In recent years we have been having more conversations about inclusion in the mainstream film and television industry. In this case, we are referring to the United States since it’s the biggest trendsetter in this market. Superhero adaptations were initially made for younger audiences, and there is a general stereotype that animation and comic books are made only for children and teens. This is, of course, not the case; animation, comic books, or other image-based stories are not exclusively targeted toward younger demographics. There is a large pool of readers that read these image-based formats from the ages of 18 to 29; the research shows that 46 percent of readers belong to this adult age group.
Putting that aside for now, there have been many barriers over the years for superheroes of different races to enter the mainstream. In this article, we are going to be talking about specifically black superheroes that have been a part of the comic book world, which started to appear more in the late 1960s. We have had some iconic superheroes over the years, and recently there has been more on-screen representation as well. Without further ado, here is the list of the 30 most iconic black superheroes for all the fans that have been looking for more representation. Hopefully, we will have even more in the coming years.
30. Dr. Cecilia Reyes (X-Men Vol. 2 #65)
Dr. Cecilia Reyes made her first appearance in the X-Men comic series. She is Puerto Rican on her father’s side, but she was born in the Bronx, New York City. She was only six years old when she saw her father get killed in a shooting. Understandably, this event had a big impact on her life moving forward. She decided that she would dedicate her life to helping people.
She pursued her dream of becoming a doctor, which she was able to achieve. It was not long after she finished medical school that she activated her powers. She is able to create a forcefield around her, essentially creating armor around her. In a state of confusion about what to do with her newfound powers, she contacted Charles Xavier, who then asked her to join Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
29. David Zavimbi – Batwing (Batman Incorporated #5)
David Zavimbi made his first appearance in the Batman Incorporated comic series. David was born in Mtamba, where he was a part of the ruling family. Although he was a distant relative, he was chosen to become the figurehead after the last member of the ruling family went missing.
The only thing he had to promise was not to meddle in the business of the local oligarchs, and he would be able to live out the rest of his days as a millionaire. Some time had passed, and David was investigating child soldier training camps that were linked to a terrorist organization. The American vigilante heard about this and decided to help David by giving him his own power suit.
28. Jericho Drumm – Brother Voodoo (Strange Tales #169)
Brother Voodoo, also known as Jericho Drumm, made his first appearance in the Strange Tale comic series. He is originally from Haiti but went to America, where he became a renowned scholar. He never really believed in the supernatural, but when his twin brother passed away, something changed in him.
After his brother’s death, he vowed to honor his legacy and take on all of the responsibilities that come with becoming a houngan. Papa Jambo was the one who trained Brother Voodoo, and with all the new knowledge he gained, he was able to protect the innocent.
27. John Henry Irons – Steel (Adventures of Superman #500)
John Henry Irons, also known as Steel, made his first appearance in the Adventures of Superman. His parents were murdered when he was very young. After that incident, all he wanted was to feel safe again. He thought the only way he could feel that way was if he became rich and powerful.
Eventually, he became a ballistics expert and finally achieved his goals by designing hi-tech weapons. He was able to support his family, which was also one of his dreams. What he did not expect was for his prototypes to be leaked to terrorists, after which he decided to destroy the rest of his work.
26. Benjamin Turner – Bronze Tiger (Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #1)
Benjamin Turner, also known as Bronze Tiger, made his first appearance in the Richard Dragon Kung-Fu Fighter comic series. He was born and grew up in Central City, Missouri. When he was only 10 years old, he saw his parents get assaulted by a burglar.
He grabbed a carving knife, ran toward the burglar, and stabbed him repeatedly. He was in shock after the incident, but some of him never felt more alive. He had a strong and violent nature, so he tried to tame it and decided to start taking Tae Kwon Do classes.
25. Karen Beecher – Bumblebee (Teen Titans #45)
Karen Beecher, also known as Bumblebee, made her first appearance in the Teen Titans comic series. Karen was a scientist who dated a member of the Teen Titans squad. She decided she would help out Herald look good in front of the Teen Titan members, so she made a bumblebee suit and attacked the team.
