Celebrating Black Superheroes – Storm

I love the X-Men. My favorite X-Man is Wolverine. But if there was anyone to take that favorite spot, it would be Ororo Munroe aka Storm. The New York born but African raised “goddess” has the mutant ability to manipulate the weather which makes her one of the most powerful alive. She has been a member of the X-Men since her first appearance while also serving stints on The Avengers and Fantastic Four. Once was married to T’Challa thus making her the one time of Wakanda. Storm is one of the most popular and important female superheroes. 
I first became familiar with Storm through the 1990’s X-Men animated series. She was one of the main members of the tram and there was a lot of spotlight on her. We learn of her claustrophobia, which is smething I never heard of before watching the show. It also showed that she was second-in-command to Cyclops and was the de facto leader of the underground Morlocks. All these important plot points lifted straight from the comics. 

In the comics, Storm is one of the most intriguing X-Men. She has gone through various phases, such as the time she sported a mohawk and was punk rock, while always remaining a stalwart member. Even serving as the leader of the tram while stripped of her mutant abilities. When there are multiple teams of X-Men, you can expect Storm to be the leader of at least one of them. 

In other adaptations, Storm has seen better days. In the animated series after the 90’s version, Storm is somewhat shafted compared to other members. In film, Halle Berry’s portrayal left a lot to be desired as well as Alexandra Shipp. One gets the sense that Bryan Singer does not understand the importance of the character. But at least the character is always there and gets some spotlight. 

I knew the importance of the character when my sister who has no interest in superheroes knows the importance of the character. There are few black female superheroes in popular culture. So the character arguably sticks out for being a force to reckon with and not just meaning her powers. Storm will continue to be one of the most important and popular heroes in superhero fandoms. That is important and beautiful. 


Celebrating Black Superheroes – Black Panther 

King T’Challa of Wakanda is also known as Black Panther. This is a man who wears many different hats. He is one of the smartest men in the world. Superhero. King. I first became familiar with the character sometime in the 90’s when he appeared on the Fantastic Four cartoon (voiced by Keith David). I then really became familiar with him during the early 2000’s and Christopher Priest’s seminal writing stint on the character. Priest chose an interesting route with the character as even though he was the main character, the book was told through another character’s perspective. Black Panther was reimagined as a calculating figure that not even the reader was supposed to know what he was thinking. This carried over into Geoff Johns’ stint writing The Avengers. Black Panther was treated with some unease from other Avengers particularly Iron Man due to the revelation that Panther only joined The Avengers to spy on them. However an attack on American soil from The Red Skull, a super Nazi, Black Panther is one of the few to oppose him. 
These stints showed the many sides of T’Challa. His science skills came to the forefront as he isnine to help develop a vaccine for Red Skull’s attack. How he is one of the greatest fighters in Marvel as the only way to develop a vaccine which was derived from Red Skull’s blood. His somewhat aloof and calculating demeanor proved useful when enemies would attack but it wasn’t appreciated by some of his comrades. But thay gave way to also show an honorable and loyal side to the people he has fought side by side for years. This no doubt stemmed from his Wakandan heritage. The kingdom known for its xenophobia which kept it safe for generations but led to mistrust within the world communities and finally came to a head with the dead of T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka. 

T’Challa is one of the most interesting characters in comics as he is a man pulled in a myriad of directions. Many people have compared him to Batman and while there are similarities, keen intellect and paranoia, that is a disservice to The King of Wakanda. There are few characters where you can say they are the King of one of the most advanced civilizations while also being one of the world’s greatest superheroes. That one moment can be making power plays with world leaders and then the next facing down Galactus. 

The popularity of the character has grown exponentially since the 2000’s. One of the main members of the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon and making his live action debut in Captain America: Civil War. His solo movie is set to debut in February 2018 and the character is expected to play a major part in Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel. The character also has his own solo series in the comics while being part of ensembles such as The Ultimates. 

It is a good time for The King of Wakanda. 

Luke Cage –  The Unquestionably Black Superhero Show

Marvel’s Luke Cage – SDCC – Teaser – Netflix [HD]

The trailer for the upcoming Luke Cage series from Marvel and Netflix was released at San Diego Comic-Con 2016. To say that I am excited for this show is an understatement. I was a big fan of the first two seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Luke Cage actually appeared in the latter series and though his origins where touched upon, by the end we still didn’t know much about him. That all looks to change as Luke Cage gets his own series and going (back) to Harlem. 

Few details have been revealed as to what the actual series is going to be about. All the creative talent behind the show have said is that a “necessary evil” will bring out the hero in Cage. During his appearances in Jessica Jones, Luke was a hesitant hero. He would do the right thing but he preferred to remain under the radar…he is a wanted man after all. So what brings him out into the spotlight? 

Mahershala Ali plays the main antagonist Cornell Stokes. Stokes’ counterpart in the comics is the drug kingpin Cottonmouth who is known for his razor sharp teeth. Though Ali does not have those teeth he definitely looks to be wearing some sort of prosthetics. Then there is Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, a local politician. Her comics counterpart is Black Mariah but they are taking that character in a different direction. Her cousin is Stokes so are they in cahoots with one another? Dillard claims to be wanting to clean up Harlem but her cousin and Cage are throwing her plans in turmoil.

