Top 10 Black Comic Book Superheroes

Posted Monday, January 16th, 2012 08:04 pm GMT -4 by

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, we thought we’d offer up some opinions as to the Top 10 Black Superheroes in comics!  (They’re aren’t all American, so the term “African American” doesn’t quite apply.  I wish someone would come up with a more inclusive euphemism!)  Without further ado…

Patriot Young Avengers10. Patriot (Elijah Bradley)

As was revealed in the ‘Captain America: Red, White and Black’ miniseries, prior to administering the Super Soldier Serum to Steve Rogers, the US government tested it out on African American enlisted men, with typically lethal results.  The one survivor was Isaiah Bradley, who briefly served as the actual first Captain America.  Unfortunately, although he didn’t die, the Serum over time greatly damaged his brain.

Isaiah’s grandson, Elijah currently leads the Young Avengers.  Despite not possessing any super powers originally, Patriot valiantly led the fledgling team and even had the gumption to stand up to Captain America and the adult Avengers when they tried to shut them down.  Elijah has since received a blood transfusion from his grandfather, resulting in his gaining enhanced abilities.


Vixen9. Vixen (Mari Jiwi McCabe)

Via the Tantu Totem, Vixen can channel the abilities of any animal, from a lion’s ferociousness and claws to a bird’s flight to a reptile’s self-healing!  She was slated to be DC’s first headlining black female hero, but her book was aborted due to DC’s famous “Implosion” in the late 70s.  She was then pitched to be part of a team alongside Supergirl, Batgirl and The Enchantress called the “Power Squad” but DC passed.  (Always a bridesmaid…)  She has since valiantly fought as a member of the Justice League as well as alongside Superman, the Suicide Squad, Animal Man, the Birds of Prey and on her own.   She has even been adapted to animation appearing on ‘Justice League Unlimited’ and ‘Batman: The Brave & The Bold.’  Currently serving as a member of Justice League International, her full potential hasn’t even been explored!

Spawn8. Spawn (Al Simmons)

By far the number one selling African American superhero of all time, Spawn’s comic during its heyday moved copies in the millions and spawned one of the most successful multimedia franchises in comics history!  And this was an “independent” comic, so that was unheard of! The character was Al Simmons, a Marine sentenced to Hell but sent back as a Hellspawn to do the bidding of demon Malebolgia.  He possesses a vast array of supernatural powers, but is doomed to be separated from his wife and their old life together.  The series was extremely dark, skewing towards an older audience and setting the trend for darker, more violent books in the 90s.

Spawn starred in his own adults-only animated series and a live action theatrical movie.  His creator, Todd McFarlane even crafted a Spawn action figure line that was so successful that he parlayed that into a full-blown toy production company!

Sadly, times and tastes change.  Spawn is no longer the hot property it once was, but time doesn’t diminish the unimaginable success it had!

Black Lightning7. Black Lightning

DC Comics’ first black superhero was crusading public school teacher Jefferson Pierce, who moonlighted as vigilante Black Lightning.  Reading old ‘Black Lightning’ comics is a tad cringe-worthy as educated Pierce adopts a slang-spouting, street smart persona when in costume and even wears an afro wig to seem more hip!  In a move of complete injustice, he was kept out of the Justice League with the feeble excuse that their scope is too worldly and he wants to focus on street level crime.  Funny, that never stopped Batman, Black Canary or Green Arrow!

Following stints in Batman’s team The Outsiders, he eventually took his place in the Justice League.  His two daughters also became superheroes, Thunder, serving in a new version of The Outsiders and Lightning in the Justice Society.  Sadly, Black Lightning and his children are M.I.A. in The New 52.  Here’s to hoping DC alleviates this soon!

Falcon6. The Falcon (Sam Wilson)

The Falcon was Marvel’s first African American hero, a reformed ex-con who initially acted as Captain America’s non-powered sidekick.  Eventually, Marvel’s first African hero, the Black Panther gifted him with wings and a harness, allowing him to actually live up to his namesake!  The Falcon has been soaring high ever since, co-headlining Cap’s book throughout the 70s, appearing on a bevy of merchandising and serving in the Avengers.  He currently stars on the animated series ‘Superhero Squad’ and appears on most merchandise for that series.