No one suspected this attack was fake, but she later revealed what really happened. The team was really impressed by what she was able to pull off and decided to offer her a pot on the Teen Titans Team.
24. Michael Holt – Mister Terrific (Spectre Vol. 3 #54)
Michael Holt, also known as the incredibly strong Mister Terrific, made his first appearance in the Spectre comic series. Everyone could see that Michael was a gifted child. He was able to learn and understand very advanced concepts for his age while his peers struggled.
He was able to get doctorates and master’s degrees in many fields like Law, Psychology, Chemistry, and so on. Quickly he became a millionaire, but all of these achievements felt insignificant after the death of his older brother, wife, and unborn child. While he was thinking about ending his life, he was visited by Spectre, who told him about Mister Terrific.
23. Mercedes Knight – Misty Knight (Marvel Team-Up #1)
Misty Knight, also known as Mercedes Knight, made her first appearance in the comic series Marvel Premiere. She was from New York, and that is also where she graduated from the Police Academy. She was a very diligent student, and that was one of the reasons why she graduated with honors.
Not only that, but her motivation and diligence made it, so she rose through the ranks pretty quickly. While she was working as a police officer, she became really close friends with Colleen Wing. After that, Misty became a detective and later joined the bomb squad of the New York Police Department.
22. Jason Rusch – Firestorm (Firestorm Vol. 3 #1)
Jason Rusch, also known as Firestorm, first made his appearance in the Firestorm comic series. The seventeen-year-old Jason lived in Detroit with his father. He desperately wanted to leave since his father became abusive after losing his hand in an industrial accident.
He started to work as a courier so he could get enough money for college. While on the job, he encountered the Firestorm Matrix, and after Ronnie Raymond’s death, there was an opening to fill his role.
21. Dr. Adam Bernard Brashear – Blue Marvel (Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1)
Doctor Adam Bernard Brashear, also known as Blue Marvel, made his first appearance in the Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel comic series. Adam was a scientist and a veteran; he worked alongside his best friend on a project using antimatter.
While working on this project, an explosion erupted, and both of them were caught in it. Adam gained superhuman abilities, and his best friend was on the other end of the power spectrum, and he couldn’t control it. At first, in his time, during the sixties, he was rejected as a superhero because of his race, but he would later come back in the role of Blue Marvel.
20. Monica Rambeau – Photon (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16)
Monica Rambeau, also known as Photon, made her first appearance in the Amazing Spider-Man Annual comic series. Monica was working as a harbor patrol officer when she was hit by extra-dimensional energy. This gave her the ability to convert into any form of energy.
Her time in the navy was frustrating because she wasn’t able to achieve what she intended, solely based on her race. Instead, she decided to join the Avengers, where she felt like she could make a change with her abilities.
19. Shuri – Aja Adanna (Black Panther Vol. 4 #2)
Shuri, also known as Aja Adanna, made her first appearance in the Black Panther comic series. You probably know Shuri as the sister of the Black Panther, T’Challa. She also became an heiress to the throne of Wakanda as the youngest child of T’Chaka and Queen Ramonda.
Even though Ramonda advised against it, Shuri challenged her uncle S’yan for the throne. Shuri rushed to the ring but was not able to reach it in time; instead, a masked opponent challenged S’yan. After the two of them fought, the masked man revealed himself to be her brother T’Challa.
18. Tyrone Johnson – Cloak (Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #64)
Tyrone Johnson, also known as Cloak, first made his appearance in the Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man comic series. Tyrone grew up in a poor neighborhood in South Boston. He had some difficulties with his chronic stutter, but despite that, he was a good student.
His best friend Billy and him witnessed a robbery at a local store; Billy ran away when the thieves fled. Tyrone stays at the store, and when Billy realizes that he is still at the store, he goes back to help him, so he doesn’t get wrongly accused by the police. The police wrongly assumed Billy was the thief, and even though Tyrone tried to help him, he was unable to speak clearly.
17. Jackson Hyde – Aquaman (DCU: Rebirth #1)
Jackson Hyde, also known as Aquaman or Aqualad, made his first appearance in the DCU: Rebirth comic series. He was the son of super-villain Black Manta and Lucia Hyde from the Atlantean Kingdom. Jackson was born on the surface after his mother ran away from his father.
