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.
The 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?