Thursday, August 28, 2008

Black Vulcan

There's a lot to be said about this short-lived hero. His first appearance was on the Super Friends cartoon in the 70's as they expanded their lineup to create diversity. Black Vulcan is among those Black Superheroes that has the word Black in his name for no reason other than the color of his skin. When he showed up in the Super Friends many comic book fans cried foul as he was obviously a take off on Black Lightning who actually did exist in the DC Comics Universe. Apparently there were challenges with the creator of Black Lightning (money issues), so Black Vulcan was invented. Other than the color of his skin or the sound of his voice there was little "Black" or even interesting about him. He was never more than the Black token hero who never even raised the bar to the level of stereotype. Basically he was able to produce lightning and fly. His powers, while always lightning based, seemed to change episode to episode defying all logic and common sense as his lightning bolts would turn into whatever he needed, and even allow him to travel through time. His contribution to the Super Friends was minimal yet as a child I watched week to week waiting in vain for him to do something amazing. He never did. The only thing I can say positively about him is that he as a Black Superhero that appeared on TV while I was growing up.
Multiple action figures were made of the character but he never achieved a fan base and he never crossed over into the comics. Black Vulcan continued his career on the Super Friends cartoon until they revamped the show yet again and replaced him with another Black Superhero, Cyborg. The character disappeared into obscurity until 2004 and 2005 when he showed up years later as a parody of himself in the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law show. Here's an episode of the Superfriends Black Vulcan wasn't overly terrible in:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Black, Animated, and Not Quite Human

Growing up on comics and TV, most of all the Black Superheroes had the word "Black" in their name. There was Black Panther, Black Lightning, Black Vulcan, Black Goliath, and the original Black Power Ranger to name a few. They made sure you knew who the Black ones were. Then there were these other Superheroes that everybody knew were black but that fact wasn't played up so much, maybe because they weren't exactly human. Remember Panthro from the Thundercats? Yet another Black Panther. He was the technical one. His weapons were the Nunchucks and he never seemed to get angry, preferring to kick your butt politely. No one seemed to be in a hurry to upset him though.
My personal favorite is Hong Kong Phooey. He was voiced by the irreplaceble Scatman Crothers all those years ago and Hong Kong Phooey hasn't spoken another animated word since which is a damn shame. The character wasn't too bright but he always won in the end and the people worshiped him. Even getting run over by him was an honor. Scatman also did the voice of one of the original Transforming Autobots, Jazz. He was among the first to die in the original Transformers animated movie. The character has since been redone over and over again but has always portrayed to be the essence of style and cool. Can you think of any others?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Misty Knight

The Marvel comic book character known as Misty Knight was created in the mid 70's. You could think of her as Pam Grier, with a bionic right arm. She was originally a cop but lost her arm due to a bomb explosion. It was replaced by a cybernetic version from Stark Enterprises. No longer being able to be an officer of the law she often assisted Power Man (Luke Cage) and Iron Fist in their Heroes for Hire business. She fits right in with the Blaxploitation era complete with afro and attitude. Her abilities include markswoman, martial arts, detective skills, and the strength and power of her bionic arm.  She became romantically involved with Iron Fist and has been, pretty much off and on, since the creation of her character. She has been a mercenary, private investigator, and bondswoman, and of course businesswoman, with her company Nightwing Restorations co-owned with her long time business partner and friend, Samurai, Colleen Wing.

Most, Black Superheroines, especially those from the 60's or 70's era sport the Afro, Afro puffs, or Braids. Misty Knight is no exception. She is every bit the stereotypical blacksploitation era kick-ass Black woman. It's easy to imagine that everything she's ever done in comic book could be played in live action by a young Pam Greer. She never made it to her own comic book but she has starred in plenty. She's more than once lead an all woman team as well as other teams consisting of heroes with and without powers. Some of those teams have had their own comic. There is even an action figure of her out there somewhere. Her character has changed very little over the decades. She's still around, still relevant, and still showing up powerfully in the Marvel Universe. And why not? She's smart, foxy, a good leader, ready for action, and has a mean right hook. Her story has all the elements of a good movie or at least a TV show.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ready for a Black Superman?

Icon vs. the JLAWe may soon have a Black President but is the world ready for a Black Superman? With the Milestone comics universe joining the DC family, the latter will be provided with a major Black transfusion. How will fans react? How will the heroes react? The Black character you see holding his own in the image here is named Icon. On his earth he was the closest thing to Superman but he has had to live the African-American experience over multiple generations including slavery. Like Superman, Icon is also an alien. His powers are similar except for his blasts come from his hands and not from his eyes. This character is supposed to be joining the Justice League in the coming months along with other heroes from the Milestone Comics IconUniverse. Yes they're all heroes but is this going to be an easy transition? Actually I hope not. When these heroes become part of the mainstream, the status quo should change, shouldn't it? Their presence should have an impact. I look eagerly forward to reading these new stories and will, of course, keep you posted.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


