Black Superheroes In Superhero Films

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I’ve decided to do this essay on “Black Super Hero” both, to build an understanding, How “Superheroes” were made, Who they are, What super hero names are not recognized but also, What are the effects and How it affects me. My main focus is to talk about, what are “Super heroes”? What is the difference is between Marvel and DC heroes? Who is the target audience? What super heroes have been created? And what changes and movements have been happening in the past, present and to conclude this, What I aim for the future. As this is a 2-sided argument and seen from both perspectives, I believe that this essay is based on “Culture” type movement on black actors and Empowerment however, this does come under “Identity and The Self” for many characters and how actors got into “Acting”. Alongside this, there are many mix opinions which I believe that writers have and have not done enough to show and support this movement.

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Where did the identity of superhero originate from? The identity of super heroes has existed for as long as stories have been told. They all started from the same type of plot of the hero recusing the “damsel in distress”. From there, the writers have gone further into detail about their characters, conveying emotion through their back story and how their life was turned upside down. Following this, they then start to explore the “tragic trade” to their superpower like Spider-Man bitten by a radioactive spider, giving him enhanced spider like powers, Bruce Banner dosed with gamma rays making him incredibly strong and turn green when angry and named the “Hulk”. Some identities have been blessed without powers but use their riches and knowledge in weaponry to make them just as strong enemies such as Batman with the bat suit and tactical equipment, Deadshot, the world deadly contact killer and Ironman, with a super suit full of weapons and the ability to fly.

Are these people a considered a “Culture”, a “Movement” or “Both”? In reality, we are what’s known as the fans (a big group of people who share the same interests) but this isn’t just a small thing. The idea of superhero is spread across the globe with, number 1 fan’s in many countries. The idea of these shared interests is to bring people together without segregation, it wouldn’t matter what race you were, religion, or sexuality, if you liked superhero, your part of the “fan” culture and this was for everyone. Further along the lines, writers and directors took action to give back to the “fans” and creating a meeting convention, which people from all over the globe, came to meet the creators and had the chance for them to dress up like their hero’s. This event was named “Comic Con” and had been held for number of years. It had started in 1970 when a group of movie, comic books and science fiction fans banded together to form and host the first comic book convention in southern California. Moving further in time, in the recent years, it has now been hosted in many countries such as the UK, China, Japan, Australia, Brazil and many more. With new films being made, the conventions have been expanding to a wider audience and becoming one of the biggest events ever known. These events also allow the “Fan’s” to meet famous actor and actresses who play their favorite characters in the films.

So, what are “Superhero’s? and What did they bring to us? Superheroes are fictional characters that have been made up by writers in the creative narrative world. In the reading world of books and comics, writers have made up these fictional characters with their adventures & enemies, all for us to dream and engage with. It’s what I call “Content that takes us away from reality”. The first comics with a “Superhero”, was Mandrake the Magician, who debuted in 1934. This was four years before Superman and probably the first popular superhero. Mandrake’s super power was his ability to “make people believe anything, simply by gesturing hypnotically”. Jumping to 1939, Marvel was born but known as Atlas Comics. The Marvel branding began in 1961, the year that the company launched The Fantastic Four and other superhero titles created by Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and many others. The main writer, Stan Lee, is my leading inspiration, as he wrote many of Marvel’s comics and my favorites; Black Panther, Spiderman and Fantastic Four.

So, what did the writers bring to us? They have brought many adventurous and connecting stories, taking us from our seats of reality and into our subconscious, imagining ourselves to be in the shoes of one of many characters, fighting bad guys and winning the heart of the lady.

With the idea of “Superhero’s”, writers have also split them into two categories called Marvel and DC. Both categories are “Superhero’s, but only one category is respected by the citizens in the comic world. So, what is the difference between Marvel and DC? Marvel characters often have a tragic trade for their power, typically the X-Men, mutants who have insane powers yet resented by the society. Examples of these heroes are, Captain America, Ironman, Spiderman and the Hulk. In DC Comics, most characters are kind of take-for-granted beings with power of gods. Examples of these heroes are Superman, Green Lantern, The flash, Wonder woman and Aqua man.

What do I prefer? I never had favorite, as both categories of hero’s all share the spot light but if I had to pick one that inspires me the most, it has to be Black panther in the Marvel category.

