Currently, out of the two big guns in the industry, Marvel and DC, there is only one monthly title either publishes in which a black character is the star; and at least three that were published in the last year or so have since been canceled due to low sales—Azrael, Black Panther, and Brother Voodoo.
How can you not like a guy with flaming swords?!
Cast the net a little wider, and you will find very few still.
Now, to be fair, it must be noted that precious few characters ever make it big overnight and the overwhelming majority of the most popular and profitable ones out there today were created decades ago, before the Civil Rights Movement here in America and when the industry was not just a majority of white writers and artists, but virtually entirely white writers and artists.
Early black characters tended to either have the word “black” in their name—Black Panther, Black Lightning—or started out as criminals or accused criminals first before getting to be heroes—Luke Cage, Falcon.
Far cooler than Greased Lightning…
As time passed, the industry changed, albeit at a much slower pace than many would have liked.
In recent years, we have seen more attempts at injecting not just black characters, but all minority characters, into mainstream comics. The late Dwayne McDuffie’s Milestone books did this exceptionally well, creating solid and original minority characters, and while he did not form the company just to make a bunch of minority heroes, he was instrumental in showing the big two that there was indeed a market out there going virtually untouched.
DC recently killed off Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle, and replaced him with the Hispanic Jaime Reyes; they also had Ray Palmer, the Atom, go missing and be replaced the Asian Ryan Choi, while Jason Rusch, a black teenager, became the new Firestorm.
|Damned if you do, damned if you don’t|
But, unfortunately, they tended to be viewed as just black versions of white characters.
Marvel, for its part, has worked hard to keep characters like Black Panther going, despite continuous cancellations. Brian Michael Bendis has done everything to make Luke Cage a prominent player, having him lead the Avengers for the past several years.
Dude’s come a looooong way from wearing a tiara and an open yellow blouse…
But this makes what has happened to Storm all the more tragic, as black female characters are even more lacking in the industry.
First introduced in 1975’s Giant Size X-Men #1, Ororo Munroe came with the tragic backstory of a child whose parents were killed and who was forced to survive by being a thief, not to mention the awesome power set of being able to manipulate the weather.
Within a few years, Storm temporarily led the X-Men while Cyclops left to deal with the events of the Dark Phoenix Saga and, not long after, bested him in a duel to establish herself as the X-Men’s on a more permanent basis.
In other words, Storm was badass. How badass?
Well, she had her powers accidentally removed, donned a mohawk, and still kicked the crap of people while leading a team of mutants infinitely more powerful than her, that is how badass.
Oh, and she got Asgardian powers at one point.
My sista from another mista!
Throughout the next two decades, she would star in a few miniseries, continue to lead multiple X-Men teams and become a powerful player throughout the Marvel Universe.
And then she was married to Black Panther in one of the most contrived and editorially mandated stories I have ever seen, and left the X-Men to quickly be relegated to back up in Black Panther’s own title.
With all that has happened in the X-Books over the past few years, her role has been virtually non-existent and with the cancellation of Black Panther’s own book, she has done little more than guest star in books for teams she once proudly led.
Her inclusion in the X-Men movies was important, despite Hallie Berry’s wooden acting and on again, off again “accent,” but Storm has gone from being the most prominent black female lead in comics to a three panel cameo seemingly in the blink of eye.
What country is that accent from? What ain’t no country I ever heard of!
For the industry, this needs to change.
Storm was seen as the torchbearer for strong black, female characters only it appears they never seemed to let her pass that torch.
So, really, Marvel, give her the facetime she deserves.
It ain’t 1963 anymore.
It is getting better, but we have a way to go…
Nobody puts Storm in a corner…