Seeing Myself In Comics
I have always been a fan of superheroes and their exploits. Growing up I loved Spider-Man, Batman, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Captain America, The Punisher, and The Incredible Hulk, among other heroes. I didn’t read many comics as kid even though I had a collection and my father also had his collection. I would look at pictures but never took the time to really read them as I go older. This is why I didn’t see myself really represented in comics because I was not really looking to comics for representation. Where I did see some representation was in television and movies.
While I wasn’t reading may comics as a kid I was devouring all other forms of superhero content shown in media. Whether it was video games, television, or movies, if it had a superhero, I was all over it. What comes to mind first when I think of seeing myself represented in comic book related media, would probably be the Justice League cartoon. That cartoon introduced me to the Green Lantern named John Stewart. John Stewart also happened to be a Black man. I naturally gravitated towards John as a young Black boy. Even though we were different as far as temperament, with John being more gruff and serious, and myself being laid back and goofy, I still loved seeing a superhero that was a proud Black man. This was a man that was on a team with a Kryptonian and a literal Amazon, and he still refused to take crap from anyone. Thanks to the Justice League cartoon, a whole generation of children along with myself grew up thinking a Black man was the one and true Green Lantern.
When I wasn’t watching my favorite superheroes on TV, I was hoping and wishing for to see super heroics on the big screen. While we are now in the midst of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s incredible run of box office hits, when I was a kid, I was anxiously waiting to see any superhero movie. Then, in 1998, Blade opens in theaters and everything changes. Not only was Blade a badass vampire hunter, he was unapologetically Black. Going to see Blade as a kid, I had no clue he was a Marvel creation, but I was wowed by the stylistic action and the unique take on vampire and superhero mythos. At the time I did not know I was watching history in the making as a Black-led superhero movie was a box office hit, eventually giving Marvel the idea of opening their own studio to create their own cinematic interpretations of their characters. All I could think of at the time was “wow this Black man is kicking vampire ass and looking cool as hell while doing it”.
Television, video games, and movies were the main source of my comic book-related content when I was growing up. Television was where I really saw someone that looked like me represented as a superhero in the Green Lantern, John Stewart. Blade was my first instance of seeing a Black male represented on the big screen as a superhero, while setting the stage for what would be the creation of Marvel Studios and the MCU. While these instances are fun to discuss, it should be noted that some representation is not enough representation. Even though the record shattering and history making Black Panther proved an all-Black cast in a superhero movie is bankable, that is still not enough. Until Black People being seen as heroes is the exception, and not the rule, it will never be enough.