In Black America Podcast: African Americans In Comic Books
On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Professor William H. Foster III a long-time comic book collector and researcher. Do the names Steel, Lion Man or The Black Panther sound familiar? Unless you’re a comic book aficionado then they probably don’t. Although not as popular as Superman or as profitable as Spiderman, for decades black superheroes have existed in the fictional world of comic books, pushing the boundaries of creative expression and doing their part to erase the stereotypical views of African-Americans. While their names may not register with mainstream America, and their stories aren’t blockbuster hits, black superheroes are part of a unique and ongoing history.
While the first comic book, “The Funnies,” debuted in 1929, the first black comic, “All-Negro Comics No. 1,” was created in 1947. The comic, which only released one issue, was published by news reporter Orrin Evans and was the first comic to be entirely written, illustrated and published by African-Americans. Shortly after the comic book was released, Evans wrote in a newspaper article that each story was meant to honor underrated black achievements. The comic featured several short stories, including the introduction of Lion Man, a young, black scientist sent by the United Nations to oversee a uranium drop on the African Gold Coast. While Lion Man didn’t have any extraordinary abilities, he is considered by many to be the first black hero.
Created in 1966 by Marvel Comics and illustrated by Billy Graham, a prominent black comic-book artist, The Black Panther was the first true black superhero, Natal said. The Black Panther debuted in the “Fantastic Four” issue No. 52 and was king of an intellectual African nation and had traditional superhero powers, including super strength and agility. His name was later shortened to “Panther” to avoid being associated with the Black Panther Party.