The Black heroes are coming, y’all… I SAID THE BLACK HEROES ARE A’COMIN!
Right now, some would feel that American society is under attack. The heroes they would normally turn to have been compromised, captured, and in some cases, systematically destroyed as their way of life is going through a fundamental shift. To those feeling this pressure, I would like to say one thing:
Get over it.
In the past couple of weeks, amidst the heart-breaking tragedies, amidst the ongoing home-grown terrorism that people of color, women and other communities that are not Cis-gendered, White men have been subjected to, amidst the blustering of would-be demagogues and the corruption of elected officials who would rather save their own skin than bring the gross abuse of injustice to light, something else has happened:
Diversity has come to heroism.
I’m going to concentrate on what has happened, what has been revealed on the television, digital and widescreens. I am going to celebrate what is already here and what is to come…
And yes, I’m going to give the Corporate Two their props.
First off, let’s talk briefly about Creed. Let’s talk about a little film that at once is an amazing addition to a beloved film mythology, yet can stand on its own while creating a completely new franchise. Let us praise Ryan Coogler’s vision of a Black hero, Adonis Johnson (Creed) the son of fallen hero Apollo Creed once rival then mentor then brother-in-arms to the lovable underdog Rocky Balboa. Let us praise Michael B. Jordan’s performance of a young man saved by Creed’s wife, had a good job, but gave it all up to pursue his passion, his father’s passion, for boxing. Let us celebrate the portrayal of a determined young man finding his way, forming his family and taking control of his own destiny.
Second, let us give thanks to the appearance of Luke Cage in Marvel’s Netflix series Jessica Jones. Let us take note of how a character that once epitomized the stereotype of the hyper sexualized angry Black male became an emotional center of perhaps the most mature depiction of superheroics on the screen. Mike Colter’s portrayal of the future Hero for Hire showed a true depth of strength, honor and heart. From the casual use of his super strength to his almost casual boredom when an assailant tried to pierce his unbreakable skin to his interaction with Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones in probably the most honest portrayal of interracial relationships even seen on film, his Luke Cage may have had steel-hard skin, but his heart was all gold…
And, left viewers wanting more. With his series coming in 2016, we will probably see the Blackest, make that honestly Black, superhero series since the first Blade movie make it to the screen. Furthermore, we will see the first Black heroine, Daughter of the Dragon Misty Knight on camera as well…
And no, Halle Berry’s Storm does not count. As marginalized and as tepid as Ms. Berry’s performance was in those films, in addition to the fact that she never once captured the majesty of the Wind Rider, I cannot in good faith count that a strong representation of the Black heroine. The abysmal Catwoman only further validates my stance.
Speaking of cats…
I have to say, and I’m sure the majority of my fellow Nerds of Color will agree, that the absolute best elements of the upcoming Captain America: Civil War trailer was the inclusion of the King of Wakanda. Yes, we finally, finally, saw T’Challa, The Black Panther on the screen… For five seconds. But, damn, those were some of the best five seconds ever. Here he was, our hero, the Jackie Robinson of comics, being that hero. Dusting Captain America in pursuit, Capoeria-kicking the Winter Soldier clear across the screen, leading not following. About 20 seconds after the release, memes and gifs flooded my Facebook page featuring our hero (shoot, I made one myself).
Sorry, Falcon. No disrespect, War Machine. But, our hero has finally arrived and Marvel is about to get all of that Black Geek Money… Hell, Disney is about to get all that Black Geek Money (I ain’t forgot you, Finn).
I would remiss to ignore what DC has done to bring Black heroes and other heroes of diversity to the small screen week after week. If you truly pay attention to Arrow, what they have done on that show is create a team that is predominately female and people of color. Think about it, we have the Black Canary, Speedy and John Diggle finally in costume (though the helmet is still so problematic that some in my community have taken to call him “MagNegro”) fighting alongside the newly christened Green Arrow with Felicity as their information hub.
Over in the world of The Flash, we were introduced to the new half of the Firestorm matrix, a young Black man (though not Jason Rusch) and the Latina Hawkgirl. Both characters will be featured to the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series.
Finally, the fledgling Supergirl series gave us a real treat. In a fascinating bit of race-bending and character merging, the mysterious leader of the DEO Hank Henshaw (played by David Harewood) was revealed not to be the Cyborg Superman (which I expected), but instead J’onn J’onzz AKA the Martian Manhunter.
I call this an interesting case of race-bending, as J’onn himself is a shapeshifter. Before the Justice League cartoon series, J’onn J’onzz would transform into a white detective calling himself John Jones. However, in the cartoon, actor Carl Lumby, an African American, would voice J’onn. As a result, from the Smallville television show to now Supergirl, the human identity of J’onn J’onzz would be played by and African American first, by Phil Morris and now Mr. Harewood. With a simple choice of voice actor, the Martian Manhunter would now forever be associated with a true sense of what it is like to be a person on the fringes of what is considered normal society.
Mythology is crucial to the development of a society. We need heroes. This is a fact of life. Heroes reflect the best of us. They are the models of perfection that we aspire to achieve. The heroes that a society creates represent the dreams, the goals, and the psychology of that society…
Yes, American society is under attack. American mythology is under attack. In fact, I would go so far to say that the destruction is irreversible. Everything that you thought was true isn’t. The lie has been exposed. The Wiz is just Richard Pryor in a bathrobe and the Emperor has no clothes. What is this, this thing you thought to be a fundamental truth now ripped to shreds and thrown around like so much confetti into the air? What is this security blanket, Linus, that used to wrap you tight now shredded and discarded on the ground and trampled into the mud? The lie exposed is this:
The White man is the only model of heroism.
The Black heroes have come and there is nothing that you can do about it. We need them. America needs them. This is only the beginning…
Don’t be scared.