Luke Cage was a pretty fun romp through one of Marvel’s first black superheroes. The Hero For Hire took to the Netflix version of the marvel cinematic universe smoothly. Many pieces have been written about the cultural nods and asides in the series, but one big part of the black cultural experience stood out. It came in the interaction of Cottonmouth(Mahershala Ali) and Black Mariah(Alfre Woodard).
Cottonmouth was one of the most dynamic characters on the show. Not only did we get to see his transformation from innocent impressionable youth to a murderous villainous adult, but we were also given great insights into what exactly kept him going. His fears, his hopes, and dreams were all laid bare for us in a way that many shows are not able or willing to do with their villains.
As a child Cottonmouth was a virtuoso at piano. His grandmother, Mabel, a drug kingpin, didn’t care in the least about his talents, she was busy grooming him to take over her dynasty. His Uncle Pete(Curtiss Cook) however, cared very much, he’d sneak him to piano auditions and tried to steer him away from “the business” and towards the arts. Making him Cottonmouth’s hero. But while he was busy being a hero to a little black boy, he was a brutal villain to a little black girl.
Back in the real world, our week has been utterly insane. Between Kanye “officially, officially” losing his shit, Nas being outed as an abuser, and Cosby FINALLY being found guilty…a reckoning is coming for black folk and our male heroes. Over the years, the story has become an old one. Famous man beats a woman on Monday, rapes a woman on Tuesday, puts out an album on Wednesday. The artistic capabilities of the man outweigh the life of the woman. This part of it has no race, indeed the white perpetrators of this, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, the list goes on and on. The difference is, with black folks, the people doing this sit in hallowed ground. The first major black television star is probably going to die in jail for his actions. R.Kelly, A man who’s writing is so prolific he most likely crafted the entire sound of R&B in the 90s is probably next. Nas is often listed on the top 3 rappers of all-time list. Though in retrospect his songs reeked of respectablity politics, “I Can” inspired a generation of black kids to strive for something more. But that does not outweigh anything he could e
I remember sitting in a film course and the (white) professor was showing us Triumph of Will and was telling us that we must separate artistry from what was done with the art and I spent the remainder of the class telling him why that was utter bullshit, and black folks know it’s bullshit so we need to apply it everywhere.
It’s extremely easy for people not caught in the crosshairs of powerful people to say “not my problem boy this song is bumpin’.” But the history of black men and black women is that black men were first unable to protect them, and then unwilling to. We have the means now to unlearn things but we are more dedicated to our egos than our women. We want our heroes to remain pristine, even though ignoring their misdeeds and atrocities allows and breeds more men just as violent.
But here is where we have to make the distinction in the narrative seen over and over. We cannot claim that all these atrocities white people have done are horrendous and disgusting, and turn around and forgive/ignore our own people doing the same thing. If you really care about it, start demanding these people pay as well, not “oh well they got off so let Cosby off” Fuck that. We cannot aspire to be white. The one rule of whiteness is that we’re never going to get in, so stop trying to become white men. Maybe if we respect the trauma we’ve put our women through over the years, we’ll get some new heroes that ain’t shitty, that will actually get us where we want to go. Don’t be a Cottonmouth. Cuz putting black false heroes over black women ends with a metal rod beatdown.
I love that comics have become such a huge cultural fixation. Honestly they’ve always been, but with the introduction into the film world, they’ve found more followers than ever. Amidst ever-changing social acceptances and norms, comics are changing too. This means the comics that were once so white and male they’d have been lost in the snow and not have been able to see anyone to not ask directions from, are kind of getting a face lift. It’s about time.
These creations, though loved for years, were originally created in a culture that praised the racist, misogynistic, homophobic viewpoint. Thus they became white males by default. With the exception of a very few (that were created by Stan Lee who faced great opposition) minorities were pretty much shut out, though they enjoyed the comics just as much as their majority counterparts.
So now that comics have moved to film races are changing, genders are changing and that’s great because it’s a step towards fixing a tainted legacy and including all of those people who love and support this industry. Later I’ll do a list of the best comic book heroes who’s race or gender has been altered.
However today I’d like to salute those women that came before all of this, before Blade made it profitable to be a comic book hero on the big screen. This isn’t a ranking in order by the way, these women were selected because they are bad ass and in some cases, broke barriers. If they are “alternate dimension” versions or versions made primarily to capitalize off of a male hero’s popularity they aren’t on this list. So anything with “she” in their title ain’t on here.
This list was created in response to the lack of knowledge people have in regards to women super heroes and the desire to see a list about them that didn’t involve the words “hot”, “sexy”, or “boobs.”
#10 Wonder Woman
Has to be on here of course so I just went ahead and put her first. First appearing in December of 1941, Wonder woman came on the heels of a new exciting interest in comic books.