What Black “Superhero’s” have been created? In the Marvel and DC comics, there have been many names such as “Black Panther”, “Cyborg”, “Luke cage”, “War Machine”, “Blade”, “Storm”, “Falcon”, “Spiderman”, “Nick fury”, ”Doctor Voodoo”, “Bishop”, “Spectrum”, “Night Thrasher”, “Cloak”, “Deathlok”, “Issiah Bradley”, “Patriot”, “Misty Knight”, “Gentle”, “Black Goliath” and “Static shock”. In the past, these names have been created to get their readers intrigued and indulged into the characters journey and conflicts they face. How has it affected film and TV? Less than half of these names, star in their own film or take part in in one. On the upside, a few of these names appear in series upon online Platform like Netflix and American Television and one being, “Luke Cage”. From my view, I believe there has been a major change in the recent years and it has become more diverse compared to the past, creating a podium for more “Black Famous names” in film and Television however, as a Marvel and DC comic book “Geek” I believe, producers and writers could be working on more films and shows to help and promoted more black actors, to get their name and work out in the industry.

How many black males and female superhero’s are there? In today’s films, comic books and developing narratives, we have many new black super heroes however, there aren’t as many films made about them compared to white superhero’s both male and female. However, we have had a breakthrough during the years, for the best sidekicks in film such as “Storm” in X-Men, “Falcon” in Captain America and “War Machine” in Iron man. Jumping to 2018, we had the major break-through with a leading black super hero, “Black Panther”. With this being recent, it had been ranked 10th highest grossing film which not just a major in profit but also the first leading black character in the superhero world. 

What changes and movements are there for black superhero’s in the past? The 2 major films, I picked were “Abar the first Black superman “and “The Meteorman”. In comic books, we have seen “Superman” as top notch, muscly, white male who saves the day which is true however, in 1977 “Abar was the first black superman” that was created. This film was written by K. Walter Smith and directed by Frank Packard. The plot of this film was about a Black scientist and his family, who move to a white suburban neighbourhood, where they were hassles by their racist neighbours. During this time, Dr Kincade (our hero) had been working on a mysterious serum which he took, giving him super powers and becoming a tough, crime fighting Hero. 

When reading about this, my first thoughts were about the struggles and racial profiling at that time. The film shows a character becoming a superhero, trying to make peace but dug his way further into science fiction with mind control.

Moving on, we jump to “The MeteorMan” in 1993. This film was written, directed, co-produced and stared in by Robert Townsend. Acting alongside him was Marla Gibbs, Eddie Griffin, Robert Guillaume, James Earl Jones, and Bill Cosby. During the time to promote the film, they also had big hip hop, funk and soul artists, that would also appear in this such as Luther Vandross, Sinbad, Naughty by nature, Cypress Hill, Big Daddy Kane and Cliff Eidelman. At the time, these artists were very famous and know in the music industry and drew attention to both the music and film. The Plot of this film was about a school teacher who uses his powers to eradicate the neighbourhood street gang known as the Golden Lords, who Dyed their hair yellow.

The reason why I chose these two films, is that they both share the same reason for becoming a super hero and becoming major icons to stop crime, having a tragic trade to their powers and a sense of black leadership and relatable situation people have faced. In that time, with recognizable actors and artists in the music or film industry, these films drew a lot of attention to a wider audience and making a start to black empowerment and movements.

What does it mean to me and why is it important? The reason behind this project, is that I want change in the fictional super hero world. I want new, diverse characters to exist and live in the film world as well. The meaning behind this project, is that we are the new writers, critics and directors of today. Through this project, I get to learn from previous writers, directors and actors and the struggles they had making name for themselves and hopefully not make the same mistakes they did. But again, there are no mistakes in developing characters and films. These questions are not just hurdles made to be jumped, they us give that extra creative ideas to added into the story and convey a sense of emotions from character. Not only this, but also it reaches to a wider audience through different aspects such as comedy, all types of love and settings.

If this project was to grow and expand, how would I feel? How would my people feel and what could they learn from it?

If this project was to expand and grow into a wider audience, I’m hope that it reaches out to communities and that we find new and amazing potential future actors and actress, that make up these new characters. I want “my people” to feel empowered and become more equal to society in film and other creative aspects. For the younger generation like my nephew who’s only 5, I want them to be open to other diverse, fictional characters and not just the fictional identities created. Now yeah, people will say, “who am I for wanting change?” “Why should we add or change the race of existing fictional superhero’s? As a marvel fan, I can understand why people don’t want new characters as it’s not my place to add or expect the writers to make new characters however, we are in a new age, where we are developing new character in new films with inspiration from super hero’s; the build, the face, the back story and them as a purpose in the film.

In conclusion, I want more Superhero films with new black actors. I want to see new adventures and detailed stories. I want writers and directors to recreate films with existing “Black superhero” names. I need them to “dig deep into” the characters stories, emotions and build on their new adventures. With the technology and creativity producing new films like “Black Panther”, I hope this movement continues to grow and create many new identities for new and existing black actors and actresses. 

09 March 2021

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