Magazine article Variety

The Rise of the Black Superhero

Magazine article Variety

The Rise of the Black Superhero

Article excerpt

When "Luke Cage" exec producer Cheo Hodari Coker declared at his show's San Diego Comic-Con panel last year, "The world is ready for a bulletproof black man," the crowd erupted in cheers. So did the internet.

"Right before I said it, I knew what I was feeling," Coker later told Variety. "I had said variations of it during the day. It was coming from an emotional place, but I didn't think it was going to reverberate the way that it did. But I'm glad that it did."

The "Luke Cage" panel came in July on the heels of widespread protests sparked by the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. When the show premiered in September, it became the first live-action series about a black superhero since 1994's "MANTIS."

Now it's getting some company. Next season the CW will premiere "Black Lightning," based on the DC Comics superhero. And next year Marvel will debut "Black Panther," the studio's first feature with a black hero in the lead. Social, political and business trends have converged to put black superheroes at the centers of burgeoning television and film franchises after years of being relegated to supporting status.

Dan Evans, VP of creative affairs at DC Entertainment, cites the emergence of black superheroes on-screen as part of a larger trend in television and film.

"There's so many examples now, from '24' to 'The Fast and the Furious' to 'Creed,'" says Evans, whose office door features an oversize image of Cyborg, the black teen hero who will play a key role in the upcoming "Justice League" movie. "We've seen again and again that if you tell a good story with these characters, people will come."

In superhero comics, the first appeals to underserved minority audiences came with the debuts of Black Panther (1966), Luke Cage (1972), Black Lightning (1977) and others.

"These black superheroes emerge parallel to the changes in American race relations in the late 1960s with the emergence of the Black Power movement," says Adilifu Nama, author of "Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes." The movement's push for equality and repreDiversity sentation rippled through popular culture. "It wouldn't be very sensible to think that these demands for diversity would only be in the realm of lunch counters and bus transportation. …

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