You're preaching to choir. Believe me it was extremely hard leaving Bishop of the top 8 as I absolutely loved the character and unique mutant powers he had. But I put personal biasness aside and put, what I felt, were more deserving characters on the list. Glad I sparked your creative juices with this topic.
Thanks to everyone who submitted a response and I enjoyed the back and forth discussion. As a Black male nice to see to that characters that reflect my culture are appreciated in the larger mass audience.
Top 8 Moments in Black (Comic Book) History
Last week I sparked some furor listing the best characters of Black/African-American decent featured in comic books. As we close the book on another Black History month, wanted to highlight the best moments in comic book history committed by a black character.
#8 Storm Mercs Callisto Uncanny X-Men #170 (1983)
Watching the Goddess Storm get her hands dirty and in a fight to the death with the deadly leader of the Morlocks was epic for the time. It was made more poignant as Storm showed she was willing to take the life of an enemy if it meant saving her fellow X-Men, shanking Callisto and calmly walking away like she just hit the game winning three.
#7 Michonne's too hardcore for Woodbury "Death Match" The Walking Dead #31 (2006)
She had been brutally beaten and raped by the Governor. And now she was thrown against an opponent with chained up walkers surrounding her, ordered to give the people of Woodbury a show, for the promise of a more pleasant stay. Not Michonne. A lowblow and multiple beheadings of showed even as a captive she would remain defiant and her own person.
#6 Spawn Goes Platinum Plus Spawn #1 (1991)
Todd MacFarlane, fresh off of his million selling run on Spider-Man had apparently been keeping a few ideas to himself. With huge fanfare with the launch of Image Comics, Todd produced the best new character in comics to the tune of 1.7 million copies sold, and it was for the tale of Black Marine selling his soul to be with his wife once again.
#5 Storm makes Cyclops Bend the Knee Uncanny X-Men #201 (1986)
There was no denying Chris Claremont had developed an affinity for the Storm lead X-Men and probably saw Cyclops as a nuisance to Storm be THE leader of the X-Men in the latter half of the 80's. Thus we got a powerless Storm shown to use her guile, wits and street smarts to claim leadership of the X-Men and remove the last remnants of the ‘Original' X-Men.
#4 "You ain't got the answers (Hal)!" Green Lantern #76 (1970)
It was the 70's man. As social change was coming to America, it was still status quo within comics. Until Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams decided to highlight the hypocrisy as weathered old, Black man asked this question of Hal Jordan, "How Come?"
#3 Rhodey Replaces Tony Stark as Iron Man/
John Stewart replaces Hal Jordan as Green Lantern
Green Lantern #87 (1971)/Iron Man #170 (1983)
Two of comics most iconic superheroes saw Black men take the lead in solo books as replacement. More than just placeholders or color swapped alternative, Rhodey and Stewart were their own men with their own ideology and personalities that made their runs endearing.
#2 Milestone Comics Launches (1993)
Give credit to DC to create a publishing imprint of comics aimed to give Black superheroes the spotlight. Blood Syndicate, and my favorites and Static were great reads and not just black characters, but Black created Black Characters.
#1 The Black Panther Rises Fantastic Four #52 (1966)
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made a bold move to produce a new superhero that didn't fit the standard white anglo saxon protestant (WASPy) mold of the majority of their 616 creations and instead brought the world someone who would become one of the longest standing legacy characters ever in T'Challa. Not just a Black superhero, but ruler of great African nation, who was as smart as Reed Richards and as tactical and brave as Steve Rogers.
Well that's my list. Agree, disagree, did I miss someone that deserved to make this list? Let me know! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Have a great week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! I'm done.