Superheroes of color (or characters that aren't white)

Not too many characters of color become renowned by their own merit. Most of the times they were either sidekicks (like the Falcon) or borrowed/inherited another characters identity (Dr.Light). A lot of times, their names/codenames are labeled with colors that represent their ethnicity (Black Lightning).

But there are a number of characters that can be noted to be set apart from these usual stereotypes. One good example is Storm. Although most depictions of her image make her look more caucassian than her true ethnic roots (pun intended). White long hair being a big departure from what we are more familiar with. I am not as acquainted with her bloodline so that is just probably a minor setback as far as her design is concerned. Bishop is also a great character to take note of, as well as Luke Cage. Although there was a time when Luke Cage was written like a blaxploitation movie character.

Milestone Characters

The more recent character of color that I would like to focus on is Static. Both his Milestone depiction and his celebrated cartoon persona (Static Shock). Among all characters mentioned above, his run on the cartoon series has left a mark on the public. And he wasn't exactly depicted as a white guy with dark skin either.

He didn't fall prey to racial stereotypes as well. Creators Dwayne Mcduffie, Robert l. Washington, and John Paul Leon has made a character that can be proudly considered a great role model not just for people of color but for all.

His abilities are quite unique as well, electromagnetic powers. Not unlike Magneto's but somehow surpassing it in how it is used. Hopefully, if handled well, Static can have his own title back (written and drawn by people of color may work).

Why should it be done by people of color? From what I've seen from other colored characters, they were hardly done right, or designed rather almost humorously. One example is Cyborg. His old cybernetic design looked so much like a lingerie of sorts. I have respect for George perez as an artist, but sometimes, they just don't work for me.

The current Cyborg design is ok, but somehow it would have worked if he can still fit in normal clothes. (you'd think comic book technology could easily streamline armor design, but no, big is always cool). There's an article here in the forums regarding re- designing Cyborg's exterior look. And I do agree with his points.

One more quip about colored superheroes: either they show too much skin (almost ridiculously), or they cover them up so much you can't tell who's inside it.

Here's Tyroc from the Legion of Supperheroes before his re-design:

A lot has improved... but it does makes you ask the question: have our sensibilities as humans progressed, or racism is more careful these days?

16 Comments
16 Comments
Edited by fodigg

Nice post. My favorite Cyborg design is the Flashpoint one.

I like that he the bulk of his armor is variable, and he can still wear clothes over them. I'm torn on the idea of removing or having a non-metallic face plates. I can recognize the concern of dehumanizing DC's highest profile black hero (in the new52), but I like the look visually and I think it's important to the core tensions/themes of the character. Perhaps a similar "variable" solution, where the plate is non-metallic when not in the bulky, armored "battle mode"? I think that would work.

My top five favorite black characters at the moment are:

Amanda Waller doesn't make my list because of the new 52 changes, although I'm hopeful for her portrayal in Team 7. Voodoo isn't on my list because the book got derailed horribly despite a very promising start. I like Static a lot but man they screwed up his intro in the revamp. Not as badly as Mr. Terrific's, but bad.

Edited by LightningTiger2190

Storm is depicted the way she is because she is not supposed to look black. She is supposed to have an amalgam of facial features from different ethnicities. It is not uncommon to find people of African descent with Caucasian or Asian features.

Also people of color does not only refer to black people. Yes there are not a lot of Black heroes/villains but there has been a great improvement in the inclusion of "Colored" people. The real problem is the creation of of non Caucasian heroes/villains that are meaningful and given good character development. As a Black Man myself i don't want to see new black characters being pumped out for the sake of it. I'm sure Asian, Eastern European, Hispanics, or the many people from the different countries of Africa feel the same. Companies should take the characters we already have and improve them.

The real problem lies with the companies , writers, and the consumers. There aren't that many multicultural writers out there. It would be a tall order to ask A middle class white American to be able to relate to a impoverished inner city youth. This is why Simon Baz works so well. Geof can relate to the character he is writing and can take experiences he has had and apply them. Most consumers only want to read about iconic characters. John Stewart doesn't push as much books as Hal Jordan. This brings me to the point that the companies don't make it there business to make these characters more prominent until now with Cyborg.

EDIT: I do feel that the tech in DC is suffient enough for cyborg to be able to go the nano machines like Tony Stark Bleeding Edge armor. There is no reason why he couldn't have a story where he gets an upgrade and the nanites redesign him. It would further blur the lines between man and machine for him. His struggle would go from fitting in visually to a mental struggle of accepting is no longer human. I am pro streamlining him. It would be perfect for his own ongoing.

Posted by fodigg

@LightningTiger2190 said:

EDIT: I do feel that the tech in DC is suffient enough for cyborg to be able to go the nano machines like Tony Stark Bleeding Edge armor. There is no reason why he couldn't have a story where he gets an upgrade and the nanites redesign him. It would further blur the lines between man and machine for him. His struggle would go from fitting in visually to a mental struggle of accepting is no longer human. I am pro streamlining him. It would be perfect for his own ongoing.