What makes this show unique is that it is unequivocally a black and brown show. Harlem is known for its black population. This show does not look to be shying away from that either. Of all the cast members revealed, only one so far is white and he is a cop at that. The showrunner Cheo Coker, is a black man. Luke Cage wants to help Harlem through being a superhero. During this superhero boom in film and television, we have never had a show like this one. 

The song that played during the trailer is “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Ali Shaheed Muhammad of legendary hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest is co-scoring the show. The show is not backing away from black culture. Luke Cage looks to be carving its own unique place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

The series drops in full on September 30th on Netflix. I will be watching 1st 12:01 am that day.

Black Superheroes in the MCU

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an example of an amazing feat. When it was first announced that Marvel was going to be creating their own independent studio in the mid 2000’s and featuring characters that they still had the film rights to but characters that were not as well known, many were skeptical. Fast forward a few years and now Marvel is a household name and all of the studios films have been successes. However there has been a common criticism since the beginning and that has been the lack of diversity.

There has been a notice of how many movies feature a lead who’s played by a “white guy named Chris”. The lack of people of color has been one of the main criticisms. While the character of James “Rhodey” Rhodes, first played by Terrence Howard and then Don Cheadle in subsequent films, has been there since the first Marvel Studios film, “Iron Man”, many have noted that since the recasting he is simply just there most of the time despite becoming a full fledged hero in “Iron Man 2”. It is noticeable that in “Iron Man 3” that he is rarely in his suit at all in the movie instead other people use it more than him. Also his character was absent during “The Avengers” and not even given a mention as to what his character was up to.

In the “Thor” film series, there are two noticeable people of color and that is Heimdall played by Idris Elba who is a black man and Hogun played by Tadanobu Asano who is Japanese. While the character of Hogun has always been depicted as non-white and clearly influenced by Mongolian culture, many took ire with the casting of Elba as Heimdall. These characters noticeably get not much to do. The character of Heimdall is a guardian who watches over Asgard so he somewhat understandably does not interact much but even when there are situations for him to participate in, he does not appear. Hogun appeared as much as the other members of The Warriors Three in the first film but when it came to the sequel, he was written off at the beginning of the movie and only makes a quick cameo in the end.

Things began to change within “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” with Anthony Mackie playing Sam Wilson/The Falcon. The character has been a noticeable supporting protagonist of Captain America since the 1960’s and he is notable for being the first mainstream African-American superhero. In this film, Wilson is the first character that the audience sees and also gets the last line of the movie. While he is still a supporting protagonist to Captain America, he still has his own thing going on. Captain America depends on him just as much as he does on Captain America. It was noticeable as to how little the character was featured on advertisements before the movie’s release. However once the film was released, Mackie proved to be the ensemble darkhorse as his portrayal was beloved and notable.

By the time “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was released; Cheadle, Mackie and Elba reprised their roles albeit in smaller roles. Elba is nothing more than a cameo. Mackie is given two scenes, one at the beginning and one at the end. One gets the sense that he wasn’t even supposed to be in the film at all but due to his popularity and the criticism of how Cheadle wasn’t in the first film, he was added to the film. Cheadle gets the largest screen time but is still only in a bout three scenes but at least his character gets to partake in the final battle, somewhat. The real life issue of the lack of diversity within The Avengers team is addressed in the film’s final scene.

Now “Captain America: Civil War” was announced, it was always assumed that Mackie would reprise his role in the film considering his status but there was also a notable addition and that was Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/The Black Panther. The Black Panther is notable for being the premiere black superhero as his character is a genius/super athlete/king from a fiction country in Africa that has never been colonized. These two were in the movie and then when the cast was fully announced it was stated how Cheadle would be in the film as well.

During the same press conference where “Civil War” was announced it was also announced that Black Panther would be getting his own movie as well in 2017 and then pushed to 2018. This is important as he is the first black character from Marvel Studios to get his own film since the company’s first film in 2008. That would make it ten years and many have been clamoring for the character to get his own film and Marvel Studios President, Kevin Feige, always dodged and gave a myriad of reasons as to why the character wasn’t getting his own film.

Now with the Black Panther character being introduced in “Civil War” and even earlier references to his fictional country of Wakanda and arch enemy Klaw being in “Age of Ultron”, it seems that Marvel is taking many steps to make sure the character works by the time his solo movie arrives. But “Civil War” is important as it features probably the three biggest black Marvel superheros, barring characters who are part of the X-Men and cannot be used, in one film. The plot of the film will feature heroes taking sides of Captain America and Iron and it’s not hard to guess as to who’s side The Falcon and War Machine will take in the film and Black Panther playing a certain x-factor in the mix. Also worth mentioning is the character of Luke Cage, notable for being the Hero for Hire, getting his own self  titled Netflix series following a series such as “Daredevil”.

While it has taken some time and there is still much work to be done, Marvel Studios has been making an effort to diversify its lineup. It has not been perfect and there could be much more work to be done but there is an effort being made. We will see how diverse the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be in another ten years.