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Beyond Black Panther: Super Heroes of Color Who Deserve Their Own Animated Movie or Series

Guest contributor Jeremy Harrison writes.

There can be little denying the success Marvel Studios has had with bringing both beloved and relatively unknown superheroes to the big screen. The latest film, Black Panther, has continued this trend earning over 1 billion dollars worldwide. A large part of this particular success is due to the studio's commitment to capturing what makes the Black Panther comics special. From the fun yet complex characters to the culturally rich and futuristic capital of Wakanda, Blank Panther stands tall as an example that the feats of a hero cannot be measured by the color of their skin.

With Black Panther's success, there is a strong chance that other super heroes of color will get their own feature film thanks to the fact Hollywood likes to copy success.

The following is a list of black super heroes that you probably don’t know about. Characters that have mainly stayed on the pages of the comic and haven’t gotten that much attention from either the company or the movie-going public. These are characters that need to be brought to the lime-light and I personally would like to see on the big screen, or at the very least a direct-to-DVD/Blu-Ray animated film.

With that said, certain characters will be omitted from this list. The goal is to highlight obscure (mainly)  black super heroes. Why obscure? Because Marvel and DC are filled with a lot of interesting minority characters that you should know about and perhaps demand they bring these characters out to delight a new generation on either the small screen or the big screen, like me.

Steel (John Henry Irons)

In the comic, John Henry Irons was saved by Superman. Superman’s death then inspired Irons to take up the mantle of Superman. He along with several other new characters decided to fill the void left by Earth’s greatest hero. Irons according to Lois Lane, spiritually reflected what Superman stood for.

I learned from comic book writer, Mark Waid, that Louis Simonson and Jon Bogdanove had based Steel’s personality off of the late Dwayne McDuffie, another fellow comic book writer that actually held a Master’s Degree in Physics. Irons is a science and engineering nerd that built his “Steel-man suit” from spare parts and this is one nerd you don’t want to mess with because he swings a big hammer.

Though Steel did already have a live-action movie (where he was played by Shaq), the film was a financial flop and hardly did the character justice. With a two-part Death and Return of Superman animated movie coming up, this may be their chance to do it right!

Blue Marvel (Adam Brashear)

This guy is Marvel’s African-American version of Superman.

Moreover, Blue Marvel operated in the 1960s during the civil rights movement. The storytelling potential is limitless.

In the comic, he has experienced all sorts-of-sights and adventures across the Marvel Universe. Talking to Namor in his underwater headquarters, going all the way to the moon to talk to Utau, the Watcher and later still traveling to the negative zone are just few of this hero’s many feats.

My only gripe with the story is that the Blue Marvel gets really passive after people realize he’s actually black instead of a white superhero. It should be noted that earlier version of the costume had him in white mask that covered his face, so people just assumed he was white.
The Legend of the Blue Marvel would be fun to adapt to Marvel animation with him fighting for justice alongside Martin Luther King Jr. on Earth and then going to space to fight hostile aliens. Limitless story potential.

African Batman / Batwing 1 (David Zavimbe). 

The original Batman, Bruce Wayne, decided to branch out globally and somehow, he came across a man who used to kill people as a kid, rejected guns and death and became a cop.

David's story is contained in Batwing issues 0 through 19 as he tries to clean up Africa as both Batman and as a cop. It’s a fun read because while many heroes are based in America, David’s story is based in Africa and he has all the Batman gear to fight crime as an effective vigilante.

Much like Black Panther it would be set in a fictional African locale. But unlike Wakanda’s sci-fi sheen, Tinasha is a regular society in Africa. It would show people doing everything in their power to make their homes better and the struggle of life in Africa.

In this way, Batwing’s story will be more relatable than Black Panther’s because while Black Panther showed an ideal, Batwing will lean towards realistic issues and problems.

The Signal (Duke Thomas) 

What makes a Robin, a Robin? A young ward trained by Batman -- to help him fight crime in Gotham! What happens if you get a group of kids who just call themselves, Robin without Batman’s training? Well, you have the organization “We Are Robin”.

“We Are Robin” was a group of teenagers that wanted to protect Gotham in Batman’s absence.  Their hearts were in the right place, but without the proper training, they fell short until Duke became a leader of the group.

And he became pretty good at the job … for being untrained. Eventually, they would run into REAL Robins and the group, “We Are Robin” got a close-up look at just what Batman trained Robins can do in the field. Soon after, Duke was the only one to become Batman’s newest prodigy … but not as Robin but as The Signal!

