A Dark Night for Black Superheroes

This Summer’s movies have been packed with action and super powers. The three most anticipated movies of this summer were based on superheroes. The Avengers surpassed my expectations, I didn’t bother to see the Spiderman reboot, and The Dark Knight Rises was just as epic and dramatic as I hoped it would be (even though Milton hated it). It seems as if comic book superhero movies have gained a new level of respect in Hollywood as new characters enter the world of cinema.  I was sitting on the edge of my seat with my eyes widened like a grade school nerd when I saw The Dark Knight Rises. These movies remind me of my childhood, when I used to pretend that I was a superhero and ran around outside with my friends. But I had to make up superheroes back then, you know, because I’m Black. Black boys these days are in the exact same predicament, even when there are movies like The Avengers that are packed with characters.

“I’ll just pretend to have no powers and bad depth perception. Assemble!”

Come to think of it, there are no Black superhero movies.  Decades of cinema and no one has trusted the fate of the world solely in the hands of a superbrotha.  Some of you may be pushing the brim of your glasses up and have already begun typing rebuttals to this statement. Before you finish, let me provide my operational definition of “superhero movie”.

I’m filtering out any superhero that we’re not supposed to take seriously. I know some of you may not take any movie based on a comic book seriously, but I think we can distinguish Blankman from the rest of our sample. He was mentally handicapped, which isn’t a super power the last time I checked. We also have to eliminate Meteor Man from the pool, since his outfit is made of pillows and he has that Uncle Tom-ass part in his hair.

This dude got on my last nerve in the 90’s

We’re not going to include a kid who used to work at GoodBurger and simply thought that he was invisible. So Invisible Boy from 1999’s Mystery Men doesn’t count.

He’s a dude. Just a dude.

And of course we’re not going to count any alcoholic bums who do more harm than good. So Hancock is out of the picture.

He gets his powers from white women (seriously)

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the news coming out of Comic Con this year. I was especially hype to hear about a Black actor, Anthony Mackie, being cast as Falcon in the next Captain America movie.  Mackie was good in The Hurt Locker and She Hate Me, and he made a great cover pic for one of my posts. But when Falcon hits the screen, it’ll still be about Captain America.  So we’re not including sideckicks. Even if we did, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. We’re only eliminating War Machine, aka Bootleg Iron Man. 



I’ve had discussions about Black superheroes before, and for some reason, many of my brothers think that Green Lantern is Black.  Some have gone so far as to say that we should count the most recent Green Lantern movie as a Black superhero movie. I assure you, when a white guy wrote about a character named Alan Scott in the 1940’s, he was not picturing a Black fellow. Yes, Green Lantern is Black in Justice League on the Cartoon Network series that started in 2001. They also turned the comic Spider Man into a Puerto Rican in 2011. I guess the big screen slapped the Black off of both of them.

“But I thought the oath was ‘Brightest Day, Black as night’ “

That leaves us with two undeniably badass superheroes:

Blade and Spawn

Regardless of their ability to kick ass, they don’t pass the last filter for my operational definition of “superhero movie” in the argument stated earlier. No one has trusted the fate of the world solely in the hands of a superbrotha because these two heroes are anti-heroes.

Anti-heroes are characters who lack traditional heroic qualities. Anti-heroes typically distrust conventional values and are unable to commit themselves to any ideals. They generally feel helpless in a world over which they have no control. Antiheroes usually accept, and often celebrate, their positions as social outcasts. (Encyclopedia Britannica).

The only reason this dude Blade doesn’t massacre the human race with the rest of the vampires is because he’s constantly on drugs. He injects a serum into his body to keep his thirst for human blood suppressed. He’s basically popping Nicorette gum for vampires. Society fears his kind and he exhibits high levels of self-hate. Blade would be the perfect participant in a case study for a researcher using a deficit approach. My dude has identity issues in a hard-knock life.

Spawn, aka Al Simmons, was just a Black dude trying to do right. He had a beautiful wife, he dedicated his life to military service and protected our nation. The government ordered Al’s fellow soldier to murder him while on a mission in  Botswana. Then Al went to hell because he was an assassin during his life on Earth. But he makes a deal with the devil to be a soldier for hell, so long as he can see his wife one last time. Too bad his old girl ended up getting cuffed by his best friend; they ended up having kids and shit (she wasn’t a ride-or-die).  So then Spawn is on Earth with super powers from hell that only deplete his independence the more he uses them. It’s easy to remember that his Black ass ain’t free because Spawn is constantly wrapped in chains. The tagline of Spawn should be, “Witness this nigga struggle.” 