M.A.N.T.I.S.M.A.N.T.I.S. stands for Mechanically Augmented Neuro Transmitter Interactive System. It was the name of possibly the first live action Black Superhero on TV. (I'm still researching the facts on that.) Carl Lumby played the title role of a paralyzed Black scientist who created an exoskeleton that enabled him, not only to walk, but perform super heroics. The series debuted in 1994 and lasted two seasons. I never missed an episode. The character's name was Dr. Miles Hawkins and he was positive, brilliant, and anything but stereotypical. He lost his ability to walk because he was shot in the spine by a criminal. Subsequently he refused to use guns. With the help of another scientist friend, he used science and technology to fight crime. They had a top secret lab and a hover vehicle called the Chysalid. The show would be a bit cheesy by today's standards but was perfect for the time it was on TV. I don't know why it hasn't made a comeback considering all the times Robocop has which was also live action and even more cheesy. Here's a bit of video from the series pilot:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It's gotta be hard to break into comics and animation even with bucket-loads of talent. It's a good thing that doesn't stop creative people from working hard to achieve their dreams. In my own way I try to support people that create work that interests and moves me. One such work is Blokhedz which is the story of a young rapper who has the power to turn his rhymes into reality. I've heard bits and pieces about it over the last couple of years and have been really looking forward to the animated movie that is apparently now in production. It's an interesting concept and sure to appeal to the Hip Hop community if done well. If the trailer below is any indication then I think we are all in for a treat. If you like what you see then give Blokhedz your support.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Young Black Choices

I like comedy but I especially like comedy when there's a point or a good story behind it. For the record I take the subject of this blog seriously even when it's funny. During my ongoing search through the Internet for all things Black Superhero I find quite a bit of negative feelings from Black men for the lack of them in the comics and on TV. The few that were around usually presented the worst stereotypes so I get the reason for the negative feelings and I believe those feelings are warranted. There's really a lot to cover on this. I could never put all the points into one post and do them justice, hence this blog. The other day I ran into this video and thought it covered quite a bit of the issues that keep coming up in my research so I decided to include it. It's funny too. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Muhammad X

Muhammad XThis character showed up in one comic only but the story had an impact on me. Muhammad X is the name of a DC comics superhero operating out of Harlem. His name is a combination his two heroes who should be obvious. He was introduced in a Superman comic as Superman one day found his way to Harlem. Muhammad X, who apparently had density and possibly gravity powers, was angered by Superman's presence saying that Black people need Black role models and shouldn't depend on White heroes that never come to Harlem anyway. Superman was taken aback by this and went to talk to various people in his support group. After talking to Steel's niece he found out there were quite a few other Black superheroes operating that he had not heard of. (I hadn't heard of them either.) When he finally returned to talk with Muhammad X he tried to explain that he was above the color issue. The story ended with Muhammad X saying something like, "Whatever lets you sleep at night."
Obviously the character was created to make a point and rightfully that point wasn't resolved in the comic book. Whether or not the character had a secret identity we may never know. I'm not too fond of the fact that Muhammad X showed up mostly as an angry Black man but I am happy that the subject matter found its way into a mainstream comic. I have to give some credit to the writers Jeph Loeb & Geoff Johns, neither of whom are Black, for writing this story. When I read it I was more than a little suprised and had to show it to someone.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Diddy's Deed

I actually like P. Diddy, not his music as much as his persona. He dreams big, he works hard, and is actually inspiring. If you look at his story you'll see the process of his rise to fame and riches is repeatable for those that have it in them. That being said, Diddy made an ignorant remark the other day that showed up on YouTube. By ignorant I mean uninformed because I truly don't think he really knew. Anyway he made a series of statements about the absence of Black Superheroes in his childhood and that thanks to Will Smith and the movie Hancock, we finally have a Black Superhero. You already know my feelings about that movie from my earlier post. The truth is, in his video, Diddy seemed to have trouble remembering White ones too. There were quite a few Black Superheroes that rose to prominence during his childhood. He just wasn't aware of them. Watch it and read below:

I didn't very much care for his comment and considered not even mentioning it in these pages but as I looked around I found that a great many people put a lot of effort into making answer videos to his. Believe it or not P. Diddy actually sparked a new level of awareness of Black Superheroes. There are hundreds and perhaps thousands of videos an comments about his post. True, many of the videos are negative but quite a few are informative and nicely done and a large portion of them weren't created by Black people either. So I have this to say:
Thanks Diddy, your words inspired an awareness of Black Superheroes that this blogger dreams of one day achieving. I may not agree with all of what you said but I am glad you said it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Going Postal

The show "Heroes" probably uses the term too loosely as individuals with and without powers are often shown to be just the opposite. I really do enjoy the show however. That the first Black guy with powers on the show was an escaped criminal bothered me but subsequent Black characters showed up well enough. In anticipation of the upcoming new season, NBC has produced some web-only episodes (webisodes) featuring a new Black Hero. Should I be offended by the fact that he's a mailman? The trailer is below. You can also click here to check out the webisodes online for Going Postal.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Missed Milestone

The other day my nephews were over and I showed one of them an original Static comic starring the character that Static Shock was based on. He loved it. I dug further into the crates and pulled out Icon, Hardware, and a bunch of other greats from the Milestone Universe. You remember them right? A Black owned company of writers, illustrators, and storytellers who put a little more color back into comics in a respectable and responsible way. My nephew asked me where the comics like these are today. I told him they're still around but not all together like they were at Milestone.

One of the original creators I've been following is Dwayne McDuffie as he seems to be all over the place behind the scenes in TV animation and still in the comics. Anyway I told my nephew like I tell everyone else, Black Superheroes are out there doing their thing just like Black people in real life. They just don't get the awareness that the others do. They are, after all, a minority.

Imagine my surprise to find out from this recent announcement that the Milestone characters are going to be folded into the DC Comics universe. Static will be joining the Teen Titans! I worry that these characters will suffer the fate of similar DC purchased universes but I remain relatively confident that Dwayne McDuffie will see to it that they are handled properly. Needless to say I am very excited by this prospect, not so much that DC is absorbing these characters but that I will be able to see them in new adventures in print. Time will tell.