Marvel Minorities: Following Black Heroes From Comics to Film

Storm and Black Panther

Storm and Black Panther

Iron Man.  Spiderman.  Wolverine.  Captain America.  Thor.  What do all of these beloved marvel heroes here have in common?

  1. They are all Marvel characters that have had their own feature films.
  2. They are all white boys.

With Stan Lee’s possible leak of a forthcoming Black Panther movie it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on Marvel’s history of dealing with Black characters.

The Marvel comics as we know it today was founded in 1961, a time when our country was staunchly segregated.  Much of the struggle our country faced can be felt when reading these early comics, and I doubt I am alone in feeling that Marvel has always been a beacon of progressivism and hope.

In 1963, the year Martin Luther King Jr. led a march on Washington, we were also introduced to a new group of minorities who were feared and ostracized for being different.  The struggle of the X-Men resonated with the struggle of our country at the time, and Marvel helped lead the way for minority characters in fiction.

Black Panther - www.filmfad.com

Black Panther First Appearance

T’challa, also known as the Black Panther, was introduced in Marvel in 1966; this is the same year that the Black Panther Party was officially organized in the United States.  It is no coincidence he is a character who struggles between leading his own people with their traditions of isolation and integrating them with the rest of society.

Marvel also gave us Luke Cage in 1972 at the height of what some call Blaxploitation.  Whether or not we agree with his early portrayal and disco shirt we can still all agree that a favorite superhero of many emerged from this trend.

One of Marvel’s greatest triumphs was giving birth to our first mainstream Black female superhero.  In my opinion, Storm is one of the most complicated, noble, respectable, powerful, and sexy superheroes ever.  Just think about an origin that combines being an orphaned street thief superimposed on being worshipped as a goddess added to overcoming persecution as a mutant.  To the dismay of me and probably many more, her portrayal by Halle Berry has continued to shrink in the cinematic world and has never been given the depth she deserves.  This now brings me to the current Marvel minority portrayal in popular culture.  Many forget that the first successful marvel character to hold his own cinematically was Blade (1998).  It has now been a decade since leather laden Wesley Snipes was a leading minority superhero, and we need color on our screen now more than ever.  Think about it, we have more recently had a Black President than a Black superhero movie.  This fact is such a bother to me because of the rich history Marvel has given to Black heroes.

Storm Marvel

Marvel Comics’ Storm

We have always appreciated that Marvel had so many prominent minority characters so that is why we have the expectation that when at the peak of the Marvel cinematic boom we have a Marvel movie featuring one of these characters.  Ant Man is in production and Dr. Strange has been announced, so it is far overdue that we get this confirmation for Black Panther.  I think all of us are ready for Marvel to return to its roots and lead the way for minorities in film like it has done for comics in the past.

What’s your opinion?

Mike

Author: Mike

Mike has spent nearly all his life amassing education, degrees, and most of all overwhelming student debt. And none of it has had to do with film. Minus one film class in college, the only experience he has with film is personal exposure due to sheer enjoyment and entertainment. He writes for FilmFad.com partly because of this interest in film, but mostly because he is so narcissistic that he gains great joy from hearing his own opinions. Now that his family and close friends are tired of hearing his opinions he desires to venture out to exhaust new venues with his overly-analytic and trite commentary. Hopefully he finds some success in such blogging, if not, the orderlies will have a lot of writing to clean off of these padded walls.

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  • Madison Smart-McCarthy

    I think you shed light on an issue that has been ongoing in the comic world for quite some time. However, I think the more interesting debate revolves around the discussion of “why” these superheros have not been given the opportunity to be the leading role for a film. Is it because white superheros were more appealing to the general public when Marvel first developed and, therefore, minority superheros were not developed as well?

    That’s probably not it. Given your great account of the complexities involved with developing the character Storm, I would venture to say that it must be something else. It is because the general public cannot relate to the minority characters and their struggles?

    Again, this is probably not the correct answer. The minority characters have struggles that are germane to any human such as a lack of faith from society to achieve greatness, self-doubts, and being ostracized because they are different from others. Additionally, these struggles are found in almost any Marvel superhero, regardless of race.

    My opinion why minority superheros have not been given the spotlight yet is that our society does not draw enough attention to non-fictitious minority historical figures. Most people are familiar with Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman, but not many others. For example, when Nelson Mandela passed I saw several Facebook friends questioning what he actually did in South Africa that was so important. So, how do we expect the comic world to focus on their minority superheros if we neglect our own?

  • Mike McCarthy

    I agree with you on these points. I guess what I was trying to push through most with this post was that Marvel has historically been on the front lines of leading minorities into our popular culture and they need to pick back up on this trend moving forward with their film-making. If I get some free time I plan to put out some other articles focusing on other minorities in comics we all want and need to see.

  • Richard Dingle

    The idea of Black Panther getting a movie makes me cringe. He is exactly the type of Black superhero that should not be encouraged. His whole sense of being is based on his race. Storm, Green Lantern(John Stewart), Aqua Lad, Blade. These are heroes where their race is only a small facet of their character. These are the type of multidimensional characters that are appealing to read/watch.

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