African American History IS United States History. Comics are an outlet for many artists and people to feel free, giving them a place to escape to. In a world of oppression, reading about black heroes by amazing black artists, gave inspiration to those who lost it.
Langston Hughes said, “In all my life, I have never been free. I have never been able to do anything with freedom, except in the field of my writing.” Although others may deem achievements in comics to be meaningless, they act as a microcosm of the world’s society. Let’s take a look back in time and see those comics that not only honor this month but brought forth the plight that the world was facing during crucial times.
10 comics honoring African American History Part 2
Weird Fantasy #18 (1953)
This 7-page sci-fi story is set in a time where humans have gone beyond the solar system. Tarlton, a human from the Galactic Republic, is sent to inspect a Cybrinia, the planet of mechanical life. In Cybrinia, Tarlton is shown how Orange Robots are held at a higher status than the Blue Robots. This touches upon how African American people were seen in society during this time. However, in the end, Tarlton speaks about how they are not ready to join the republic due to their beliefs. The orange robot goes on about how this society and the status between them have always been in place, in other words, what can one person do. If you want to give this short story a read you can find it here.
Hero for Hire #1 (1972)
This book here really needs no introduction. The first appearance and origin of my man Luke Cage! Luke Cage, real name Carl Lucas, is the first black superhero to headline his own series in mainstream comics. While serving time in Seagate, Lucas agrees to partake in experiments conducted by Dr. Burstein. However, due to a racist guard tampering with the machines, Lucas receives impenetrable skin and super strength. With his newfound powers, now known as Luke Cage he becomes a Hero for Hire in New York City.
Teen Titans #48 (1977)
Here we see it wasn’t just the men making strides but the women as well. This is the first appearance of Karen Beecher, Bumblebee, who is DC’s 1st black female superhero. She did appear in Teen Titans #45 but not in costume. Although Nubia, Wonder Woman’s sister, and first black super-powered female, came out first she was not credited as being a superhero like Karen. Bumblebee has also been a member of the Teen Titans and my favorite, Doom Patrol. Wonder if she will ever make an appearance in the DC show?
Marvel Team-Up #64 (1977)
Creep #43 is known for being the comic with the first interracial kiss in comics. However, this is the first time two mainstream heroes are involved. In this issue, Misty Knight and Iron Fist share a passionate kiss at the end. Although nowadays this is normal, one must remember during these times it was seen as almost as an act against nature.
Avengers #227 (1983)
With rumors of this character coming to the big screen, how could we not mention her? Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, is the first African American female to join our beloved Avengers. Her first appearance was in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, and she was the second Captain Marvel. Originally based off of Pam Grier, this super-hero ends up being the leader of the Avengers for a period of time. She was seen in the MCU movie Captain Marvel and will soon don her costume in the Disney Plus show WandaVision.
Static #1 (1993)
Even though the 200’s have come and gone, they left us a little something. Virgil Hawkins, a 14-year-old Meta-Human who can create, generate, absorb, and control electricity and magnetism. This young meta came to be the first black superhero to star in his own cartoon series. But he sounds very similar, doesn’t he? That’s because Static Shock is almost identical to DC’s first black super-hero with his own comic series, Mr. Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning. Even though both are similar, Static has the same admiration that Kamala has for Captain Marvel.
Robert Morales took inspiration from the Tuskegee Experiments to bring forth a new hero to light, Isaiah Bradley. Bradley was experimented on with fellow soldiers in order to recreate the super-soldier serum used on Steve Rogers. Unfortunately, all but one died, leaving behind Bradley as the first African American Captain America. At first, this change caused a backlash, but soon people saw the point of the new Captain America, to form a bridge between the divide among people in the world.
Licensable Bear #4 (2008)
Making his first appearance as a Senator, the first African American to hold the office of President of the United States, President Barack Obama. Five years prior to the primaries, President Obama makes it to the big leagues and joins other fellow Presidents in the comics. Okay, maybe he didn’t form the Justice Society of America like FDR did, but he is a fan of Spider-Man, who later saves him, and Conan The Barbarian. Nothing makes a President more relatable then picturing him sitting down changing the bag and board of his own comics.
Black #1 (2016)
This comic was started through a Kickstarter campaign and it has received rave reviews since. It focuses on a world that fears and hates all black people. What the world doesn’t know is that they also have superpowers! From the reviews, people are saying that the world needed a story like this to come out. It tackles much of the racial tensions that are still felt today. Issues like lynchings, mass incarceration, and police abuse are covered from the first issue on forward. Many issues in the world never get solved because people are afraid to speak about them. Comics like these spark conversations that one day may lead to solutions.
Now this series touches upon many things. It has the honor of being written by the first two black women to author a series for Marvel and it focuses on the women of Wakanda. Here we get introduced to two African women who are lovers and former members of the Black Panther’s female security force Dora Milaje. The story dives deep into the lives of Ayo and Aneka, the two former Dora Milaje, as well as Zenzi, a revolutionary and villain. Here the women take the lead role of the storyline. Throughout the series, we learn how strong and powerful these women are especially in their roles in Wakanda.
Comic collectors and readers are seen with a stigma. But comics are not just cartoons on paper, well maybe by definition, ha ha. Comics have always been a gateway to what is troubling the world. It is an escape hatch for those that are drowning in the stressors of life. It gives hope to the hopeless and inspires minds all throughout the world. Comics is the one place where you are not always judged by your status, skin color, or religion. So continue to support your favorite artists, writers, and heroes, so they may continue to fuel our minds.
Hope you enjoyed this little bit of Comic History!
Till Next Time…Happy Hunting!