Monday, September 29, 2008


A promising DC Comics character, Orpheus (Gavin King) started out as a dancer and martial arts expert. He toured the world with a dance troupe and observed much of its evils and unfairness. He tried to help where he could but his passionate responses often nearly got him killed. He was later recruited by a secret organization that trained him and provided him with technology. Believing that Gotham City needed a Black hero, he set up his base of operations there, eventually running into Batman.

It's easy to view Orpheus as a Black version of Batman as their methods were similar though Orpheus lacked Batman's experience. He wore a suit that provided him stealth capabilities and was a formidable martial artist. Orpheus was driven by the injustices of the world and was passionate about being one of its champions. This was an positive and inspirational Black character with a rich past and interesting viewpoint.

Presented in the miniseries (“Orpheus Rising” written by African-American writer Alex Simmons) by DC Comics in 2001, it looked like Orpheus would be around for years to come. I expected he would at least become a powerful element in Batman’s supporting cast. Alas this was not to be. He showed up from time to time in the Batman comics but was never fully brought into the mainstream. Just a few years later (2004), in a different storyline highlighting Gotham’s gang wars, he was killed, his throat cut by one of Batman’s villains by the name of Black Mask. After his death, the character began spiraling into obscurity. He is now all but forgotten.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Superstretch and Microwoman

Back in the late 70's there was a Black crime fighting couple called Superstretch and Microwoman that showed up on Saturday morning TV. He was basically Plastic Man complete with the jokes and somehow her shrinking abilities always seemed to come in handy. I remember watching them during the animated Tarzan show. The episodes were short, a bit silly, and there weren't many of them but as a kid I thought they were great. They both had afros, wore no masks, and often referred to each other by their first names (Chris & Kristy). Their constant companion was a dog named Trouble. As I look back I remember they even used to hug and kiss on screen. Black superheroes showing affection to America's kids? What a precedent! Anyway here's a rough look at part of one of their episodes. In this one they fight their evil dimensional counterparts. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


In Disney and Pixar's The Incredibles, a movie I liked very much, we are introduced to the Superhero Frozone voiced by Samuel L. Jackson. The character is likable right away but the codename bothered me. I understand the play on the word "frozen" since the hero's powers are based on freezing things but "fro"? He has no afro so I have to assume he's called Frozone because he's Black. I suppose it's better than calling him Black Ice, though not by much. I guess we haven't outgrown putting a Black character's color in his name.

Frozone's powers are like that of comic book characters, Iceman, and Ice. In fact he seems to be a combination of the two. As far as his representation of Black people I'd say he's a little better than middle of the road. The character is interesting but not exciting enough to stand in his own movie or comic book. Shooting ice from your fingertips is not a bad power. His character is married and he appears to be faithful except for moonlighting as a superhero. In fact his wife knows about his abilites and alter ego. The hero is clearly Black in look, voice, and attitude but also very non-threatening which enables him to appeal to all ages and people. He was number one on the list of Black Voices dubious list of the Top 25 Black Superheroes.

Disney has done right by the character in terms of marketing and exposure. They gave him a secret identity, (Lucius Best), and bit of a life outside being a Superhero. He has multiple action figures both in and out of costume. He even appears at Disney venues much like Snow White and Mickey Mouse. You can even have your picture taken with Frozone. I look forward to see what becomes of this character.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Verb: That's What's Happenin'!

verbIf it wasn't for Schoolhouse Rock I'd have had a much harder time memorizing my timetables. I still remember the words to many of those songs. In 1974 I got an additional treat as they used a Black Superhero to teach me about verbs. If memory serves, Black people showed up quite frequently in Schoolhouse Rock but the superhero Verb was powerful, cool, and never spoke a word. He only showed up for this one learning opportunity and never appeared anywhere else that I know of. Are you old enough to remember this?