Black superheroes are frequent stars in today’s top box office movies and fans clamor to the comic book stores to read about their latest adventures. But it hasn’t always been this way.
In the not so distant past, black comic book characters were a rarity on the big screen and in the pages of comic books. Those characters that were created often had questionable origins and storylines.
Author William Jones tells the untold stories of four such black characters in his new book The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King: A Social, Cultural, and Political Analysis of Four Black Comic Book Heroes.
The characters examined in the book are:
Luke Cage – After being wrongfully imprisoned, his superpowers are unleashed giving him unbreakable skin and superhuman strength. Luke Cage first appears in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire No. 1 in 1972;
Papa Midnite – A voodoo priest, Papa Midnite’s superpower of immortality originated with his deadly betrayal of his own sister. He made his first appearance in Hellblazer No. 1 in 1998;
Storm – One of the first black female comic book characters, Storm makes her first appearance in Giant-Size X-Men No. 1 in 1975. Classified as a mutant, she was born with her superpower abilities to control the weather and fly; and
Black Panther – First appearing in Fantastic Four No. 52 in 1966, Black Panther is first black comic book character to appear in American comic books and the first to have superpowers.
By delving into their pasts, Jones breaks down the character’s origins and analyzes their representation throughout comic book history. In turn, his analysis gives the reader a feel for the future of diversity and representation in the comic book medium.
“I wrote this book to examine the creation and multifaceted nature of select black superheroes in the American comic book tradition,” Jones said. “This topic is significant because the creation of comic books has continuously shaped and influenced popular American culture. Comic books, like any other socio-cultural product, become a means by which perceptions and ideas are transmitted. Hence, given that comic books are so readily digested by the public, it becomes all the more important to analyze and decode their messages.”
Long-time lovers of comic books, established and aspiring creators, and new and casual fans will find fresh realizations within the book’s 212 pages.
The Ex-Con, Voodoo Priest, Goddess, and the African King: A Social, Cultural, and Political Analysis of Four Black Comic Book Heroes is available in paperback and can be purchased on the Afrofuturism Network website at www.afrofuturismnet.com/main/book/
Jones is the founder of Afrofuturism Network, a historian, educator and self-described “comic book geek.” He frequently speaks on the subjects of the history of black people in America, the image of black people in various forms of media, pop culture and hip-hop music on various college campuses and at conferences both nationally and abroad.
Afrofuturism Network seeks to support the ever-growing community of black writers, artists, and thinkers in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and film. AFN analyzes the contributions and portrayal of black characters in these mediums. AFN examines the role and place of black people in the past present and future and serves as a hub for black creativity and thought.
AFN recently hosted the 1st Annual Afrofuturism Network Comic Book Convention and Conference, which provided activities promoting creativity in youth, innovative workshops, informative panel discussions and featured the talents of various black artists.
Learn more about AFN at www.afrofuturismnet.com