We Need a Hero– A Black One
On our drive to the North East side of OH this past spring J and I were listening to NPR’s Tell Me More when a double segment aired about black crime fighters: one a comic book hero, another in real life. By the time we were home on Monday night J had placed an order for the Black Panther video series and was reciting the awesomeness up on Phoenix Jones, his new hero.
“Watch this video,” J said after every video he could find of Phoenix on Youtube. “Brush is a fan of his, too.”
“Oh really,” I nod with faint interest. After searching the net 30 minutes more for fan gear and coming up with nothing, J gives up in frustration. The consummate business man, J ponders aloud, “Doesn’t he know how many people would love some Phoenix Jones merchandise. He needs to brand!”
Well he knows the need for a black superhero, and Brush knows and of course I know but I don’t think that Hollywood gets it. Superheroes in movies are almost always black, at least the main ones. Yeah, every so often we’ll get a Spawn or Blade or Meteor Man or Hancock with two of the movies blending comedy with their heroism because I guess black superheroes can’t be too serious. Hollywood has even tried black female superheroes with Halle Berry as Storm (which people loved) and then Halle Berry as Catwoman (which the audience didn’t like at all).
This summer Hollywood is stepping away from the usual Batman, Superman, Spiderman movies and has gone old school with The Green Lantern and Captain American, both of which will be released in the next few weeks. Both of those characters started with a white male but, since the position can be passed down, there was a black male Green Lantern (John Stewart) and Captain America (Isaiah Bradley). Which is not to say that one day there won’t be a black superhero when they decide to reboot but for now who will come to save the day for little black kids who need someone to look up to?
When Disney was creating the Frog Princess cartoon I heard a lot of people complain about the choice of a non-black male for Tiana. I disagreed because as stated before the male character is superfluous. He could be an alien he’s just an accessory for the female protagonist because the story is all about the girl. But now I’m wondering where are these people who were crying about this children’s film and decent black male role models and the lack of a decent black superhero for young black boys. Disney princess movies aren’t geared toward boys –well not all boys– but action movies brings in boys of all ages and cuts across racial lines. The actor Nicholas Coppola took the surname of black action hero Luke Cage when he began getting work. So why aren’t we as outspoken about the lack of diversity in something we know our boys will view?
And BET is a good place to start. Not because I want to make BET my whipping boy like so many other’s have but because they began good and then stopped it. The cable network has the rights to air Filmmaker extraordinaire’s Reginald Hudlin cartoon series “The Black Panther” but because the network decided to “change programming direction” (per Hudlin on NPR’s Tell Me More) the eight shows won’t be airing.
Here’s the perfect cause for the anti-black Disney Prince. Where are you guys at?
Comics, graphic novels, and manga are big for boys. Even inner-city boys, the ones people think are the least likely to read. But the most popular ones that the kids know about aren’t the ones that look like them.
Yesterday one of the kids came in with a red Captain America t-shirt. Today he’s wearing a Punisher t-shirt. I pulled him aside and asked him what he thought of black superheroes. He said he didn’t know of many. He threw out the name Red Hawk but said he was like the others, too lame. Red Hawk doesn’t have super powers.
“There’s not one cool black one?” I asked.
“Okay, Black Panther, but he’s the only one. ”
He said he didn’t know there was a Black Panther cartoon series. His favorite comic book characters are Deadpool, The Punisher, Spiderman and Captain America.
“You don’t find Captain America kind of corny?” I asked.
“Naw, he’s cool.”
“And what about a black one?”
He sighs. “Okay, Black Panther.” He relents again. Then later he adds, “I like Spawn, too.”
I take his picture and let him go. Too much questioning will turn to me pushing my worldview on him and I don’t want to color his perception too much except maybe to let him know that Batman is way cooler than Spidey and Superman could ever hope to be.
Maybe in this world dreaming of white men in tights or hardware swooping in to handle things is still preferable to out of this world brothers who fight for truth, justice and the American way.
Okay, I don’t believe it either. I guess I’ll just be hanging out on Black Superhero Fan and BlackSuperheroBlogspot to get my blackness hero fix until the rest of the world catches on. Just hope it’s not too long (singing Bonnie Tyler’s I Need a Hero).
So who is your favorite black superhero and is he worthy to get a movie franchise dedicated to him?