Isaiah Bradley (Marvel Comics)
First Appearance: Truth: Red, White & Black #1 (January 2003)
Powers and Abilities: Peak physical ability due to Super Soldier Formula.
To recreate the super soldier serum that gave captain America is his powers, 300 US black solders were used as test subjects during WWII. Isaiah Bradley was the only survivor. Unknown to the majority of the Marvel superhero community, he is revered and respected by African and African-American superheroes alike as a trailblazer.
First Appearance: Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1 (June 1972)
Powers: Superhuman strength, stamina, and durability. Accelerated healing factor
Bio: A superhuman whose origins began in Harlem. A gang member of his community, Cage was sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. When a prison doctor conduct illegal experiments Cage, his life is changed forever. Skin impervious to bullets and superhuman strength, Cage escapes from prison, clears his name and later becomes an Avenger.
John Henry Iron/Steel
First appearance: Adventures of Superman # 500 (June 1993)
Powers and Abilities: Armored Suit capable of super strength, flight, endurance. Carries indestructible mallet.
John Henry Irons was a weapons developer whose company began to start selling his designs to local street gangs illegally. To combat this corruption he created a powered armored suit to destroy his former corporation. Steele at one point to claimed to be Superman when the original Man Of Steel “died”. When the Justice League was beginning to recruit new members, they hastily reached out to Steele.
Vixen/Mari Jiwe McCabe (DC Comics)
First appearance: Action Comics #521 (July 1981)
Powers and Abilities: Can copy the abilities of any animal that has ever lived.
If DC never cancelled her series in 1978, Vixen would have been the first black famale DC superhero to lead a comic. Another member of the Justice League, Vixen’s possesses the ability to duplicate the traits of the animals around her. With the strength of an elephant, speed of a cheetah, and the sight of Hawk, Vixen is formidable opponent against evil.
The Black Panther (Marvel Comics)
First appearance: Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966)
Powers, abilities, and equipment: Senses and physical attributes have been enhanced to near-superhuman levels by the heart-shaped herb
Bio: T’challa is an African Prince from the fictional technologically advanced country of Wakanda. When invaders began to invade, T’Challa reached out to The Avengers to assist. Admired for his intelligence and bravery, The Black Panther commands respect from teammates and opponents. Also married to the X-Man Storm. Yep.
The Falcon/Sam Wilson (Marvel Comics)
First appearance: Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969)
Powers, abilities, and equipment: Telepathic link with birds/ Flight Harness
More of a partner than a sidekick, The Falcon teamed with Captain America frequently in NYC. The Falcon originally turns down membership the Avengers because he felt that he was being treated as the token black on the team. He then returns when the squad becomes more racially diverse. The Harlem born vigilante has been a pillar of the Avengers ever since.
John Stewart the Green Lantern (DC Comics)
First Appearance: Green Lantern (vol. 2) #87 (December 1971/January 1972)
Power and Abilities: Green Lantern Power Ring (Grants Invulnerability, Flight, constructs weapon using the owner’s willpower)
He is one of DC’s first black costumed superheroes. Former Marine John Stewart proudly wears the green lantern power ring defending the universe from the forces of Evil. The Justice League member is also the first African American to wear the most powerful weapon in the galaxy.
First appearance: Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975)
Powers: Weather Manipulation
Bio: Storm is a mutant who commands the elements and is a member of the X-Men. At one point, She was the team captain. For a African-American woman in the 70s this was unheard of. Storm has been a staple of Marvel and comics ever since.
Black Lightning/ Jefferson Pierce (DC Comics)
First Appearance: Black Lightning #1 (April 1977)
Powers and Abilities: Electric Generation, Force field Generation.
Another one of DC first black superheroes. Black Lightning is a metahuman that generates electricity for a variety of effects. He is a member of the Justice League and has also served on the Batman founded team the Outsiders. His two daughters (Thunder and Lightning) serve on superhero teams as well.
Spawn (Image Comics)
First Appearance: Spawn #1 (June 1992)
Powers and Abilities: Body infused with undead “necroplasm”. Plasma grants him superhuman strength, speed, agility, senses, durability, endurance, a regenerative healing factor,etc. Wears a living sentient suit of armor.
Al Simmons was a CIA agent/ assassin with a good heart. When on a mission he was double crossed by his boss and sent straight to Hell for his occupation. Making a deal with the devil to become a Hellspawn, He’s allowed to see the wife he left on Earth. He was crushed to his wife happily remarried with a 5year old daughter. An anti-hero who uses lethal force to take down rapists, murderers and other corrupt individuals is all in a day’s work for this tormented soul.
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Inspired by Idris Elba’s semi-controversial casting in the upcoming Marvel film Thor, theGrio looks back on original comic book heroes of color.