How Colorful is Your Comic Book?


This weekend I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier with my boyfriend. Overall, the movie was great; it had a compelling storyline, a few twists, chair gripping scenes, and subtle critiques of society. But there was something that kept pinching a nerve, Falcon.

Falcon, one of Marvel’s first African American heroes, is Captain America’s faithful sidekick. In the movie, Falcon is there to answer Captain’s call for help when S.H.I.E.L.D is compromised and, at the end of the movie, Falcon solemnly swears to follow the captain wherever he goes. Falcon takes direction well and is strategically placed behind Captain America in most scenes. He makes Captain’s breakfast and clears the way for him to fight the villain and save the day. Even Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson), the commander of S.H.I.E.L.D, relinquishes his power and allowes Captain America to lead the way once he realizes there is no way to save S.H.I.E.L.D.

I understand that the sidekick is supposed to be a close companion and subordinate of the hero, but something about having Falcon be a black man and sidekick to a white Captain America did not sit well with me. Maybe because I knew the roles could not be easily reversed; I had never seen a black superhero with a white sidekick and probably never will.

Seeing Falcon in this movie caused me to inquire about black representation in the comic book world and sparked my interest in black superheroes. Not being familiar with comic books, I was surprised to find several black superheroes that play roles other than sidekicks.  The Black Panther, Storm and Blade are just a few black superheroes I ran across during my research for this blog post.

falco15The fact that I couldn’t list any black superheroes off the top of my head but could think of plenty of white superheroes is a problem. Luckily, I was able to Google search black superheroes and balance my exposure to black and white superheroes. But what about a black child who does not have this same initiative? What about a black child who grows up reading or watching comics and none of the heroes look like them? What does that do to their self-esteem? What does that tell them about themselves and insinuate about their people? At age 21, discovering so many black superheroes was empowering; I felt a sense of pride to see supermen and women that looked like me. Imagine how that same feeling would impact a child and influence the way they see themselves.

After the Captain America movie, my boyfriend and I had a discussion about the movie and the fact that Falcon was black. We also talked about how each time a comic story is remade for the big screen, different actors are casted to play them. And then my boyfriend had a crazy idea: What if a black man was casted to play batman or superman? That would be accepted in our “post racial” world right?

While you ponder that, leave your comments below! I’m curious to see who your favorite black superhero is and why. Which black actor would you cast to play a popular white superhero?



  1. Desere! I really liked your blog post and I think I raises some good questions and opens the door for much needed discussion. As a self-proclaimed comic book nerd, I know quite a bit about superheroes of color and how they are represented throughout comic books. First, I think it is important to note the company. The two main companies right now are Marvel (Iron Man, Captain America, Falcon, Storm, The Black Panther) and DC (Batman, The Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman). As far as comic books go, the Black Panther, Luke Cage, and Storm are probably the most represented superheroes of the Marvel Universe. Th e Black Panther was the first superhero of African descent and the Falcon was the first African-American superhero.

    DC Comics is a bit of a different story. The only well known black superhero in the DC Universe is the Green Lantern, whose real name is John Stewart. Throughout comic book history, the Green Lantern has been represented by more than one person. The original Green Lantern was Hal Jordan, a white man whose “story” is told in the 2011 live-action adaptation of the film. I will say that the DC Universe has a real problem with race in the sense that there is a general lack of characters of color overall.

    But to comment on your observation about the Falcon being Captain America’s sidekick, I agree that it is always the black superhero falling in the shadows of the white hero; however, I see this being a problem mainly with movie adaptations. There are dozens of characters of color in the Marvel Universe from different backgrounds that play different roles, and I really appreciate how Marvel consistently tries to bring in characters to reflect the changing opinions and give the audience something that better represents themselves.

  2. Desere'

    April 15, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    Thanks for taking the time to read my post and for your very insightful comment! I’m just waiting for Marvel to do a movie adaptation that features one of its black superheroes as the protagonist!

  3. nice blog.
    I too was going to comment on John Stewart. The Green Lantern is the only superhero that can be played by both a black or white person.

    Marvel has greater roles for black super heroes. In one of the greatest comic story arcs, The Age Of Appocalypse, Bishop a black X-Man was a critical part of the story.

    The problem might be there are not enough black artists/comic writers, the danger of whites writing black characters is they’ll succumb to stereotypes in their protrayal of us.

    My search was for heroes of African Heroes, of which sadly there are only 2.

  4. A favour, can you watch Blade 1, 2 and 3 and comment on it.
    In 1 and 2 he was a solo black hero, and the movie went from good to great. In 3 they brought in white people working with him and it was major crapolla. Don’t know if it is just me who thinks such

    • Desere'

      April 16, 2014 at 8:50 PM

      I have exams coming up in the next two weeks, but if I can get my hands on these movies, that would be an awesome study break!

  5. This article really made think this past week. I think it’s interesting that you posed the question, “What about a black child who grows up reading or watching comics and none of the heroes look like them?” To me, I don’t understand how this would affect a young child. Let me explain.
    As a child, I collected bears – they have no race, they come in all different colors. I had one black doll who was called GeeGee but she could never replace one of my bears. At that time, and even now looking back, I don’t think that the lack of black “characters” or toys in my life had an affect on my development or sense of “blackness” or lower my self-esteem about black people. Maybe it’s how I grew up or how I think, but I don’t see why a young boy looking at a comic that’s his/her skin complexion really matters. Why should or How would that affect their self-esteem or influence how they see themselves?

    • Desere'

      April 19, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      Thanks for sharing your personal experience! I posed this question because children often idolize superheroes, and if a black child is not exposed to black superheroes, then they end up idolizing only white men and women. With this said, I see it problematic that a black child may not be exposed to its people depicted and reverenced in the same way and consistency at which white superheroes are. Therefore, I am suggesting that this could possibly affect how black children see themselves in comparison to white people who they often see “saving the day.”

  6. Great article! I wonder if controversy over Michael B. Jordan being cast as Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four movie is media hype to draw audience or real issue for some followers.

  7. As a current grad student studying ESL, I can appreciate your concerns regarding multicultural, specifically black, representation in comic books. We could actually take this a step further to inquire about text books in our classrooms. It’s important for children to see different races represented everywhere.

    Impressive post. Sources?

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