As a life-long comic book collector, I have learned that comic book characters are easier to follow if a reader can relate to issues in the character’s life. While the comic book industry missed the boat for many years with the black community, it finally did begin to turn in the mid-1970s.
While the comic book industry is still dominated by predominately Caucasian characters, there are ever-growing numbers of popular, and powerful, black comic book characters. This list is intended to point out the most popular and powerful black comic book characters that the comic book industry has introduced over the year. By no means is this list a complete list of all of the predominant black comic book characters, only the most popular.
Disclaimer: This article does not include the temporary taking-over of a persona by a black comic book character. The instances in which other people took on the persona of Iron Man, Batman, Captain America, and Wonder Woman are not listed. Also, this list is not created in any particular order.
Luke Cage / Power Man
Luke Cage was originally created in 1972 by Archie Goodwin and John Romita Sr. He was the first black comic book character to have his own mainstream comic book series. His superhuman strength, durability, stamina, and healing powers put him on the list of most popular and powerful black comic book characters.
The former leader of the X-Men first graced the pages of comic books in the first issue of the, Giant Sized X-Men in 1975 and was created by Len Wein and David Cockrum. Her ability to control the weather (and the fact that she was played by Halle Berry) makes her a shoo-in for the list of most popular and powerful black comic book characters.
In 1979, David Michelinie and Bob Layton introduced the world to James Rhodes who would come to be a counterpart to Tony Stark’s Iron Man as War Machine. War Machine has gained almost as large a following as many of the bigger-named comic book heroes over the years. This list of most popular and powerful black comic book characters would be remised without him.
Green Lantern – John Stewart
John Stewart was a relatively unknown character in the DC Universe until the cartoon Justice League Unlimited hit the small screen. He was originally introduced back in 1971 by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams. With all of the powers of the Green Lantern, and his subsequent following over the last decade, he has to be listed as one of the most popular and powerful black comic book characters. Sadly, he is the only one on this list from DC Comics (catch up to the times guys).
Captain Marvel / Pulsar
It does not matter if you call her Monica Rambeau, Captain Marvel, or Pulsar, she still deserves to be on the list of most popular and powerful black comic book characters. Seen first in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, the character created by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr. quickly became one of the most popular characters that Marvel Comics had in the 1980s. Her power to control and transform pure energy makes her hated by some of the most powerful super villains.
Image Comics and Todd McFarlane hit a homerun when they introduced Al Simmons as Spawn in 1992. The demonic powers of Spawn might make him the most powerful character on this list. Spawn is also, without argument, is the most popular character of any non Marvel or DC comic book. It only makes sense to have him on the list of most popular and powerful black comic book characters.
Deathlok was created by Rich Bukler (who incidently grew up very close to my home) and Doug Moench and introduced in 1974. While many characters have taken the persona of Deathlok over the years, this black cyborg is always one of the more powerful comic book characters around.
Ok, some might argue with me about putting Deathlok on the list of most popular and powerful black comic book characters. The original Deathlok, though, was born and raised in the comic book version of Detroit. As a native Detroiter I can tell you that if a character comes from Detroit, he must be powerful.
Second only to Spawn in terms of being the most popular and powerful black comic book character, the Black Panther’s repertoire includes peak human strength, durability, healing powers, and speed. You also can’t forget about the acute senses of an animal that he was given by his creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966. Comic book fans have been begging for a movie of the Black Panther for years.
As stated before, there are tons of other characters that could have made the list of the most popular and most powerful black comic book characters of all time. To save space, I had to take the liberties and cut the list down to this size. Keep your eye out for these characters, and keep begging for more characters that you can relate to.
Marvel Comics Database
DC Comics Database