I’ve had entirely too many conversations in the BNP virtual offices that start with “Hey, whatever happened to…?” And it’s usually concerning a Black character whose debut we could hardly wait for at one point. At a time when representation matters more than ever, and we’re a savvier audience than we’ve probably ever been, giving characters like these flowers while they’re here makes a difference in how we support them, so they don’t fall to the wayside. That’s what inspired this list of Black superhero characters that we haven’t heard from in a while.
This young mutant hero, able to wield large spikes from his body, debuted in the 2000 cartoon, X-Men: Evolution. Storm’s nephew, Evan Daniels, first discovered he was a mutant when his powers awakened at a basketball game. Not long after that, he was framed for theft by his rival/nemesis Quicksilver. After teaming up with Cyclops and Jean Grey to beat him, Storm convinced him to stay at the Xavier Institute and develop his powers as an X-Man. Spyke was a fun character that often incorporated skateboarding and improvisation into his combat strategies.
Eventually, his powers changed with his appearance to a point where he joined the Morlocks and became a champion for mutants with more appearance related mutations that were persecuted and shunned by humans. All in all, this was an interesting enough character that it’s a wonder he never translated over to more mainstream venues like movies or even representation in the comics. With the current status quo of the X-Men comics, it’s easy to imagine some truly great stories coming from Storm inviting her nephew to the mutant island of Krakoa.
At first glance, it’s a little hard to believe that we haven’t heard much from this character considering how much we saw of him once upon a time. Static was created in 1993 as part of what became known as “Dakotaverse” in Milestone Comics (published and distributed through DC Comics). Virgil Hawkins was an ordinary high school student that was exposed to chemicals while caught in the crossfire of a gang war and developed electromagnetic superpowers. Virgil’s hook was that he was a blerd that other blerds could relate to. He was proudly geeky, often found at his local comic shop and playing tabletop games.
In the animated series, where he saw the most fame, Static often devolved into a fanboy at the prospect of teaming up with other heroes he’d previously looked up to like Green Lantern John Stewart. This is a character who was really in the process of being fast tracked to the top tier superhero pantheon once DC began absorbing Milestone properties into its mainstream canon. He showed up in the Young Justice animated series and was slated to be a playable character in the Injustice video games. There were even talks of a live action series for the DC Universe streaming service. We should be anticipating Static’s second movie by now but instead we haven’t heard much from this character in the past ten years. So, what happened? We’ll get to that in this next pick….
Another product of Milestone Comics, Arnus is an alien traveler that crash landed in the American South during the early 1800s and took on the form of a black man while spending his days waiting on Earth technology to catch up with that of the ship that brought him. Now, in the present day, super strong and invulnerable Augustus Freeman IV watches over Dakota City as the hero Icon. There’s really no reason Icon couldn’t be fast-tracked as a black hero comparable to Superman with a franchise of content all to himself. This is exactly what’s needed when we talk about representation.
So, what gives? Well, the original creators of the Milestone line were getting their ducks in a row to reboot their creations when they got stalled by a lawsuit from the family of their late business partner and fellow creator Dwayne McDuffie over their inherited stake in the company. The suit went on for years and didn’t get settled until December of 2019, the terms of the settlement went unknown. So, although we haven’t seen much of these Milestone heroes, there’s still a chance of them resurfacing because it’s a great time for diverse, well-developed heroes like this to make their mark again.
Granted, John Henry Irons hasn’t been gone for as long as some of the others on this list, but in a time where the stock for black characters has risen, he deserves to be looked at. Steel was created way back in 1993 by Louise Simonson with certain parallels to his American folk hero namesake. Irons was a former weapons engineer trying to live a peaceful life in Metropolis when Superman saved him during an accident. The only payment Big Blue wanted was for him to “live a life worth saving.” After Supes died in his battle with Doomsday, Irons built a suit of armor and took up the fight to protect Metropolis in his rescuer’s name.
Steel enjoyed moderate popularity with Superman related appearances throughout the DC Animated Universe (Superman: TAS and Justice League Unlimited) and took a vicious L in the Steel movie starring Shaquille O’Neal. He had some appearances in the post-New 52 Superman comics up until a few years ago, and we haven’t seen him since. There’s no reason in the world Steel couldn’t have a respectable solo book run with a solid black writer on board.
With Ta-Nehisi Coates finishing his sprawling epic run on Black Panther, it would be a great time for Marvel to start investing in building on the considerable foundation he’s laid out in his approach to Wakanda and dusting off some of the mythos those before him have established. Why not start with Kasper Cole? Created by Christopher Priest back in 2002, Cole was an NYPD cop who found the Panther’s costume and used it to get to criminals in a way his badge wouldn’t allow and get himself ahead for a promotion.
Eventually, T’Challa takes him under his wing and convinces him to be a proper hero for unselfish motives, but that’s about it. He joined War Machine and Josiah X in the short-lived series The Crew, made an appearance in the just-as-short lived World of Wakanda and then nothing. It’s the nature of comics that some characters get left behind until it’s time to dust them off again, but this is a character who was part of a shared universe that was riding high on demand going into the release of Black Panther, one of Marvel’s most successful films to date. And there was barely anything to show for it. Now that the Panther is finally getting the top billing he deserves, it only makes sense to use that spotlight as a catapult for worthwhile Wakanda-adjacent characters.
What other Black superheroes do you think deserve to be given their time to shine? Hit us up, and let us know your thoughts.