Sunday, January 25, 2009

Top 25 Black Heroes
#1 Luke Cage (Marvel)
#2 Steel (DC)
#3 Green Lantern (DC)
#4 Storm (Marvel)
#5 Spectre (DC)
#6 Firestorm (DC)
#7 Black Lightning (DC)
#8 Blade (Marvel)
#9 War Machine (Marvel)
#10 Black Panther (Marvel)
#11 Tally Man (DC)
#12 Deathlok (Marvel)
#13 Cyborg (DC)
#14 Thunderball (Marvel)
#15 Vixen (DC)
#16 Birdie (Capcom)
#17 Tombstone (Marvel)
#18 Vaporlock (DC)
#19 Photon (Marvel)
#20 Ron Troupe (DC)
#21 Mr. Terrific (DC)
#22 Amanda Waller (DC)
#23 Bronze Tiger (DC)
#24 Jax (Midway)
#25 Balrog (Capcom)
In 2009, Martin Luther King Jr Day fell on January 19.
The already important American holiday took on special significance this year for it's close proximity to history. On January 20, the first ever African-American United States President was officially sworn into office. His inauguration made him the forty-fourth US President.

In reflecting society around them, comics long failed to adequately represent alternate cultures and ideals, often reducing black characters to minority roles and parody popularized in various entertainment mediums. Exceptions are noteable.
Lee Falk must be recognised for creating some of the earliest major African characters in comics. His famous strips from the mid-thirties boast popular supporting characters like Mandrake the Magician's close friend and ally, Lothar, as well as various prominent figures that emerged throughout the publication history of Phantom strips.

With the sixties' reinvigoration of superheroes via Marvel Comics; the 1966 debut of Black Panther, (in Fantastic Four), became a landmark event for a new era of prominent black heroes.
The character paved the way for new creations in the following decade, which, although coloured by stereotypes, included heroes that have become incredibly significant in the modern era. Including; Luke Cage, John Stewart, Storm, and Black Lightning.

Even the nineties, regarded for many of the era's negatives, cannot be overlooked for it's significant creations. The recently assimilated Milestone Comics, part of DC, created a range of superhero role models for young readers, most prominently including Static. Other major creations included Todd McFarlane's Spawn, and DC's alternate-superman, Steel.

The election of Barack Obama as President has been punctuation to the development of African-American heroes. Like the heroes who now dominate the fictional landscape; Obama walks a path defined by pioneers. Golden Age heroes like Martin Luther King Jr.

I am not an American, nor am I a minority in my home.
Us, as avid readers of superheroics and fictional worlds, could imagine this day.
I cannot fully appreciate the emotional impact the election has had on many people, but as a great admirer of powerful tales of triumph and heroics, I am not completely ignorant.

In belated acknowledgment of the occasion we present a short list of previous reviews that reveal just how ingrained back heroes have become in our mythology. It is a reflection of the modern world we live in, where a black man does not only hold tenure with the Justice League, but now also sits behind what some describe as the most powerful desk in the world.

"Yes we can."

Black Panther #19 (October 2006)
"Holiday in Latveria" Hudlin/Eaton

It was the wedding of an African king and goddess on Earth bringing together not only powers of political and mutant natures, but also the fractured superhero community of America, who partook in a brief cease-fire for the occasion, leaving their ideals at the door.

Wakanda's Black Panther, and the Kenyan mutant, Storm, would not only marry as lovers, but as two potential world powers the likes of which the world have never seen. Thus, the honeymoon is over quickly as the couple head to Latveria to respond to a message of concern from Victor Von Doom.

Responding to Doom's invitation to air greivances of international paranoia for the couple's power, and their relations between an America in the wake of the registration civil war; T'Challa and Ororo make the trek to Castle Doomstadt. Slightly repulsed by Doom's dictatorial hold, the couple maintain diplomacy for the beginning of their world tour, prepared to fight if necessary.

52 #42 (April 2007)
"Man Ain't Nothing but a Man" Johns/Morrison/Rucka/Waid/Giffen/Batista

Lex Luthor's everyman project appears to have discovered means of granting normal human beings fantastic powers through the use of an injectable meta-gene therapy.

The only side effects appear to be the development of superpowers, and in the case of John Henry Irons, the armored hero once called Steel, this means literally becoming a man of steel.

When his powers begin to dissipate, Irons realises Luthor's meta-gene not only has finite potential, but also a potential 'off-switch', which leads to the deaths of several experiment subjects. Thus, Irons shrugs off a bitter depression, and dons the Steel armor once more to confront the evil Lex Luthor.

Green Lantern #24 (December 2007)
"Home Invasion" Johns/Reis

Long thought dead, it is the resurrection of Hal Jordan that prompts the return of the villainous fallen Green Lantern called Sinestro. Revealed, he carries with him the mysterious powers of a yellow ring, gathered in his previous travels of exile in the anti-matter universe, Qward.

Sinestro is revealed to have been imprisoned within the Central Power Battery on Oa, where he conversed with the yellow fear entity Parallax, and hatched the downfall of one of the Lantern's greatest heroes, and his bitter rival, Hal Jordan.

As Jordan joins Kyle Rayner and the other surviving Lanterns to spur the beginnings of a new era of the Green Lantern Corps; Sinestro and Parallax begin their own quest, sending out yellow power rings to gather agents for their Sinestro Corps of fear wielding soldiers. So begins the inevitable first stages of the Sinestro Corps War, prophecized by the Book of Oa.

With their intention to destroy the fifty-two worlds of the megaverse, the Sinestro Corps descend in full on "New Earth." While the Lanterns struggle with their own battles; Hal Jordan rushes to the rescue of his Coast City dwelling brother, and his family, who has come under threat from Parallax, who has possessed the once future Ion - Kyle Rayner!

Justice League of America #15 (January 2008)
"Unleashed" McDuffie/Benes

The matrimonial union of Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen -- better known to the world as Black Canary and Green Arrow -- should have been one of the happiest occasions on the Justice League calendar. Instead, it was to initiate a new incarnation of the Injustice League into being, marking another in a long line of personal attacks suffered by the heroes in recent years.

Organized as an "unlimited" version of the team by Lex Luthor, Joker, and Cheetah; the League of criminals forms as a response to the dissolving Society of Supervillains. With motives of widespread corruption and protection of crooks, the Injustice League strikes with startling success.

Having captured the JLA, the Injustice League holds their nemesis in captivity with the intent of executing them, but despite their consumate planning they failed to take into account the legacy of an atomic hero called Firestorm!

New Avengers #36 (January 2008)
"The Trust" Bendis/Yu

Once, the gods and heroes could be trusted to protect humanity in it's time of need, but when the least of their kind entered into a battle that cost the lives of hundreds, a new control was demanded by a traumatized public.

For men like Tony Stark, the prospect of thorough screening and training became a price he was all too willing to pay to repent for the willful negligence of he and his fellows. Trusted powers whose morals had come to harbor cosmically volatile forces within their quarters. A philosophy that puts him at odds with both those who have reasons to hide, and those with a strong belief in the privacy and trust earned by the super-powered guardians.

Divided, Earth's mightiest heroes continue in two factions. Stark's Avengers hunt their secretive counterparts, distracted from the evils the underground heroes continue to pursue with clarity. It is the Secret Avengers who learn of The Hood's play for Kingpin of Villains, and the emergence of a Skrull incursion. Neither, however, could have hoped to anticipate a Latverian satellite position above the Earth. A weapon containing a symbiote bomb that escapes it's master's control and sends an infestation of madness to New York City as an unprepared Secret Avengers is possessed and thrown into battle with their counterparts.

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