February is Black History Month. We may be a little biased toward the House of Ideas, but what better way for comicbook fans to celebrate than by taking a look at five of Marvel’s top black superheroes?
5. The Falcon (Sam Wilson)
Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, the Falcon was the first ever African American superhero in mainstream comics. (Note: Not to be confused with the first black or African hero, but we’ll get to that later.) Debuting in Captain America #117 in 1969, young Sam Wilson of Harlem gained a mental link with a falcon named Redwing as the result of the Red Skull’s experiments with the Cosmic Cube. With the help of Captain America, Sam would later defeat the Red Skull and become Cap’s full-time partner. Receiving a rather stylish flying harness invented by none other than the Black Panther, the Falcon became a soaring seminal member of the Avengers and even took over as Captain America for a time. Played by Anthony Mackie in the MCU, the Falcon made his first big screen appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). The high-flying Avenger continues to be a Marvel mainstay to this day; in fact, he’ll be appearing next in the upcoming Disney+ TV series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
4. Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
For a character created only nine years ago, Miles Morales has already made an indelible mark on American pop culture. First appearing in the Ultimate Marvel Comics Universe in Ultimate Fallout #4, Miles was introduced as a half-black half-Latino grade school kid living with his parents in New York City. In a twist on the Uncle Ben mythos of the original Spider-Man, Miles’ uncle is revealed to be the super villain burglar known as the Prowler. When the Prowler tries to steal the formula that created Spider-Man from Oscorp, he accidently carries one of the genetically engineered spiders home. Days later when Miles is visiting his uncle, he’s bitten by said spider and given arachnid-like powers. Miles originally rejects the idea of being a superhero but changes his mind after witnessing the death of Peter Parker at the hands of the Green Goblin. Miles dons a new suit and takes on the mantle of Spider-Man, having to battle the uncle he once looked up to. Miles Morales made his movie debut in the Academy Award-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018). With a sequel well into development and Miles making the jump from the Ultimate Universe into the Marvel Universe proper in the comics, we have a feeling that this Spider-Man’s popularity is only going to grow from here.
3. Luke Cage
Also known as Power Man, Luke Cage first appeared in 1972’s Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1 as a blaxploitation take on the superhero genre. Wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Carl Lucas volunteered for a medical experiment that went awry, endowing him with super strength and unbreakable skin. Escaping prison and creating the new identity of Luke Cage, he eventually started a business with his best friend and martial arts hero Iron Fist. They called it Heroes for Hire, and the rest is history. Recently Luke has risen to new heights in the Marvel Universe, leading his own Avengers team as well as the reformed villain squad The Thunderbolts. After marrying former superhero Jessica Jones and starting a family, Luke tried to retire from the Avengers. That didn’t last long as Steve Rogers and Tony Stark sold Avengers Mansion to Luke for only $1 to entice him back. Luke was portrayed on the small screen by actor Mike Colter in the Netflix series Luke Cage. Although the series was canceled in the wake of Disney launching its own streaming service, there are already rumors of Luke returning to the MCU in the near future. Sweet Christmas! They better hurry up!
2. Storm (Ororo Munroe)
One of the most revered and popular X-Men, Storm made her first appearance in the famous Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975. Created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, the African Weather Goddess is one of the most iconic black superheroes thanks to her appearances in comics, animated series, video games, and movies, with Academy Award-winner Halle Berry famously portraying the character in four X-Men films. Young Ororo first met Professor Xavier as an orphan growing up on the streets of Cairo, Egypt. Recruited by the Prof, Storm would later go on to take over as X-Men team leader from Cyclops. More currently in comic book history, Storm married Black Panther and became Queen of the African nation of Wakanda; she also recently enjoyed a stint on the Fantastic Four. After the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, which pitted Storm against her husband, the two separated, and Storm returned to the X-Men full time. With Marvel Studios’ reacquisition of the X-Men movie rights, we expect that a new version of the iconic character will be hitting the MCU sooner rather than later.
1. Black Panther (T’Challa)
Was there any doubt? The first is always the best! Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Black Panther made his monumental introduction in Fantastic Four #52 way back in 1966. Becoming the first African superhero in the history of mainstream American comics, the Black Panther paved the way for a plethora of black characters to come. King of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, T’Challa possesses enhanced senses, superhuman strength, agility, reflexes, and stamina as a result of eating a heart-shaped herb in service to the mysterious Wakandan Panther God. After his initial run-in with the FF, the Black Panther became a celebrated member of the Avengers. Debuting at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panther kicked off an important trend in comics, creating strong and relatable characters of African descent. Black Panther made his feature film debut in Captain America: Civil War (2016), played by actor Chadwick Bosemen. The introduction was followed by his first solo movie adventure in Black Panther (2018), which earned over $1.3 billion dollars at the box office worldwide and became the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
There you have it! Our list of Marvel’s top five black superheroes. Lists like these are notoriously difficult to whittle down to five choices! Just for the record, our honorable mentions include Blade, War Machine, Goliath, Misty Knight, Bishop, Monica Rambeau, Gabe Jones, Shuri, Cloak, Ironheart, Patriot, and Isaiah Bradley. Did we miss any big names? Who is your favorite?