Lucia didn’t tell Jackson about his father; he also had to keep his powers secret, so they wouldn’t be discovered. Jackson wanted to find out more about his heritage, so Lucia gave him the Black Pearl map, which he later realized. After some time, Jackson came out as gay, which Lucia didn’t really accept.
16. William Barrett Foster – Goliath (Avengers #32)
William Barett Foster, also known as Goliath, made his first appearance in the Avengers comic series. He was born in the Watts ghetto, which is located in Los Angeles, California. He was a very intelligent young man, and he grew up around people that helped him hone his skills.
Eventually, he was able to enroll in the California Institute of Technology, where he got his degree in biochemistry. This is also where he met his wife Claire Temple. Unfortunately, the two of them separated, and he continued to work as a biochemist for Tony Stark’s factory.
15. Mari Jiwe McCabe – Vixen (Action Comics #521)
Mari Jiwe McCabe, also known as Vixen, made her first appearance in the Action Comics comic series. Mari was born in a small village in Africa. She grew up hearing stories about the Tantu Totem from her parents. The Tantu Totem was a special object that gave the users special powers.
She decided to flee to America when she lost her closest family members and friends. This is where she discovered modeling and quickly became a famous fashion model in New York City. This gave her the funds to travel the world, and eventually, she came back to Africa and stole back the Tantu Totem.
14. Lucas Bishop – Red Bishop (Uncanny X-Men #282)
Lucas Bishop, also known as the Red Bishop, first made his appearance in the Uncanny X-Men comic series. He is a mutant that was born in a dystopian future. He managed to travel back in time and join the X-Men that he had heard about growing up.
Lucas had gone through police training and acted according to those regulations, trying to fill the role of a peacekeeper. With the birth of Hope, the mutant messiah, Lucas betrayed the X-Men, but her would later regret his actions and follow the path to redemption.
13. James Rhodes – War Machine (Iron Man #118)
War Machine, also known as Jim Rhodes, made his first appearance in the Iron Man comic series. He is a close colleague and friend of Tony Stark. Stark entrusted him with the use of the Iron Man suit. Jim started as Stark’s personal pilot and, over time, became his right hand, assisting in different missions.
When Stark was going through a really tough time, he shut everyone out and drowned his sorrows in alcohol; Jim stepped in as Iron Man. However, the Iron Man suit took a toll on him psychologically, so he decided he had to stop before it was too late.
12. Samuel Wilson – Falcon (Captain America #117)
Falcon, also known as Sam Wilson, made his first appearance in the Captain America comic series. Sam had a rough childhood; his father died trying to stop a fight between two rival gangs in Harlem.
A couple of years later, his mother was killed as well by a thief that attacked them. This changed Sam in many ways; he tried to live his life right and stay out of trouble. He became a social worker but was later lured to a Caribbean island. This is where Red Skull attacked him and Captain America.
11. Nicholas Fury (Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #5)
Nicholas Fury made his first appearance in the Ultimate Marvel Team comic series. Nick was born before the Second World War, which he later fought. When he was serving his duty in Sicily, he and his comrades tried to loot a house. They were caught and arrested by the American Military Police.
After the arrest, Fury was sent to an unknown location where he became a test subject for Project Rebirth. His blood tested similarly to another test subject who performed really well, and after injecting him with a serum, Nick gained super-strength.
10. Jefferson Pierce – Black Lightning (Black Lightning #1)
Jefferson Pierce, also known as the Black Lightning, made his first appearance in the Black Lightning comic series. Jefferson grew up in a neglected part of the Metropolis. That part was called the Suicide Slum because of the many people killing themselves to escape degradation.
Jefferson worked as hard as he could to leave the Suicide Slum; he studied and worked on his athleticism. Eventually, he managed to make it out and leave for college.
9. Virgil Hawkins – Static (Static #1)
Virgil Hawkins, also known as Static, made his first appearance in the Static comic series. The young Virgil was considered to be a social outcast. When he was hanging out with his friend Larry, who is popular, he developed a crush on his girlfriend Frieda.