Photon/Pulsar/Spectrum/Captain Marvel aka Monica Rambeau

Let me ask … what makes Magento cool? Well, for starters, he’s a villain but the other … is due to the fact that he is the master of magnetism. An ability that has allowed him to do nigh on impossible things. However, magnetism is part of the electromagnetic spectrum or a part of Light. Photon has complete mastery of the electromagnetic spectrum over light itself hence why she has the name Photon; recently, the name Pulsar (I believe).

She became an Avenger thanks to Spider-man who introduced her to them for training. Eventually, she went from Padawan to Jedi Master, but sadly had to leave due to injuries.

Monica Rambeau is a cool, strong female character who was not only just an Avenger, but a leader. Monica has popped up in various team books recently, such as NextWave and the Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel book: Band of Sisters but deserves her own book.. and maybe an animated movie.

Bulletproof / Invincible 2 (Zandale Randolph)

Bulletproof is one of the many interesting heroes created in the incredible series, Invincible! In issue 97 he explains how he got his powers and why he does what he does. In the same issue, he and his fiancée commit parenticide.
The guy who created Bulletproof also created the Walking Dead and Seth Rogen is going to try and make a movie out of Invincible. The comics are all interconnected, so if they stay true to the original story, Bulletproof could (and should) show up.
Robert Kirkman is an amazing world builder and thanks to Seth Rogen people will finally learn about this great yet obviously flawed-character who’s entire thing is “I’m going to be better tomorrow “; from being a lush to a bona-fida super hero.

Nova Family

The Nova Corps is Marvel’s equivalent of the Green Lantern Corps; they are space cops! In one particular story, the Earth (alternate reality) has been destroyed and Thanos is looking for the missing infinity gem/stone and it’s up to this family of Novas to stop him.

The mother comes back from space and basically makes her whole family honorary Novas including the dog. I don’t want to say any more about this story, but the art is great, the interactions between the family members are believable and even though their world has been destroyed, the characters still expresses a sense of hope for a better tomorrow. I highly recommend “Infinity Gauntlet: Warzones”!

Jack-in-the-Box (Various)

Spider-Man is my favorite hero from the Marvel universe. Ted Kord the Blue Beetle is my favorite hero from the DC universe. Spider-man and Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) are Steve Ditko type heroes and Jack-in-the-Box in that same vein.

Like the Blue Beetle, Jack in the Box is a legacy type hero.  First one was a toymaker whose toys were being weaponized and then the second one was the first’s son who got into the superhero business to avenge his father’s death.

Yeah, the costume looks villainous … almost like “The Joker” but he’s rather an anti-Joker. He has no powers. Just him and his suit that he built, son improved on …that gives him his unique abilities.

Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)

No Ms. Marvel isn’t an African-American but she is Marvel’s newest star. Back in the 60s, Marvel created the first black character and they made history again by creating the first Muslim Superhero in 2013.  While the character is only 5 years old. she became an Avenger for a while. Before long, due to ideological differences, she left to form her own team called “The Champions.” After agonizing who should be the official leader: between her, teenage Cyclops and teenage Hulk, The Champions finally agreed that she should be the voice of the team for not only her idealism but her vision for how the team should be run and because of her quick-thinking during supervillain fights.
Her book won at the Hugo Awards in 2015. I urge you to read her graphic novel to see why this character is so awesome.

Moon Girl (Lunella Lafayette)

Who is the smartest person in the Marvel Universe? Well, you could say Reed Richards and that would be mostly correct. The Marvel Universe is filled with very intelligent super heroes like Peter Parker, T’Challa, Tony Stark and Dr. Banner. But, just recently this little 8-year-old (now 9) girl has been named the smartest person in the Marvel Universe.

She has no big superpower except for one … her mind- and yes, I guess that sounds hokey.  But remember she’s 8 and she’s hasn’t gone to graduate school, yet alone college. She’s just a smart kid who loves science and trying hard to get into the Future Foundation (A STEM school run by the Fantastic Four to help people through science innovations)

More importantly, Moon Girl says to kids and African Americans in general that being smart does make you special. It gives you power and that eventually your special talents will be recognized if you just continue to be the best you, you can be.

Characters like Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl is exactly what comics needs the most now. Just like Spider-Man and the X-Men spoke to the youth of the 60s; in the 2010s and beyond we need a new younger generation of heroes to speak to a new generation of cartoon and comic book fans and Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl is it.

I’m proud Marvel is still continuing to push things forward by not only coming up with diverse characters but making them interesting too, so people will want to read their stories.