With Superman and batman leading the way, detective comics wanted to find a way to really capitalize on the comic book medium. Diana was created by the already very successful psychologist William Moulton Marston and his wife Elizabeth. He’d already invented the polygraph (lasso of truth inspiration) and had been hired as an educational consultant. Though her past after his death was a bit rocky, she was quite objectified for a while and dumbed down. Each issue had a different “pin-up” poster of her.
Eventually though they got it together and she regained her bad ass status as a warrior of the Amazons. In addition to succesful comic books, she had her own very successful television show.
“Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world”, Marston wrote. With her bad ass attitude, fighting prowess, magic lasso, sword, armor, flight, and super strength, if she says she’s ruling the world. You’ll be fighting her, not me.
Another one that HAD to make this list. First appearing in 1975 in the book Giant X-men, storm was originally supposed to be a male named Typhoon. However as they didn’t want an all male team, they combined two of the characters into one Storm Ororo Munroe. Born in Harlem to an African princess and a photojournalist, she didn’t have the cushy life one would expect of such noble birth. After moving to Egypt, her parents die leaving her an orphan.
Eventually she discovers her ability to control the weather and fly. She wanders through Cairo and the Serengeti using her powers to bring water to drought ravaged areas which eventually leads to her being praised as a goddess.
If that isn’t bad ass enough she eventually defeats Cyclops to become leader of the X-men, marries the black panther which literally makes her a queen of the most advanced civilization on the planet, she’s a diplomat, trained wolverine and most of the x-men in hand to hand combat, and is one of the most respected and widely known heroes ever created.
That’s Rocket. Flying through an attacking alien spaceship. In this issue she takes on a Gauntlet of 6 of the strongest alien warriors in the galaxy, and whoops all of them. Rocket has a pretty unique character arch. After discovering Agustus Freeman’s unique abilities, she is able to convince him to start helping people under the moniker of Icon.
There’s a whole arch where she gets pregnant and her best friend takes over as Rocket until she gives birth. When she comes back she’s stronger than before and a lot more willing to protect the planet. She’s teamed up with Static, Star chamber AND Shadow Cabinet, Super Boy, Static, and many more.
You probably got used to her on television’s Young Justice. Determined, Strong willed, and infinitely creative Rocket is one to follow with this new relaunch of Milestone.
Oh yeah Rocket “Never back down, Never Surrender.”
#7 Black Canary
First appearing in 1941 she appeared to be a villain. Turns out she was infiltrating a criminal gang. She eventually became popular enough to take over the comic she originally was only a side character in! Dinah Lance is an extremely adept hand to hand combatant and in different incarnations can utilize an ultrasonic scream.
She helped found the birds of prey(if you get a chance check out the birds of prey episode of Batman Brave and the Bold). A time endearing hero, she’s been featured in almost all of the incarnations of the DC universe from Justice League cartoons to the Arrow live action television show.
Black canary is one powerful hero.
#6 Amanda Waller
I want you to look at that cover. I mean REALLY look at it. Joker doesn’t even talk to Batman like that. You know who does? Amanda “The Wall” Waller Ph.D. First appearing November 1986 shes been a “good guy” sometimes and a “bad guy other times.” But her motives are never selfish. What she does she does because of her un-matchable ability to see the big picture. Always calm and collected she’s got a plan for everything. No super powers but hangs with the biggest and baddest of the DC universe from Brainiac to Darkseid. She started the suicide squad and has been a government agent for years. She’s basically the Nick Fury of the DC universe. She’s been played by Pam Grier, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, and now Viola Davis.
#5 Iron ButterFly
That’s Iron Butterfly liberating a refugee camp from the evil soldiers that had taken over. She’s a Palestinian Muslim and has ferrokinetic control of any and all metallic substances. As a young girl she had to flee from persecution in her home town. Eventually her family ends up in a refugee camp that begins testing gas chemicals on them. As she watched her family die in front of her, she was gifted with her powers. At least that’s the story she tells people. A founding member of the Shadow Cabinet, she’s saved the world more times than we’ll probably ever know. Completely militaristic in her dedication to her task, she is no-nonsense and fights with great intelligence and perfect utilization of her powers.
She never backs down from a fight and has the strength, tenacity, and strategic skills to walk away a winner.
#4 Donner & Blitzen
Yes I know it’s a “two-fer” but these two are truly a pair. Donner is the super strong, bullet resistant, stoic one and Blitzen is the super fast, super smart, wise cracking one. After becoming unsatisfied with the Shadow Cabinet, they start their own faction called Heroes including Iota, Payback, Starlight, and the one and only Static Shock. They move to New York and immediately stop an alien invasion. Oh and they are lesbians, openly, which is kind of a big deal in comics, especially 90s comics.
