Today, many black heroes grace the pages of comics, and some are now making it to the silver screen. But it’s been a long road filled with very small steps and long periods of no movement at all. Here is a chance to see how black comic book characters appeared in comics from the earliest “Pioneer era” through the Golden Age, Atomic Age, Bronze Age, the Modern Age, to the present day. These historical treasures depict black characters from the 1800s to today, spanning virtually the entire history of American comic books.
The Chronological History of Black Characters is a collaboration between the Museum Of UnCut Funk and a private collector on the west coast.
D.C. Comics Presents #26 circa 1980 – 1st appearance of Victor Stone as Cyborg – who marks a minor milestone in comics history as the first Black superhero who is also a cybernetic organism.
Archie Comics #305 circa 1980s – In the earliest Archie comics, the Andrews family had a Black maid who dressed and spoke like the maid from “Gone With the Wind.” It took several decades before the series introduced a Black character and this is his first cover appearance. Chuck Clayton has remained a part of the Archie universe, where he’s decided to pursue a career drawing comic book.
Action Comics #521 circa 1981, 1st Vixen – Vixen was intended to be the first Black DC superhero to star in her own series, but the first issue of her series was cancelled. Vixen debuted in Action Comics and she has appeared in team books like Justice League and Suicide Squad.
Spider-man Annual #16 circa 1982 – 1st Monica Rambeau, a heroine modeled after Marvel’s Captain Marvel and actress Pam Grier.
Michael Jackson Comics circa 1980s: The “King of Pop” was a big comics fan, so it’s unsurprising that he appeared in a number of comic books during his heyday in the 1980s, including Captain EO, Thriller, etc.
Wonder Woman V2#1 circa 1987 – 1st appearance of Phillipus – who she was initially Wonder Woman’s bodyguard and guardian.
Give Me Liberty #1 circa 1990 – 1st Martha Washington – Created by Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons, they introduced Martha Washington, a young girl from the streets of Chicago who became an unlikely hero in America’s fight for freedom.
Spectre #54 circa 1991 – 1st Mr. Terrific – A Black superhero appear in DC Comics publications.
X-Men #282 circa 1991 – 1st Bishop – Lucas Bishop appears as a member of Xavier’s Security Enforcers, initially called the Xavier School Enforcers, a mutant police force from a dystopian future of the Marvel Universe. He traveled to the 20th century and joined the X-Men, a team he knew only as legends. A brash antihero, he had difficulty adjusting to the norms of the time period. In the mid-2000s, Bishop was instead portrayed as one of the X-Men’s main antagonists.
Spike Lee’s 4 issue mini-series Colors in Black circa 1995 – explores the 1992 LA riots.
Some heroes made light of race relations, Jigaboo Devil, or played upon it Chocolate Thunder, Black Bastard, Blackjack.
Steel #1 circa 1993 – a Black blacksmith man who forged himself into a hero to replace Superman after the original Man of Steel died. The Black man of steel earned enough fans to get a permanent place on D.C.’s roster and a film starring Shaquille O’Neal.
Milestone Comics first titles, creating the Dakotaverse of heroes, including Hardware and Blood Syndicate circa 1993.
Icon #1 circa 1993 – 1st Icon and Rocket – a Black female superhero who takes time off to have a child, then returns to kick ass.
Static circa 1993 – He’s got the power of electricity and was a hit with fans, earning himself a long-series both in comics and on an animated series. Static has a double meaning here. It refers to his powers electrical as well as what you’ll get if you get in his face.
Worlds Collide circa 1994 – DC universe cross-over with Milestone Dakotaverse.
Purge #1 circa 1993 – One of many independently published comics with Black heroes.
Tom Strong #1 circa 1999 – Alan Moore’s well-regarded book introduced the first known interracial family of superheroes.
Detective Comics #742 circa 2000 – Mackenzie Bock known as Hardback due to his love of reading, Bock was a top Cop in the Gotham City Police Department and was able to read symbols.
Just Imagine circa 2001 – A trade paperback comic, Stan Lee re-imagined Batman as a Black man who dons a realistic bat head suit to fight crime.
Mac Afro #1 circa 2002
Ultimates #1- #13 – 1st Black-skinned Nick Fury circa 2002 – In this series, Marvel’s Nick Fury, was re-imagined as a Black man who fought in the Gulf War. Fury was drawn to resemble Samuel Jackson, who had agreed to play Fury in several films. The change in skin-color is somewhat poignant considering that the first Black hero in comics was recolored white on the cover on his second comic appearance. And because Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos was the first Marvel comic to feature a recurring Black character, Gabriel Jones, who was mistakenly colored white in his first comic appearance.
The Black Panther #1- #28 circa 2005 reboot of series by Reginald Hudlin, from which they derived the popular animated series.
The Walking Dead #19 – 1st Michonne circa 2005 – Skilled fencer and sword fighter.
The Punisher #31 – 1st Barracuda circa 2006
The Boys #2 – 1st Mother’s Milk circa 2006
X-Men Deadly Genesis circa 2006 – 1st Darwin – The Black and Latino Darwin is a mutant with the power of reactive evolution literally allowing him to survive anything, though it is completely involuntary.
Pilot Season Genius #1 – 1st Destiny Ajaye circa 2008
Presidential Material: Barack Obama circa 2008 – Forty-five years after Treasure Chest predicted a Black Presidential nominee in the year 1976, the prediction finally came true, in 2008. This comic profiles Barack Obama and John McCain in that election. Printed and released during the 2008 Presidential campaign.
Amazing Spider-man #583 circa 2009 –After Barack Obama won the election, Marvel comics learned the President-elect read and collected Spider-man comics as a boy. Marvel leaped at the chance to put our first black President in a Spider-man story.
Ultimate Fallout #4 – circa 2011- First appearance of Black and Latino Miles Morales, as Spider-man.
Archie #631 circa 2014 – Archie 631 issue features the first interracial kiss on the cover of an Archie comic. It’s included with other issues in the series that show Archie’s friend Josie (of Josie and the Pussycats) as a real romantic rival for Betty and Veronica. In one of the marriage “alternate universe” stories, Archie and Josie marry and have biracial kids who become rock stars.
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