Hellspawns and vampires almost act as analogies for the Black male struggle, trying to do good while the world fears your kind and wants to kill you.Think about it, even though President Obama received millions of white votes during the 2008 presidential election, many of those white people thought that he wasn’t like, “other Black people.” They thought, and still think that he is the exception to the rule when it comes to these wild Black folk.  Obama knows it too. We’ve all seen him white it up when he’s in Wisconsin, then turn on his MLK voice during a speech in Harlem. In politics and in superhero movies, the Black guys have to combat fears associated with their ingroup in order to get the leading role. No one in Blade or Spawn’s world actually calls them a hero.  There is yet to be a serious Black superhero movie in which the protagonist saves a baby from a burning building or receives the love of an adoring journalist. Hollywood be like, “NO! You niggas get Hell and bloodsuckers! Handle that shit.”

Fortunately, The Dark Knight has raised our standards when it comes to superhero movies. Now everyone wants their heroes grittier, darker and full of angst. The protagonists in these films now have to be nerds with no friends (eg. Hulk, Spiderman, Captain America) or douchebags with serious emotional problems and family issues (eg. Batman, Thor, Iron Man). Angst is in now. If struggle and angst is what Hollywood is looking for, tell them to look no farther than the nearest Black guy. We got angst.  Hopefully, as this nation continues to increase its trust in our people (ask Trevor if he’s cool with having a Black doctor), we will continue to see an increase in the amount of melanin shown in superhero cinematic adventures. In fact, there are rumors that Marvel Studios is developing a Black Panther movie set to release in 2014. That’s just hearsay, but I’m hype nonetheless. Until that release date is confirmed, I’ll just keep informing the world that we’re capable of saving the world and protecting good citizens if given the chance. And we’ll do it

…like a boss.


6 Responses to “A Dark Night for Black Superheroes”
  1. anon says:

    Wait so why is Storm disqualified?

    • O.K. Kai says:

      I didn’t include Storm partially because this post stemmed from my inability to identify with movie superheroes as a child (ie. Black males). But in addition to that, Storm doesn’t have a movie. If we get a Storm Origins movie like Wolverine, then we’ll have some notable progress.

      • Harvey Dent says:

        I read recently that Marvel probably won’t be releasing any Black Superhero movies, and by that I mean no movies with any Black leads. Despite all the positive press the Black Panther film would get it just wouldn’t draw as big of a crowd as they’d like. So they’ve added more Black supporting role characters like The Falcon etc.

  2. not to out-nerd you on your own website, but in the GL comics, earth has had multiple Green Lanterns, and the fourth one, John Stewart, was black and a full member of the Green Lantern Corps. He took up the proverbial torch (or LANTERN, haHA! no? ok.) after Guy Gardner.

  3. THOOM says:

    I all I could hear reading this article was wah wah wah. The brothers, filmmakers like Townsend, Wayans and others had the opportunity to put great black superheroes on the screen and they put bullshit up instead. Blade counts because even though he is not an anti-hero. He wants to save man from evil vampires that want to destroy humankind. And even if he was an antihero, brothers like him because he is a bad ass who doesn’t back down from evil. And Hancock wasn’t really an alcoholic, since he is impervious t the effects of alcohol. He just pitied himself because he felt alone. But he redeemed himself and became the hero by the end of the movie. And he always fought against the baddies. Rhodey counts, too. And you didn’t have to dis a brother because he is missing an eye. Nick Fury overcame his handicap and runs SHIELD, and deals with strong personalities like Tony Stark. Yes we can do better, but it seems like you were looking for an excuse to dismiss every example of a black superhero in movies.

  4. daniel says:

    im lookin for a movie:
    i saw it when i was younger it was about twe brother i geus one was wearing a glass what made of fork and one ofe those brother gets super piower i kind of bleu thing its all i rememberd but i was wondring whats the name of the movie can anyone hel me out?? thankss greets daniel

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