Black Masculinity in Comics (02:52)
Director John Gayles fell in love with comic books as a child. Most of the heroes were white and he had a sense he was “dreaming someone else’s dreams.” Lothar, Whitewash, and other early black characters perpetuated over-the-top stereotypes.
Shaft vs. Sidney Poitier (02:00)
Two prevailing black hero archetypes were put forth by white comic creators—hyper-masculine and aggressive, and dignified, stoic, and “better than white guys.”
Burden of Hyper-Masculinity (02:41)
Superhero comics have historically revolved around adolescent, male power fantasies. Black, male superheroes have carried the added burden of racial signifiers: they are hyper-masculine and impervious to pain.
"Lobo" Rejected (02:45)
Comic book artist Tony Tallarico created the first comic book starring a black character in 1965. Many wholesalers returned bundles of the title to Dell Comics once they saw a black character on the cover.
Black Panther (05:41)
Marvel Comics introduced its first black superhero. Early stories depicted him as serving the interests of wealthy, white characters were problematic.
Falcon Debuts (03:13)
Captain America’s sidekick made his Marvel Comics debut in 1969. He was initially given a wholesome origin, but in the 1970s it changed to a former pimp and drug runner who became the pawn of the Red Skull.
(Black) Green Lantern (08:13)
DC Comics artist Neal Adams wanted to create a black alter ego for Green Lantern; John Stewart made his debut in 1971. Comic book historian William Foster dubbed him “the first black superhero who changed things in the universe.”
Luke Cage (10:02)
Cage made his Marvel Comics debut in 1972. Comic book insiders loved him for being among the first black super heroes with his own title, but lampooned him for being a hired thug and stereotypical. Adversaries did little to dignify his image.
Worst Black Superhero? (04:46)
Tyroc appeared in the pages of “Superboy” in 1976. He did not wear pants, and his power was, essentially, singing. Tyroc was a minor character but a great diagnostic for looking at how diversity was initially handled in comics.
Black Lightning (07:21)
Tony Isabella created DC Comics’ first black superhero to have his own title, in 1977. Experts joked about Lightning’s disguise and how many early black superheroes had “black” in their name.
Credits: White Scripts and Black Supermen (03:44)
Credits: White Scripts and Black Supermen
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