With Black Panther soon to be making his big screen debut, I’m hoping it does so well that movie studios and critics realize that black superheroes (or even black leads) can draw in a multiracial audience. Give me a good lead and a great story and I’m there. Instead of simply changing characters to give people of color a chance to see someone like them fighting evil, why not just push some of these characters? I haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier but Falcon was fine the way he was, as was War Machine (also haven’t seen the third Iron Man movie).
In the interest of promoting good characters of color, and this being Martin Luther King Day, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr, a black right speaker both liberals and conservatives think was a great man, I present five black superheroes, some of which you may know and some you might not remember or ever heard of, that needs another chance to win people over and prove that superheroing isn’t just for white dudes.
Super Stretch & Micro Woman
The only thing there are less of than black superheroes on TV are black female superheroes. How many can you even name? Super Stretch and his wife, Micro Woman, contain two other things you don’t see in modern superheroes not called Power Rangers: they’re married and their adventures are for kids.
As part of Filmation’s “Super 7” series, Chris and Christy Cross (now there’s a lucky meeting) used their superpowers to stop bad guys. I like superhero names that make their powers obvious. Super Stretch was basically Plastic Man and Micro Woman could sub for the Atom, but I believe (feel free to correct me) they were the first TV superheroes of color. Why not give them a comeback? Although I worry that they would undo the marriage and kid-friendly adventures because Hollywood/The Big 2 seems to hate both of those things. This may be the biggest (no pun intended) stretch of all on this list but the Super 7 shows could make a decent comeback in a new animated showcase.
Not the TV series. That was sadly not very good. But if you’ve seen the original pilot (and if you haven’t Hulu appears to have taken it down so you’ll have to find it) it was much better, and had an all-black cast that was far more interesting than the multiracial one (except for Gary Graham and you’d be surprised how many Beast Wars: Transformers actors were part of this). The only other black character in the series was MANTIS’s love interest. In the original pilot he had two assistants as well as making allies with a reporter and a police pathologist, who had the makings of a romantic couple instead of the clichéd hero love interest. It would have been much better and I want THAT version to get either a full series or a comic book. Make this happen!
The Meteor Man
That’s right, Meteor Man! I know it doesn’t have the biggest fanbase but it’s better than Blankman. (Most things are.) And while I won’t call the movie a cinematic masterpiece with a little refining it could work. Townsend wanted to give black kids a superhero with a better message. However, at this point in his career he was mostly known for Hollywood Shuffle and HBO specials that included nighttime soap parody The Bold, The Black, The Beautiful. This movie was as far from those projects as possible, containing no nudity, no swearing and nobody doing the nasty. Having Eddie Griffen, a man not known for family-friendly comedy, probably didn’t help.
And yet it worked with someone. It had some of the biggest black actors in the business involved. It was fun and had a good message. And with the exception of missing a mask I love the costume. I’m pretty sure this was the first time he had the “hero tries on different costumes before finding the right one” that so many superhero stories, including Lois & Clark and Static Shock used in their pilots. Speaking of which…
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Static Shock has been proof that black superheroes can become popular with the general public. Were DC smarter he might have the opportunity to become a pop culture icon like other superheroes. (This takes time by the way. Superman and Spider-Man have had decades to carve a spot in our culture.) Instead they screwed over Dwayne McDuffie, tossed the other Milestone characters under the same bus Marvel used with the Ultraverse, and proceeded to mess things up, the comic being one of the New 52 to crash and burn. This show and these characters deserve another chance, as do a lot of the Milestone characters. You couldn’t pull off Hardware, Warner Brothers? Or Icon and Rocket? Are you that bad at your…oh right, you can’t even make Wonder Woman work anymore. Maybe if you weren’t so afraid of comics that we all wonder why you own a comic company? Heck, I posted for my example having him take on a Braniac-controlled Justice League…and winning!
I kind of like the movie had it been made-for-TV. As a theatrical movie, however, it is way too weak. Around here it didn’t survive the weekend. It’s not very good. The clip I wanted to find was from Superman: The Animated Series where John Irons fights Metallo. It’s a much better showing. The ideas for the movie were there but it fell short in a lot of areas that I’m sure will be a Video Review or something in future to explain. Done right, however (the aforementioned animated appearance), Steel could be DC’s Iron Man…except the current DC movies have no idea why Iron Man and the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies were so successful, as demonstrated in their doing the opposite.
The story of a guy who gains power and realizes that instead of being a bad guy he should be a hero? Sony should make this quick. If they don’t have Kingpin, use someone else, but I would pay good money to see this done right.
And that’s just the ones that have been done. There are others they could tap but these are the six I’d like to see back in action, whether on the big or small screen. These could be black heroes who could get a wider audience and finally bring some diversity to the superhero ranks. Falcon and Black Panther can’t do it alone, you know.