Cyborg5. Cyborg (Victor Stone)

Vic Stone debuted as a member of the ‘New Teen Titans’ an early 80s revamp of the formerly sunny teen sidekick team.  This version of the group however was darker, with heroes that were more troubled and much deeper.  Vic Stone was among them.  Here was a hero who resented his enhancements, robotic parts used to save his life and granting him phenomenal strength and other abilities, all the while robbing him of his ability to fit into society.  Cyborg proved to be such a smash he had the distinction of being adapted to the animated ‘Super Friends’ series and received a ‘Super Powers’ action figure.  He also starred in the much later ‘Teen Titans’ cartoon and appeared on all of its merchandising.  He’s been a constant in the Titans’ comic book roster ever since… until now.  He is now part of the major leagues, as a member of the Justice League!

Green Lantern John Stewart4. Green Lantern (John Stewart)

Initially, a stereotypical “angry black man” character, John Stewart has developed over the years into a character as deep, rich and well-developed as his Caucasian Green Lantern counterparts.  A former Marine, his military background makes him incredibly disciplined and at times, rigid.  He is no stranger to suffering, having lost his wife, fellow Lantern Katma Tui and accidentally causing the destruction of a planet.

He was utilized on the animated series ‘Justice League’ and ‘Justice League Unlimited’ bringing him his highest profile ever.  His action figures in the spin-off toy line were reissued repeatedly through the line’s run.  At one point, Common was attached to play him in a movie, which never materialized.  He currently co-stars in the book ‘Green Lantern Corps.’

Luke Cage3. Luke Cage

Speaking of “angry black men,” Luke Cage was the tough, jive-talking, pimp shirt-wearing Marvel Comics take on blaxploitation movies of the 70s like “Shaft” and “Superfly!”  He became a “Hero For Hire” hoping to profit from his super powers (granted by a prison experiment gone awry).  Sadly, things never worked out and Luke was rarely paid.  He has enjoyed a lengthy partnership with Danny Rand, better known as Iron Fist.

His greatest growth, however has occurred since joining Marvel’s premier super team, The Avengers!  Initially he felt inadequate standing beside greats like Captain America and Iron Man, but his confidence has grown to the point that he now leads his own separate Avengers team!  He has also settled down, marrying Jessica Jones, formerly her hero Jewel and the two have a daughter Danielle.  Luke has appeared on ‘Superhero Squad’ and received many action figures, the best of which are the ones where he’s still wearing his yellow 70s pimp costume.

Black Panther2. Black Panther (T’Challa)

T’Challa comes from a long line of kings and adventurers.  Every rule of his tiny nation of Wakanda also bears the mantle of The Black Panther!  Wakanda is a mysterious land of both African traditionalism and extreme technology, most famous for the rare metal Vibranium, which was incorporated into the creation of Captain America’s shield.  T’Challa himself is a genius and colleague of Reed Richards’.  In addition to that, he is physical perfection with reflexes and agility like his jungle cat namesake!

Black Panther has been an on-again-off-again Avenger for decades and at one point even led the Fantastic Four.  He has appeared in numerous animated movies, starred in his own self-titled series produced by BET (although it never aired, it is now available on BluRay) and currently appears on ‘Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.’

Storm1. Storm

The X-Men are and have been for decades, Marvel’s biggest name team, outselling even The Avengers.  Heck, outselling almost everything but Spider-Man for that matter.  And throughout most of that time, Storm has led the team to victory after victory!  Power-wise, she is considered one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe, with her mastery of the weather.  But even during a period when she had no powers, she still commanded the X-Men in battle, using her own wits and physical prowess.

Since X-Men sells so well, Storm has arguably the highest profile of any of Marvel’s female heroes.  She starred on the long-running ‘X-Men’ animated series and in various other subsequent animated shows.  Perhaps most famously, Halle Berry portrayed her in the super successful live action ‘X-Men’ movies.  Due to her high profile, Storm has appeared on countless pieces of merchandising from tee shirts to action figures to even candy!  She is Marvel’s First Lady and in my opinion the best black superhero in comics!

What do you think of the picks?  There are many, many other great black comic book characters and other heroes of color, but I believe these are the biggest, most high-profile champions!  Please leave comments below if you agree or disagree!

  • Where is Steel? Or Blade?