Always ready to go fight at the drop of a dime, these two teammates work together splendidly.
#3 Invisible Woman Susan Richards
Susan Richards had somewhat of a rocky start. When she first appeared in 1961 she was completely utilized as the damsel in distress. Being captured, running away to hide, or waiting for her husband to come save her was her M.O. But with the advent of her Force field projection powers she’s become widely recognized as the strongest member of the team. This is witnessed several times in the Civil War arch. She is strong and no longer defined by her husband.
Especially in Civil War she actually leaves him due to differences in opinion on the registration act and how things were being handled. From the comics, to the television shows old and new, to the films, this character’s growth has turned her into the heart and soul of one of the greatest superhero teams ever created.
Vixen was supposed to be the first African woman super hero for DC. Unfortunately they canceled her series before it was made. But that hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the most recognizable woman superheroes of all time.
In ancient Africa, the warrior Tantu asked Anansi the Spider to create a totem that would give the wearer all of the powers of the animal kingdom, only if they would use the power to protect the innocent. Tantu used the totem to become Africa’s first legendary hero. The totem was later passed down to Tantu’s descendants until it reached the McCabes.
Growing up in a small African village in the fictional nation of Zambesi, M’Changa province, Mari Jiwe McCabe heard the legend of the “Tantu Totem” from her mother. Sometime later, Mari’s mother was killed by poachers and she was raised by her father Reverend Richard Jiwe, the village priest. Reverend Jiwe himself was killed by his half-brother (Mari’s uncle) General Maksai. Maksai wanted the Tantu Totem, which Jiwe had possessed. Mari ultimately moved to America, where she established an identity as Mari McCabe and got a job as a model in New York City. She used her newfound wealth to travel the world. On a trip back to Africa, she came across her uncle and took back the Tantu Totem, using its power to become the costumed superhero Vixen.
Vixen subsequently has had her own limited series and has been featured in a wide variety of DC properties from television to video games.
#1 Lady Death Wish
If you haven’t noticed this list has a lot of Milestone characters. Well trust they deserve to be on here, see that’s what happens when you make characters actually like people and not some stereotypical nonsense that fulfills your fantasy of what you want them to be. Take Deathwish for instance.
Now the original Deathwish has a terrifying backstory but Lady Deathwish (I know I said I wouldn’t have people like that but hear me out on one this one) has a pretty interesting tale and the entire series is told from his/her point of view.
Let me explain.
Deathwish starts off as male cop LT. Martin Rahm, but even then he knew deep down, this wasn’t who he really was (he still identified as male though). On a case he meets the original Death wish who shoves a gun in his face before realizing that Rahm was a cop searching the murder scene alone.
They fast forward four years and Martin Rahm is now Marisa, spoiler alert sex changes don’t make people any less bad ass. Marisa goes on a hunt for a sicko and ends up taking up the Moniker of DeathWish. Unfortunately only a limited series but there was plenty in there to solidify her standing as one of the biggest bad ass women in comic book history.
Well that’s my list, hope you guys enjoyed it. Are there other’s you’d like to see? Agree or Disagree? Go ahead and leave a comment I’d love to hear your ideas!
The time has come! We have just launched the kickstarter campaign for the new superhero Cain the Conqueror! Follow the url and check out the cool video and see the rewards we’ve got some great ones! If you could fund or share this project it’d be much appreciated! Thanks everyone for your support!
My name is Brian Bell and I am the creator of Cain The Conqueror. Cain is a brand new, exciting superhero that will surely excite true comic book fans and casual readers alike. The characters in all of the stories are the main focus and I spent a lot of time on their depth, motivations, and therefore the meanings behind all their actions. You will get to know and care for these characters. Cain is drawn by the amazing Jesse Hansen of Cornerstone Studios. Here’s a little back story on the greatest new superhero to hit the web.
Cain is the Great-great-great grand son of John the conqueror husband of the devil’s daughter from the folk tales of old, and the son of Valencia and Jerry DeConq. They are the leaders of an underground assassins/justice defenders league.Cain was raised to take over the leadership of the group. Everyday of his life was filled with training to perfect his wormhole tunneling technique(strafing), his martial arts, his detective skills, and his interrogation techniques.
When Cain came home from college he found his father dead, his sister missing and presumed dead, and his mother paralyzed from the waist down. His entire group has been exterminated except for him. Cain swears revenge on the people who committed this act and goes out leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Cain recruits Karson to help him but Karson betrays him for the opportunity to take over all the crime in the city. Cain then begins cleaning up the entire city during his search to kill those and uphold his clan’s honor. I’ve gotten the whole first series written just getting it inked to get it out soon.
I’d love to hear any feedback! I’ll answer any questions in the comment section below. Thanks everyone!