We gravitate towards certain superheroes for their powers and abilities, but we come to love them for their humanity. We connect with their personalities, their flaws and their ideals. That’s why it’s beautiful to see superheroes of all creeds, colors and backgrounds across all forms of media.
You don’t have to be Black to connect with the Black Panther or any of the 10 iconic Black superheroes we’re discussing today — many of the ideas they embody and the goals they strive for are truly universal. However, certain aspects of these characters are specifically important to Black audiences. Indeed, the very existence of these characters means more to many Black comic book fans than words can express.
T’Challa – The Black Panther
When Huey Newton founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966, he had no clue that the organization would attain international renown. He also had no idea that the first Black superhero in Marvel Comics history would step into the spotlight that same year. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52, and the rest is history.
If you’ve seen Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018), you know the story: Prince T’Challa inherits the mantle and abilities of the Black Panther and struggles to lead the nation of Wakanda. The late Chadwick Boseman passed away in August 2020, but he is still synonymous with the character — and for many fans, he will be forever.
Sam Wilson – The Falcon/Captain America
Sam Wilson is a much more complex character than you may know. Born and raised in Harlem, New York, Wilson tragically lost both of his parents at a young age. Despite his trauma, Sam continued to provide for his family and community — until he crossed paths with the Red Skull and Steve Rogers. He became the Falcon soon afterward, but criminal masterminds were the least of his worries.
Sam contended with the Red Skull’s eugenicist beliefs as Cap’s partner, tokenism as an Avenger and discrimination in his home city. He persevered despite it all, ultimately taking up the mantle of Captain America in the comics and the MCU. Stan Lee and Gene Colan created Sam Wilson, while Anthony Mackie portrays him par excellence on-screen.
Miles Morales – Spider-Man
Miles Morales has become a household name in recent years, starring in an Oscar-winning animated film and a critically adored PlayStation exclusive video game. It’s hard to imagine Miles as anything other than a leading Spider-Man, but that wasn’t always the case. Miles was an ordinary, rather shy young man who lived in the Marvel Comics Ultimate Universe — until he was bitten by a genetically engineered spider, and his Peter Parker tragically died.
Miles took up Peter’s mantle and became incredibly popular very quickly. Fans loved him so much that Miles officially moved from Earth 1610 (the Ultimate Marvel Universe) to Earth 616 (the Main Marvel Universe), and he’s been a mainstay ever since. We have Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli to thank for this amazing character.
Ororo Munroe – Storm
You’ll find no shortage of fantastic characters from all walks of life in the X-Men. Marvel’s mutants often face issues that resonate with members of the LGBTQ+ community, ethnic minorities and individuals from various social classes. Ororo Munroe is one of those fantastic characters; orphaned as a child, Ororo survived as a thief until her powers manifested — and drew the attention of Professor X.
From there, Ororo shocked the world as the X-Woman Storm. She’s led numerous superhero teams, established herself as an Omega Level mutant who can give Thor pause and married T’Challa. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum created Storm in the 1970s, while actresses like Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp have brought her to life on-screen.
Adam Brashear – Blue Marvel
What if one of the wisest, strongest, most compassionate heroes in the Marvel Universe was kept hidden from the world because of his ethnicity? That’s precisely what happened to Adam Brashear, a.k.a. the Blue Marvel. Kevin Grevioux, the creator of the Underworld series, conceived this character and imbued his story with thoughtful commentary about America’s problematic past.
Adam Brashear was a Korean War veteran turned physicist who researched the Negative Zone with his friend and colleague Connor Sims. Both Brashear and Sims gained powers from their experiments, but Brashear chose to use his gifts for heroic purposes. The U.S. government feared that Adam’s allegiances would shift as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam, despite Brashear’s promise to protect people of all ethnicities. The Blue Marvel was blacklisted for several decades until he made his triumphant return/debut in the miniseries Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel (2008–2009).
John Stewart – Green Lantern
Plenty of superheroes are born with their extraordinary gifts, but that isn’t the case with the vast majority of the Green Lantern Corps. These emerald knights can build almost anything they can imagine, provided they have the willpower to sustain it. The greater their will, the more potent their constructs — hence John Stewart’s status as one of the greatest Green Lanterns in history.
Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams created John Stewart and introduced him to the DC Comics universe in Green Lantern Vol. 2 #87. Stewart was an architect-turned-marine whose indomitable will earned him a place in the Green Lantern Corps. Wayne T. Carr almost portrayed John Stewart in Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) before Warner Bros. vetoed his cameo. However, Phil LaMarr (of Samurai Jack acclaim) has consistently voiced the character since Static Shock (2000–2004).
Al Simmons – Spawn
Comic books, just like films and music, have experienced different eras or “ages” throughout their illustrious history. The 1990s were the “Dark Age” (or “Dork Age,” depending on who you ask) of comics; grittier, bloodier, sultrier, more pessimistic characters dominated the landscape for a solid decade. Many of them came and went, but Spawn wasn’t one of them.
Todd McFarlane created Spawn as one of the flagship characters for Image Comics. In life, Al Simmons was a ruthless mercenary. In death, Al battled deranged criminals and demonic hordes with his signature Necroplasic abilities. Michael Jai White portrayed Spawn in a 1997 live-action movie. However, Keith David is THE voice of Spawn — lending his talents across multiple games and the critically lauded Spawn: The Animated Series.
Victor Stone – Cyborg
Victor Stone was a bright college athlete with a dazzling future ahead of him. That all came crashing down when a tragic accident ravished his body and left him on the brink of death. Silas Stone, his estranged father and the head of S.T.A.R. Labs, rescued Victor by transforming him into a Cyborg. At least, that’s been his origin story as of DC’s New 52 reboot.
Cyborg was created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, and he debuted in DC Comics Presents #26. Vic’s covered quite a bit of ground over the years, serving as a core member of both the Teen Titans and the Justice League. Joivan Wade, Lee Thompson Young and Ray Fisher have portrayed Cyborg on-screen, while Khary Payton and Michael B. Jordan have both voiced him… BOOYAH! Hey, we had to say it at least once.
Eric Cross Brooks – Blade
If you were a filmgoer in the late 1990s, no matter how young, Blade is a character who likely needs no introduction. For the rest of you lot, here’s the rundown: Eric Cross Brooks is a vampire/human hybrid who gained extraordinary abilities when Deacon Frost bit his pregnant mother. Eric aimlessly wandered around for many years until a vampire hunter (Jamal Afari in the comics, and Abraham Whistler in the films) rescued him.
Through grueling training sessions, Eric mastered his murderous urges. He gained all the strengths of a vampire with none of their weaknesses. He became Blade. Wesley Snipes redefined the character in the Blade film series (1998–2006), while Mahershala Ali is set to play Blade in an upcoming MCU film. Blade is yet another creation of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan.
Raquel Ervin – Rocket
Resisting the urge to fill this article with nothing but Milestone Comics characters was genuinely a challenge. Icon, Static, Hardware and Black Lightning are all amazing, but we ultimately chose Raquel Ervin, a.k.a. Rocket, as Milestone’s ambassador. Denys Cowan and the late Dwane McDuffie created Rocket and the entire Milestone Comics universe in 1993 with the express goal of introducing more Black and POC superheroes to the world.
Rocket started her crimefighting career as Icon’s partner before setting out to establish herself as an independent hero. Fans of Young Justice (2010–present) likely know and love Rocket for her awesome assortment of powers and her lovable personality. As you might expect, Rocket played an integral role in the Milestone Returns 2021 relaunch. Cree Summer, Denise Boutte and Kali Bianca Troy have all voiced Rocket.