Black Panther is set a million different records for not just the Marvel Cinematic Universe but movies in general. That’s inarguable proof that the increasingly diverse world is thirsty for representation in media, and for good reason – everybody deserves a superhero that looks like them, no matter their race, creed or color. Hollywood does nothing quite as well as follow the money, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see some other dark-skinned heroes make the leap to the silver screen pretty soon.
Here are our picks for eleven heroes of African descent that could anchor their own flicks.
The original Golden Age Mr. Terrific was a fairly generic (and White) hero notable mostly for the absurd “FAIR PLAY” emblazoned on his long underwear. DC is all about the legacies, though, so when they introduced Michael Holt, the modern Mr. Terrific, in 1997 they mixed things up a bit. A multi-millionaire and Olympic decathlete, Holt has always been able to learn things easily. That aptitude makes him a hell of a crimefighter, as he speaks multiple languages, has mastery of six different martial arts and totes around some sweet weaponry including his floating “T-Spheres.” Mr. T is like a Batman for the Black community, and although he’s shown up on Arrow, we bet he could handle a movie.
Created by Jim Valentino for the then-new Image line, Shadowhawk always kind of seemed like a second-place finisher to Spawn, the company’s other major Black hero. But Shadowhawk has some interesting nuances that we’d like to see on film. Paul Johnstone was born in Harlem and became a New York district attorney. In a very 90s turn of events, he was attacked by some thugs he put away and injected with AIDS blood. Now despairing of ever having a normal life, Johnstone donned an armored exoskeleton and took it to the streets to violently dispatch crooks by breaking their spines.
The creation of Brother Voodoo in the 70s was part of Marvel’s sometimes ill-advised outreach to minority communities, and when he first showed up he was a little cliche. Over the decades, though, writers have rehabilitated Jericho Drumm into one of the universe’s most fascinating mystics. Jericho Drumm is a master of a different school of mystic arts than Dr. Strange, calling on Loa and other spirits to help him on his journey through the underworld accompanied by the ghost of his brother Daniel. It’d be cool to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe look at this side of the magical coin.
It’s funny how both of the major American comic book companies have Black characters who have had a bunch of their bodies replaced by metal parts. Deathlok has things a little bit rougher than Cyborg, though, as he had to die first. Luther Manning was an American soldier killed in action and reanimated in the far future as Deathlok, a murderous man-machine who battles evil corporations and werewolves and stuff. A Deathlok film was actually optioned and made it to the script stage in the 1990s after the success of Blade, but obviously, it never got any farther than that.
Samuel L. Jackson has played the super-spy head of S.H.I.E.L.D. in numerous Marvel movies, but what we’d really like to see is a flashback flick featuring some of his adventures in his prime. Think how Wonder Woman used World War I as a brilliant backdrop for high adventure, and then move us to the Cold War and the height of the fight against the Commies. There are tons of great stories to be mined from the classic Steranko era, and it’d do some of the heavy lifting in putting Marvel’s vast history into context.
Yes, the Batman movies have sort of taken a nosedive since Christopher Nolan finished his trilogy. But there’s still hope to be had, and one place we’d love them to take inspiration from is Batman Incorporated, Grant Morrison’s transformation of the franchise into a global group of vigilantes, each with their own spin on the mythos. David Zavimbe was a Congolese police officer who had a troubled upbringing as a child soldier before meeting Bruce Wayne and getting kitted out with a sweet-ass suit. Setting a flick in a real African country would give gravitas and weight to any superhero tale.
Monica Rambeau is one of Marvel’s most accomplished Black superheroines, going through multiple names from Captain Marvel to Photon, Pulsar and finally Spectrum. She’s one of the few characters on this list capable of operating on the cosmic level, boasting the ability to transform her body into any form of energy. Her career has seen her leading the Avengers, being a member of Nextwave and the universe-saving Ultimates. She’s a confident, intelligent woman with a super cool power set and it’s almost criminal that the Avengers are about to face off with Thanos without her.
Cloak (& Dagger)
Yes, we know that Freeform (the former ABC Family) is debuting a Cloak & Dagger TV series this year, but we have to agitate for the duo on the big screen as well. Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen were teenage runaways shot up with an experimental drug. Instead of killing them like it did everybody else, it granted the duo strange powers that kept them in a state of symbiosis, with Tyrone’s all-enfolding black cloak only kept at bay by Tandy’s daggers of light. It’s a fascinating relationship study that also lends itself to really cool visual effects, both in the comics and on the screen.
The Captain America origin story is one of Marvel’s best-known: a scrawny recruit gets shot up with a serum that transforms him into a flag-clad super soldier. But no scientific breakthrough like that gets tested on a white guy first, and in 2003’sTruth: Red, White & Blackwe learn that the U.S. government used 300 African-American enlistees as a test base. Five of them survived, including Bradley, who was granted superhuman strength and durability and becomes a legend in his community for his fight against the Nazis. It’d be a cool spin on one of the fictional universe’s most enduring myths.
The Milestone Comics imprint was DC’s progressive move of getting a group of African-American writers and artists together and letting them launch a completely new universe from the ground up. Quite a few cool characters came out of it, but one we’d really like to see in the movies is Hardware. Curt Metcalf was a child prodigy turned genius inventor who came to realize that Edwin Alva, his lifelong benefactor, was up to his ears in bad business. As the vigilante Hardware, Metcalf set out to take Alva down from within, wearing a high-tech suit of armor with tons of interesting capabilities.
Logan proved that not only can X-Men solo movies work; they can plumb depths of the characters that the overstuffed team outings can’t. Ororo Munroe has one of the most compelling backstories of any of Marvel’s mutants – born into Kenyan royalty, orphaned in the Middle East and trained as a street thief in Cairo before discovering her weather-controlling abilities, she’s got plenty of pathos to plumb. Halle Berry ably played the character in several films, but she never really got much in the way of development aside from zapping Toad that one time. We’d love to see a flick that really treated her as the complex character she is.
Marvel’s recent push to diversify their reader base beyond stereotypical Comic Book Guys has led to some big successes like the new Ms. Marvel and Lunella Lafayette, better known as Moon Girl. Just your average nine-year-old super-genius, Lunella teams up with giant red T-rex Devil Dinosaur on adventures through time and space. When the Marvel Cinematic Universe starts moving on from legacy heroes as actors age out of the roles, they’re going to have to tap the younger members of the bullpen to step in. Lunella has that crossover appeal that could grab both tweens and grown-ups if they go all out with the cosmic craziness.