Sunday, February 28, 2016

Black Superheroes: Silhouette

Short hair, don't care
Name: Silhouette Chord

First Appearance: New Warriors (vol. 1) #2 (1990)

History: Silhouette Chord, along with her twin brother Aaron, is the result of a decades long scheme to create a new breed of enhanced humans. Their father Andrew Chord, during the Vietnam War, was part of a unit of soldiers who came across a mysterious temple while in Cambodia. Tai, the mysterious matron of the temple, offered each of the men a woman to marry with the promise that the offspring would one day rule the word. Chord married Tai’s daughter Miyami, leading to the birth of the twins. Miyami, not wanting her children to be part of the scheme, faked their deaths leaving both Andrew and Tai in the dark. Years later Sihouette and Aaron have become vigilantes in New York. During this period they meet another young vigilante named Dwayne Taylor (later known as Night Thrasher) and the three became a team. Things ended poorly when Silhouette was shot and crippled by the police in a bust gone wrong. Losing the use of her legs did not stop her crime fighting career, however. Armed with the ability to melt into shadows and teleport short distances, not to mention her enhanced physical traits, Silhouette is still a force to be reckoned with. She also uses high tech crutches and leg braces, designed by Dwayne and built for combat, that carry an assortment of gadgets and weapon that aide her in battle against crime.

Beta Says: She’s basically a female Nightcrawler, as far as superpowers go. They even work basically the same way; they both teleport by briefly jumping through another dimension before landing where they intended. Nightcrawler could also sort of blend into the shadows. Is it coincidence that she was co-created by Fabian Nicieza, a writer famous for writing the X-Men quite a bit during the 90s? (Well, I don’t think he worked on Nightcrawler that much so…maybe?). On the other hand Sil gets these powers from a cult’s generations of selective breeding and manipulation of a mystical force called the “Well of All Things” which is more confusing than Kurt Wanger’s parental origin (though only just barely).

 More on this New Warrior after the jump.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Black Superheroes: Steel

John Henry was a man just six feet high,
Nearly two feet and a half across his breast
Name: John Henry Irons (…for real) 

First Appearance: The Adventures of Superman #500 (1993)

 History: A brilliant engineer and weapons designer, Doctor John Henry Irons (…sigh) diligently worked for AmerTek until he discovered weapons he created were being used to kill innocent people. Faking his death in order to escape his employers without facing blow back he relocated to Metropolis, living as a construction worker. One day while on the job he saved a co-worker from falling to his death in an accident, only to himself nearly die in the attempt. Irons was rescued by Superman who told him to live a life worth living. Later during the battle between Superman and Doomsday Irons was left buried in ruble. By the time he escaped he learned that the man he looked up to so much had died saving the city. Soon after this John discovered that upgraded versions of his weapon designs from AmerTek had made it onto the streets and become the focal point of a gang war. Hoping to right his past wrongs, as well as honor Superman, Irons created a high tech piece of battle armor and took to the skies as The Man of Steel to act as the new protector of Metropolis.

When Superman returned to life he endorsed Irons and encouraged him to continue his heroic career, but suggested he take a name that was less of a mouthful: Steel.

Beta Says: Seriously, his name is “John Henry Irons.” Honestly I can’t tell if this is racist or not. Naming your cool new, hammer wielding black character after that specific folk hero is absolutely intentional and absolutely weird as hell. Maybe if this had been 1973 or 1966 I’d be less bugged by this but one would assume by 1993 people writing comics would have understood how problematic naming a black character that could potentially be. I feel like calling him “John Henry” is only one step above creating a comic book superhero named Br’er Rabbit with a straight face. 

Bring me back a TWELVE-pound hammer, please,
And I'll beat that steam drill down, Lord, Lord
I bet who ever came up with that name really patted themselves on the back for that one.

“Guys, get this? What if his real name was John Henry? Maybe give him a last name that invokes metal. We can’t call him 'John Henry Steel', that’d be silly. What’s another alloy…? Iron! John Henry Irons! Holy cow, guys! We just made certified gold! This guy will be a top hero for decades to come!”

