Wednesday, February 15, 2012

BHM 2012 Storm and Power Man

(dramatic narrator voice):
Last time on "Wednesday Comics," you may recall we discussed the first Black Super Heroes. we are going to talk about the first Black Super Heroine and the first African American Super Hero to get his own comic-book. Are you ready, True Believer!?!

Storm was created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum for GIANT SIZED X-MEN #1 (May, 1975). She is  a mutant who has control over the weather...basically a more down-to-Earth and pretty to look at "Thor". She had been designed originally by Dave Cockrum while he was working on DC's LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, but when he quit that book (and publisher) and went to Marvel, he brought the character that would turn into Storm with him.

Storm was an African princess named Ororo whose father was an American photo-journalist, so she is truly African-American.  

For years Storm stayed in the background, comic-book wise, while Wolverine and Nightcrawler got more creator love. Eventually, however, she took her rightful place as the leader of the X-Men. When the characters made their Hollywood debut, Halle Berry played her with paniche. She is now one of the most recognized comic-book heroine out there. In current continuity, the character is married to Black Panther. It seems only fitting that Marvel's first African super-heroes would marry, I guess.

By the time Storm had made her debut, however, there was already a new man on the block. LUKE CAGE, POWERMAN, and/or HERO FOR HIRE had made *his* debut in 1972. Created by Archie Goodwin and John Romita, Cage was in prison for something he hadn't done. In order to get paroled, he volunteered for an experiment that sounds chillingly like something White Supremicists really did in Alabama. But I digress. He gets enhanced super-strength and invulnerability and paroled. He then tries to be a super-hero slash private detective, taking money for his cases. This brought him into contact with THE DEFENDERS, another Marvel super-hero group and one of my favorite reads during the early-mid Seventies. The Defenders were a group of heroes who hung out because they *had* to; they didn't really like each other that much, but their sense of civic responsibility insisted they stay together to help fight alien invasions and other dire threats. While fighting the racist group Sons of The Serpent the group hired Power Man to help them, and he stayed around for several issues. It was a fun book. Eventually Power Man teamed up with martial artist Iron Fist (a Caucasian; don't get me started) and helmed the series POWER MAN AND IRON FIST for several years as "heroes for hire." He is now a member of the Avengers.

So far we have only been talking about Marvel. What, pray tell, was DC doing all this time? Well....not much, actually. DC had always been the more conservative company, and had only created ONE African-American hero by this point: "Mal," who didn't even have a super-hero codename. He also had no powers or fancy costume. He hung out with The Teen Titans (the Mod Squad of Super-Heroes?). Although Marv Wolfman and Len Wein had tried to create DC's first black super-hero, Jericho, in 1969, they were not allowed to and moved to Marvel in frustration (do you see a theme here yet?). So there wasn't much to  cheer about, really, until 1976. More about that next week.

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