Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Jackie Robinson of Super-Heroes by Dave Goode

Born at the tail-end of the baby boom,just when the Silver Age was beginning I loved the comic books of that era. But there was one thing that I found a bit disturbing about that period. The lack of "heroes with a face like mine". Consider that the civil rights movement was getting a major push at the same time the Silver Age was beginning it seemed strange that the first black super-hero from a major comic book company wouldn't appear until 1966 with the appearance of the Black Panther in Fantastic Four 52 and 53 from Marvel Comics.

To be sure there had been black characters featured in comics since the Golden Age. But the less said about them the better. They were a reflection of their times. Mimicking the negative stereotypes that were found in the movies. It was during the Silver Age that you began to see black characters that were positive role models for young black comic book readers. And that taught young white comic book readers to reject the old stereotypes.

In Fantastic Four No.52 we got the first black super-hero to appear in a mainstream comic book...T'Challa, the Black Panther. The only thing that you can compare it to was when Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's "color barrier in 1947. In 1947 no matter what baseball team you rooted for if you were black the Brooklyn Dodgers automatically became your second favorite team. Captain America was my favorite super-hero.But the Black Panther immediately became my second favorite super-hero.

T'Challa was the king of a scientifically advanced fictional African nation. He was a super-athlete able to fight the Fantastic Four,at least for a brief time,to a standstill. He was intelligent,articulate and you could easily imagine him played by Sidney Poitier in a movie. The Black Panther was soon followed in by a super-hero I could even more readily identify with...Sam Wilson,the Falcon. Wilson would be the first African-American costumed hero from a mainstream comic book publisher. He would also become the partner of my favorite super-hero Captain America.

The other day I was watching THE SINS OF RACHEL CADE (1961) starring AngieDickinson and Roger Moore. The movie is set in Africa and features Woody Strode and Rafer Johnson in supporting roles. Watching the two athletes turned actors set me to imagining them in a 1966 Black Panther movie with Johnson as T'Challa and Strode portraying his father T'Chaka.

1 comment:

  1. Jackie Robinson was in fact the subject of a comic book.As was heavyweight champion Joe Louis.