The second trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther was released this week with much fanfare especially in the African American community and with the release of the Black Panther trailer, a lot of people seem to have forgotten all the other black superhero movies that struggled to pave the way for a movie like Black Panther to happen. But I didn’t so I’m here to give you the history of black superheroes in film.
Abar, The First Black Superman(1977)
After moving into a racist neighborhood, A scientist gives a bodyguard named John Abar a superpower elixir that gives him special abilities that make him a superpowered crimefighter. Abar, The First Black Superman is not the greatest movie, actually it’s a pretty terrible movie but it is considered the first black superhero movie.
The Meteor Man (1993)
Jefferson Reed is a mild-mannered school teacher in Washington D.C., who is struck down by a glowing green meteorite that gives him powers such as flight, laser vision, and superhuman strength and with these powers, he chooses to rid his neighborhood of crime. Meteor Man broke barriers for its time as it is the first black superhero movie to have a superhero in a costume, Meteor Man also had a 6-issue limited series spin-off produced by Marvel Comics.
Darryl Walker is a clumsy nerdy repairman and Batman fan, who is childishly naive and optimistic, but when his grandmother is murdered by the mob Darryl decides to take justice into his own hands. Blankman goes the parody route with superhero movies as it makes fun of the 1960’s Batman TV show and stars Comedians Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier. Originally Blankman was supposed to be mentally disabled but the studio thought it would be offensive.
The first black superhero movie that was actually based on a comic book, Spawn follows Al Simmons, A black ops operative who is assassinated by the head of his government agency and comes back from the dead as a supernatural being to get revenge. Although Spawn was not a box office success it was a step in the right direction.
1997 was a weird year as it gave us two black superhero movies in one year. Steel was the first black superhero based on a DC comic book, Steel follows John Henry Irons, A weapons designer for the U.S. military who goes back home to fight crime in a suit of armor. Steel was a box office bomb and was panned by critics and almost killed superhero movies for a while.
Marvel’s first foray into the big screen since Howard The Duck, they choose to gamble on a not very well known black superhero called Blade. Blade is a vampire hunter, who happens to be half-vampire himself, the movie turned out to be a success which spawned two sequels and helped Marvel become the superhero film juggernaut it is today.
Loosely based on the DC comics anti-heroine, this story follows Patience Phillips a meek graphics designer who finds out a dark secret about her employers and is murdered but is then revived by Egyptian cats that grant her superhuman cat-like abilities. Catwoman is the first superhero movie with a black woman as the lead, something that hasn’t happened since hopefully the box office disappointment of this movie didn’t deter studios from thinking that a black female superhero wouldn’t work. Because if it did that would be a shame.
Hancock might be the worst depiction of a black superhero ever. John Hancock is an alcoholic homeless person with superhuman powers that get exploited by a publicist for his own personal gain and his only weakness is a white woman. Worst superhero movie ever.
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