Black superheroism today

Unfortunately, many of the same issues that plagued black superheroes of the past still plague them today. While Black Panther is racking up tons of money at the box office, its success only puts in stark relief how lacking Hollywood has been when it comes to telling superhero stories.

Quartz’s Preeti Varathan detailed a recent study the showed just how one-sided entertainment still is. In the study, created by the University of Southern California using research gathered between 2007 and 2015, “found that 32,205 characters, just a quarter were non-white. The lack of representation is even more stark behind the camera: Just 5.5% of the directors were black, for example.”

Similar distortions have been in the comic book industry as well. But thankfully, comic book storytellers are realizing that anyone can identify with any superhero, as long as their story is entertaining and authentic. Thanks to McDuffie, there are a slew of black comic book superheroes fans of all races love, such as the iconic Static Shock. Marvel has gone back to the well to reinvent the Devil Dinosaur comics with Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, positing a young African-American girl as the smartest person in the entire Marvel pantheon. Spider-Man has now been updated from Peter Parker to Afro-Latino teenager Miles Morales.

And, despite their beginnings, Luke Cage and Black Lightning are now staunch heroes, providing much-needed commentary on police brutality, gang violence, lack of apathy among law enforcement and the government, racism, and other ills that affect black Americans as a whole. However, they’re also getting their message out to those beyond the black community as well; their powerful characterizations and messages strike deep in the hearts of anyone watching, no matter their skin color.

Like their original iterations, they are still superheroes charged with looking after their own out of necessity. Black Lightning and Luke Cage aren’t getting the outside help they deserve from the police or other superheroes. An executive decision was made for Black Lightning to not be a part of the CW’s Arrowverse, which encompasses Supergirl and The Flash and, of course, Arrow. Online, many initially decried it as a type of discrimination, asserting that it seemed like the Arrowverse was negating the importance of Black Lightning’s cause over the more trivial (in comparison) fights Supergirl, The Flash and Green Arrow are involved in.

Despite the real reasons behind the separation, it does seem like, unintentionally or not, the segregation of the black superhero continues.

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