Virgil was attacked by another member of their group, after which Larry pushed Virgil to take revenge on Martin, who gave him a beating. Virgil tried to murder his bully with a gun that Larry gave him but couldn’t do it in the end. When police saw him, they threw tear gas; during this incident, he gained electromagnetic powers.
8. Albert Francis Simmons – Spawn (Spawn #1)
Spawn, also known as Al Simmons, made his first appearance in the Spawn comic series, also called Spawn. He trained in one of the most difficult military departments, the Marine Corps. Even with the immensely difficult training regime, he was thought of as a very gifted officer.
During a mission in Botswana, Simmons was murdered, and because of his past as an assassin, he was sent to Hell. However, his story didn’t end there; in Hell, he met a being known as Malebolgia. Simmons arranged a deal with that being to come back to life one last time so he could see his wife.
7. Victor Stone – Cyborg (Flashpoint Vol 2 #5)
Victor Stone, also known as Cyborg, first made his appearance in the Flashpoint comic series. Victor was a very talented high school athlete. An invasion of Earth was initiated, after which Victor was caught in an explosion. His father managed to save his life by turning him into a cyborg.
6. Carl Lucas – Luke Cage (Hero for Hire #1)
Luke Cage, also known as Carl Lucas, first made his appearance in the Luke Cage comic series. Luke Cage was born in Harlem, New York; this is where he spent his childhood. As a young boy, he joined a gang called Rivals alongside his friends.
There was another gang that was called Diablos, and the two of them would often fight each other. Because of this, Luke spent most of his teens in juvenile homes before realizing he didn’t want to go down this path anymore.
5. Miles Morales – Spider-Man (Ultimate Fallout #4)
Miles Morales, better known as Spider-Man, first appeared in the Ultimate Fallout comic series. Miles was part of a different universe from Peter Parker, who we know as the original Spider-Man.
Since the different Multiverses are connected, when Peter Parker died, and his Multiverse was destroyed, Miles was transported to that timeline instead. His story began in the same way as Peter’s being bitten by a genetically altered spider. Consequently, this gave him the power to become Spider-Man.
4. Eric Brooks – Blade (Tomb of Dracula #10)
Blade, also known as Eric Brooks, first appeared in the comic series The Tomb of Dracula. He was born in 1929 in London, and his story began right at that time. Eric’s mother was sent away to find shelter since his father was part of a secret society that led him to his imprisonment.
Tara, Blade’s mother, found shelter in a brothel owned by Madame Vanity. During her birth, Tara experienced a lot of complications which led to her death. The doctor that was called to help Tara was a vampire that attacked her, some of his enzymes entered Tara’s bloodstream, and eventually Blade’s too. This turned him into a Dhampir, half-human and half-vampire.
3. John Stewart – Green Lantern (Green Lantern Vol. 2 #87)
John Stewart, also known as Green Lantern, first made his appearance in the Green Lantern comic series. After Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner, he became the third Green Lantern of Earth. Before he filled in the role of the Green Lantern, John worked as an architect. During his Green Lantern years, he joined the Justice League of America.
2. Ororo Munroe – Storm (Giant-Size X-Men #1)
Ororo Munroe, also known as Storm, first made her appearance in the Giant-Size X-Men comic series. Storm is the daughter of a Kenyan princess and an American journalist. Both of her parents died in a tragic accident when a plane crashed into their home.
Her abilities make it so that she can control the weather, and even as a teenager, she tried to help in any way she could. She was able to ease the droughts in the Serengeti plains, where she was living at the time.
1. T’Challa – Black Panther (Fantastic Four #52)
T’Challa, also known as Black Panther, made his first appearance in the Fantastic Four comic series. He was the head of Wakanda, which is the most technologically advanced country on the planet.
With the Black Panther suit comes a lot of responsibilities; the person wearing it has to be the King, the religious leader, and the commander-in-chief, all united into one. Wakanda developed advanced technology thanks to a material called Vibranium. With this material, T’Challa has to pledge his life to serve humankind so that he can use its power.