Thursday, February 21, 2013

Black Superheroes: Misty Knight

Since I'm starting this segment so damn late this year I'm forgoing an Intro post and going straight into the first profile.

Foxy Brown, but with a robotic arm? OK, I'm in
Name: Mercedes Knight

First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #20 (1975)

History: Known for being particularly tough Misty Knight was a New York City cop until she seriously hurt her arm during a terrorist bombing, resulting in its amputation. While Tony Stark provided her with a technologically advanced prosthetic she was still faced with having to take a desk job. She quit the force in response. Having some experience with superheroes, including chance meetings with Spider-Man and Iron Fist and rooming with Jean Grey, she found herself in the super criminal foiling game more than once. She formed a private investigation agency with Colleen Wing, a martial artist whom Misty had previously recused, called Nightwing Restorations Ltd but are often informally known as the Daughters of the Dragon. As a top level martial artist, an expert at firearms, a highly skilled detective and possessing a bionic arm with a variety of functions (including granting her super strength and the ability to liquefy all known metals at close range) Misty Knight is one of the most dangerous people on Earth.

Beta Says: Like some characters I’ve talked about in the past Misty Knight is a direct result of the Blaxploitation and Kung Fu craze of the 70s. In fact she’s kind of Luke Cage’s female counterpart. I think the reason I like her more than Cage is that Knight never seemed to be portrayed as a criminal or a former criminal, which seems to be the preferred background for black characters for some reason. She was a cop; a good role model for young kids reading the book. It means a lot to me that she wasn’t a reformed prostitute or anything like that. You know, unless someone at Marvel decides to retcon her origin to say the Cosmic Cube made her forget she used to be a hooker (coughcoughfalconcough).

More on Misty after the jump.

Monitors usually mean importance
Misty Knight was created by Tony Isabella and Arvell Jones. Isabella, if you recall, worked on several big name black heroes during the 70s including creating Black Lightning. I’d say that Misty is actually more like Marvel’s equivalent of Bronze Tiger in that they are both the product of the same craze but end up being super awesome on paper. Unlike Bronze Tiger Marvel seemed more interested in giving Knight various chances to succeed. Aside from being a regular supporting character in a few books she has been given starring roles in the past, including being a part of, and leading, the superhero team version of Heroes for Hire (as opposed to the two-man team up original version) and a fairly important part in the Civil War crossover. But sadly none of these attempts have worked too much.

Unfortunately I’m not nearly as familiar with Misty as I was for Luke Cage so it’s a bit difficult for me to know whether she was as big a caricature as he tended to be. If she was I could see how she had trouble connecting to the average comic book fan. And, while I’m personally a pretty big fan of sexy afros, I’m not sure her decidedly 70s looks have done her great favors. Still you can’t argue with the basics: she’s a master detective which in a superhero universe puts her in the upper tier of intellect and usefulness, she’s a master martial artist and apparently a master of several types of firearms, and has a robotic arm that could literally melt Wolverine’s skeleton. She’s a badass and could probably go toe to toe with most non-cosmic level beings in the Marvel universe. Hell, she fought her boyfriend Iron Fist to a draw and he’s probably one of the three top fighters in the world.

She can pretty much do this to about 85% of the Avengers
Despite the fact that’s basically been around since the 70s and has gotten a lot more attention from creators the last ten years or so the fact is that Misty is pretty below the radar of the casual comic book fan (and practically non-existent in pop culture). Which is weird because you’d think that she, and not Storm, would be the poster child for Female African America Superheroes but that’s not really case. If I were to make a guess I’d say it’s the sore lack of appearances in other media. As far as I can tell her sole outside of comic appearance was in the Superhero Squad cartoon (which I don’t watch because even I have a limit to the amount of fart jokes that get thrown at me). Now where she would fit in is another question but it seems like she has all of the tools to be a decently marketable character, including creators who want to use her. With an influx of new Jeph Loeb approved cartoons coming to Disney XD some appearances from one half of the Daughters of the Dragon might be the push she needs. 

Still she actually stars in a brand new team book called The Fearless Defenders, which has been pretty well received critically, so obviously things are going her way. Being one of the very few black ladies in superhero comics that is obviously incredibly awesome. 

So, um, this doesn't seem particularly politically correct
Next time we'll take a look at a guy who's spent most of his time as "B-List" at best but who suddenly finds himself pressed against a cracking glass ceiling. However for more on Misty Knight click here.

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