More about this modern day black folk hero after the jump.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Black Superheroes: Bishop

Can you guess which decade Bishop was created in?
Name: Lucas Bishop

 First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #282 (1991)

History: About 80 years in the future anti-mutant hysteria has advanced to the point that mutants are captured and forced to live in concentration camps. As a child Lucas Bishop grew in such a camp, being looked after by his adoptive grandmother as well a mysterious figure named LeBeau, also known as “the Witness” due to the fact he was the last person to see the legendary X-Men alive. Once mutants were emancipated Bishop eventually joined the Xavier's Security Enforcers, or the XSE, a sort of mutant police force. On a mission to apprehend the time traveling mutant criminal Trevor Fitzroy Bishop winds up stuck in present time alongside the legendary X-Men. Professor X offers him a place on the team and Lucas readily accepts. However Bishop recognize one of the team, newcomer Gambit, as a younger version of the Witness leading him to believe that the Cajun mutant survives the eventual death of the X-Men by being the traitor that destroys the team.

Years later it turned out that Professor X was the traitor. Because of course it would be.

Beta Says: When I was a kid during the 1990s I was a really into Bishop. In retrospect I think the sole reason I was such a fan was because he was, aside from Storm, the only black member of the X-Men. Looking back there aren’t a lot of X-Men that I thought looked like me when I was a kid so I was likely drawn to this big, heavily muscled, gun toting dude despite he not really having any of the traits I usually went for in characters back then. Regardless Bishop is a character that Marvel, at least at some point, seemed pretty invested in the guy. He’s had a few ongoing titles and miniseries, none of which paid off. There’s probably several reasons comic fans as a whole never really bought the whole “Bishop is Awesome” train that Marvel was selling, but I’d argue it’s just as well because the guy is pretty goddamn dull. Then Marvel turned him into a super villain. Because…reasons.

Also, can we acknowledge Bishop probably sported a Jheri curl for the first few years of his existence?
I think  we just found the reason for Bishop's dark future
More on the time traveling, gun wielding, baby killing Bishop after the jump.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Black Superheroes Month V: Back and Black

Mister Terrific without a leather jacket is not so terrific
After a year absence I think it’s time to bring back my annual (coughcough) celebration of Black Superheroes. For those of you who may be new here (or possibly just forgot since it’s been two years) every year I try to write up a few blogs showcasing various black superheroes in comic books. The common thought process on this subject is that there are hardly any black superheroes. The fact is that there’s actually quite a few but the majority of them are not very well known…and also a lot of them are terrible or racist or extremely dull. I feel pretty confident that no one is dying for a Triathlon solo movie.

Whether they’re an A-lister like Black Panther or Storm or underrated, underused second stringers like XS or Bronze Tiger it’s still always fun to talk about these characters and remind everyone of the importance of diversity.

I look forward to all the racist comments that I’m opening myself up to by doing this.

My next blog will tackle this year’s first entry but since by this point I’ve written quite a few profiles I thought it would be handy to make up a quick master list so you don’t have to dig through the archives to so the heroes we’ve looked at thus far. Take in mind that I haven’t updated anything over the years so some of these profiles massively out of date.

Black Panther – The best black superhero ever created. 

Bronze Tiger – An insanely proficient martial arts master. 

Storm – Sometime leader of the X-Men and Marvel Comics’ highest profile black character. 

Black Lightning – Electric powered protector of the Suicide Slum.

War Machine – Pilot of the “Variable Threat Response Battle Suit" armor. 

Vixen – Super model turned super hero, with the powers of the entire animal kingdom.

Luke Cage – Street level Hero for Hire and Avenger, armed with unbreakable skin. 

Thunder – Density controlling daughter of Black Lightning.

Mister Terrific II – Brilliant scientist turned adventurer, and one of my personal favorite characters.

Spawn – Demonic hero and the most popular superhero of the 1990s/The Dark Age of Comics

Static – Teen hero powered by electricity and the most high profile character from Milestone Comics

Misty Knight – An ex-cop turned private investigator with a badass robot arm and a great hair cut.

Cyborg – Former Teen Titan, now currently enjoying top tier status at DC Comics.

Monica Rambeau – Former Captain Marvel, former leader of Nextwave, lies all the time.

Green Lantern IVJohn Stewart, member of the Green Lantern Corps. 

The Falcon – A hero with the power of flight. Also an ex-pimp, because the world is terrible. 

Night Thrasher – Leader of the New Warriors and skateboard enthusiast 

Amanda Waller – Ruthless, no-nonsense government administrator. More of a villain than a hero, really. 

Triathlon/3D-Man II – A hero with three times the physical prowess of a normal man. 

XS – Speedster from the future and granddaughter of Barry Allen/The Flash. 

Rage – Super strong thirteen year old trapped in a man’s body. 

Bumblebee – Brilliant inventor and former member of the Teen Titans.  

Next time we start things off with a gun wielding mutant from the future. No, not Cable; the other gun wielding mutant from the future.
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