I'd like that. Either with nano-tech or just through a general "upgrade" storyline. I like that it would bring in more transhumanist themes. If he's had his current tech cybernetically grafted to him for five years now, would he view its removal as self-mutilation? It's an interesting question to explore.

Posted by GundamHeavyarms

Funny that you mention tyroc, his outfit was designed that way on purpose. His creators were pigeon holed by DC editorial into making him a racial seperatist which apparently was the only way to have a black legionairre, so they gave him the dumbest costume ever.

Ferro Lad was supposed to be black too, but editoral wouldnt let jim shooter do it, so he made him white and eventually killed him off.

I love the Legion of Superheroes, but my biggest criticism is the lack of diversity. It makes absolutely no sense that a book set 1000 years in the future is so whitewashed, and there arent enough "alien" looking aliens either, but its not so bad, in the reboot levitz added one black legionairre and three asian ones.

I think in terms of diversity, the industry has come a long way, and has a long way to go. I think change, real organic change is being blocked by a mixture or cynicism, nostalgia, and executive meddling.

Edited by Captain13
I need more development, DC.
Posted by Twentyfive

We need more minority creators, and more minority-lead books. I know it sounds some sort of way to say "it's as simple as that" but it really is that simple. The big companies really have to take risks (something I applaud DC for taking last September), and put minority characters in people's faces. Why would anyone care if they are not shoved in our faces along with the same 3 DC characters, and the same few Marvel heroes? People have no reason. And sometimes, it might be better to debut someone in a solo book, rather than have just another team black character. And though I tried to defend characters like John Stewart, and Steel, I am beginning to understand what people are saying about "Black versions of characters are offensive to black people". When you see the Green Lantern symbol, the person you immediately think of is Hal Jordan. When you see the S shield, the only person that comes to mind is Superman. Same with the Bat symbol. We need more Black characters that aren't someone else.

And if all else fails, we need another Milestone movement. Not a "By us, for us" but something that can genuinely, and accurately paint a picture of the American population, and of the world.

Posted by joshmightbe
Blue Marvel
Online
Posted by evilvegeta74

@joshmightbe: I was just about to mention this guy,he's one of my favorites, yet you don't really see him in marvel that often,because he's 2 damn powerful.

Posted by evilvegeta74

@eiderglast: Great point outs, excellent topic !

Posted by eiderglast

@evilvegeta74: Thanks! And I never heard of Blue Marvel... is he like the Sentry? A recent character retrofitted into continuity? Reading his power levels on the comicvine database says his powers are either as strong as Sentry's or even better.

Posted by Mega_spidey01

my favorite top 5 black superheroes

1. black panther

2. luke cage

3. cloak

4.spider-man (miles morales)

5. vixen

Posted by blackair9

@fodigg: I second that, flash point cyborg was a great redesign. I am still salty with how bad the mister terrific series was as far as stories go, Eric Wallace did such a good job on brightest day , smh.

Posted by Avenging-X-Bolt

i like the Ivan Reis design shown on the cover for JL 16

Posted by Crotchzombie666

that TYROC costume is sweet. I would wear it.

Posted by BigBDawg

There's a good bit of characters of color or minority that are awesome. Like the ones fodigg mentioned along with a few other ideas I've felt are good; Black Lightning, Jason Rusch, Triathlon/3D Man, Steel, Black Panther, Falcon, etc.

But Milestone's diversity of characters are what really sell me for minority characters. They really need to have a few more these days, but it also isn't easy to be representive of the world at large when there's quite a bit of racism, even if not as bad as in the past. But it still is this belief of majority rules over minority rules and crap like that. Of course, I may just be overthinking it, but Eiderglast has some good points in this article, and in the long run, times have changed a lot to make minority characters more representive in the long run and more realistic. It still is not very easy to work with in this day and age, but I hope that we can get to the point where minority characters will all be more recognized and better than in the past. =)

Posted by Black_Claw

@BigBDawg said:

There's a good bit of characters of color or minority that are awesome. Like the ones fodigg mentioned along with a few other ideas I've felt are good; Black Lightning, Jason Rusch, Triathlon/3D Man, Steel, Black Panther, Falcon, etc.

But Milestone's diversity of characters are what really sell me for minority characters. They really need to have a few more these days, but it also isn't easy to be representive of the world at large when there's quite a bit of racism, even if not as bad as in the past. But it still is this belief of majority rules over minority rules and crap like that. Of course, I may just be overthinking it, but Eiderglast has some good points in this article, and in the long run, times have changed a lot to make minority characters more representive in the long run and more realistic. It still is not very easy to work with in this day and age, but I hope that we can get to the point where minority characters will all be more recognized and better than in the past. =)

Well Black Panther, John Stewart, and Spawn are very well known. If these minority characters can be very recognizable then I'm sure DC can do the same with a character like Static, and they proven it before with John Stewart.