Yesterday, the first trailer for Captain America: Civil War dropped, and people went nuts—especially for the brief footage of Black Panther. Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve had a black character in a superhero movie, but you wouldn’t know that by the way folks have been losing their minds on the Internet. It’s almost as much as they lost their minds last week, when Jessica Jones debuted on Netflix, and we got our first glimpse of a live-action Luke Cage.
The reason so many people have lost their minds—especially blacks folks—is because black superheroes have been so few and far between in movies. Yes, in recent years we’ve had Falcon, War Machine, Storm, and Nick Fury to name a few, but those are about it, and they are all supporting characters. Even in Jessica Jones and Captain American: Civil War, Black Panther and Luke Cage are playing supporting roles. And yet we all go crazy. The reason is simple: black folks don’t often get a chance to see themselves in the role of the superhero. And when we do…well…all too often it is either as the sidekick, or in some kind of comedy.
With that in mind, here is a look at some of the black superheroes that have appeared in live-action film (and television). For the record…I consider a superhero to be someone with either supernatural powers, or someone that fights crime while wearing a costume and/or using special equipment or both. In other words, no matter how badass Jim Kelly may be in Black Belt Jones, for the sake of this piece, he’s not a superhero.
ABAR: THE FIRST BLACK SUPERMAN – Tobar Mayo stars in this bat-shit crazy, Z-grade blaxploitation flick. The title says it all. See my review.
THE $6000 NIGGER – Yes, this is a real movie. It stars chitlin’ circuit comedian Wildman Steve. It is terrible.
WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES – This blaxploitation classic from director Jamaa Fanaka must be seen to be believed. SPOILER ALERT: It is about a guy who has the power to make his penis eight-feet long, and uses it to strangle his enemies. See my review.
PETEY WHEATSTRAW: THE DEVIL’S SON-IN-LAW – There’s no doubt that Rudy Ray Moore played some pretty heroic characters, but in this film, he has supernatural powers that he uses to take on an army of demons.
THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET – One of the greatest movies of all time, starring Joe Morton, written and directed by John Sayles.
M.A.N.T.I.S. – Anyone remember this short-lived television series starring Carl Lumbly?
BLADE – Gotta give credit where credit is due. Wesley Snipes remains one of the few black superheroes to carry their own film (not to mention an actual franchise).
BLANKMAN – Once upon a time, this is what passed for a black superhero movie.
METEOR MAN – And then there’s this.
STEEL – There is a reason why so few people talk about this movie.
CATWOMAN – Just like there’s a reason why so few people talk about this movie.