    • Anonymous

      I love Steel, but I don’t think he’s significant enough right now. I also love his niece Natasha as Steel. I’d love her as part of the Young Justice show. But for one thing, both are derivative of Superman and for another, neither currently seems to exist.

      Blade will be on a list I’m doing next month. Let’s just say Blade the comic book character isn’t quite as impactful as Wesley Snipes as Blade.

      • Steel does exist in the New 52. He made his first appearance in Action Comics #4.

        I’d argue that Steel was originally a Superman clone in armor, but he’s since developed into his own character. He’s more Iron Man than Superman now.

        And while I know I’m in the minority for this one, I actually like the comic Blade well enough but I don’t like Snipe’s version.

      • TheComicBookGuru

        I agree with you Jason. neither Steel or Blade don’t warrant being on this list because if you look at the history of comics Blade was always a 3rd character and only is mentioned today because of the movie not the comic. Steel was one of the weakest books to come out of The Death Of Superman and really flopped when they made it into a movie starring Shaq.

  • outoftheshadows

    ICON belongs on this list…

    • Anonymous

      The number ten slot was torn between Static and Patriot. But Static’s comic was just cancelled, so I gave it to the character that currently has the most potential. I love Static, Icon, Rocket, Hardware, etc. Maybe looking back I should have shoe-horned at least one Milestone character in. I weighed in factors outside of comics, like cartoons, tv shows and movies and Icon just hasn’t had that mainstream exposure.

      Trust me, as a double minority, I’m pulling for every ethnic character, but this was a judgement call based on history, sales, importance, etc.

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  • Guest

    “As was revealed in the ‘Captain America: Red, White and Black’ miniseries, prior to administering the Super Soldier Serum to Steve Rogers, the US government tested it out on African American enlisted men, with typically lethal results.  The one survivor was Isaiah Bradley, who briefly served as the actual first Captain America.”
    You haven’t read that mini have you? They were trying to recreate the formula, Rogers was already Captain America before they’d started testing it.

    • Anonymous

      I read it when it came out so it was over ten years ago and I was just writing from memory. I could have sworn it was before that but I believe you. I also could have sworn that Isaiah was Cap before Steve, but I could just be confused. It happens!

      • John Slade

         yeah I read it when it first came out too. I remember it being isaiah being cap shortly before steve. They based the idea for the story on the actual tuskegee exp.

        • Anonymous

           That part I knew. I just remember it being very sad!

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  • White Man

    there only the best because they are the only “black super heroes”

    • Anonymous

       That’s far from the truth!  There are way too many to list, but those that nearly made my list include Static, Hardware, Icon and Rocket, Mr. Terrific, Photon, Dr. Voodoo and Misty Knight.  There are not nearly as many as Caucasian heroes, but they’re out there.

  • gambino78

    yall missed blade

  • Daltonfoster

    I thought Static would make it.  I guess his comic wasn’t as popular, but his cartoon series was popular and award winning enough to give him a spot on the list.  I’m also a little surprised that the Patriot beat out Blade.  I guess I’m thinking more towards what these heroes did in multi-media than in Comics.

    • JasonMBowles

      I agree.  As I stated above, that’s the biggest regret I have.  I thought the Black Captain America concept deserved mention, but looking back, a Milestone character should have been included and he was the most visible.

  • Dave, the Middle-Aged Geek

    Let’s not forget Black Vulcan, from the Superfriends cartoon.  His claim to fame, as all viewers of Harvey Birdman Attorney-at-Law know well, is “The Power of Electricity…IN MY PANTS.”

    • JasonMBowles

       I like Black Vulcan, but it’s widely known that he’s a stand in for Black Lightning.

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    Wow this is wrong Blade should be on this list over Patriot

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  • Celesteosharp

    Where is Black Hawk????

    • JasonMBowles

       The only Black Hawk I know is a Polish white guy!

  • Naruto271

    Where’s static

    • JasonMBowles

       If I could go back and change it, Static would be on the list instead of Patriot or maybe even Falcon.  I regret not including any Milestone characters!

  • edward smith

    Great list

  • sherebanu

    ts kinda useless u no if u dont have blade, seel, hawk, green arrow ect.

  • Tia

    Where in the hell is WAR MACHINE