And we’re back like spinal taps with the second offering of TSL Comic Book Convo’s cavalcade of colored caped crime fighters. We shall proceed and continue to rock the mic with the next five Illest Black Superheroes of All Time. This is not a list of the “coolest” Black heroes or the “most powerful” Black superheroes but the “illest”, quantified as a mixture of design, unique power set, relevance, usage and cultural longevity. So here’s a summary of heroes 16 – 20 from TSL Comic Book Convo Presents The Top 20 Illest Black Superheroes of All Time (The First Five)
18. Misty Knight
Now let’s get to the next 5:
11. Bronze Tiger
You can discern a lot about a character by the environment from which it was spawned. DC Comics Bronze Tiger first appeared in the Dragons First novel in 1974, then he was illustrated the following year in Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #1. If you were alive around that time then you remember how martial arts permeated every facet of American popular culture due in large part to the popularity of Bruce Lee. Bronze Tiger was most certainly a product of that age. He has been karate-kicking the crap out of villains and heroes alike ever since. Ben Turner has been a member of the Suicide Squad and League of Assassins. Hes not a powered individual as far as his skill set is concerned, but if you can lay paws on Batman and go about your merry way (Detective Comics #485 1979), it really doesnt matter. Bronze Tiger is sicker than your average. Recently, Michael Jai White appeared as Bronze Tiger in the CWs Arrow.
12. Black Goliath
Whenever I think of Goliath I think of the scene from the old cinema classic Coming to America where Eddie Murphys character was looking for an apartment and outlines of crime victims were on the floor, including that of a dog. The landlord looked at Prince Akeem and said Damn shame what they did to that dog, especially so considering the manner of his demise. First appearing in Avengers #32 in September 1966 as Dr. William Barrett Bill Foster, Ol Bill got his supercharged come up in Power Man #24 (April 1975) when he became Black Goliath by way of Dr. Henry Pyms vaunted Pym Particles. He became the second Giant-Man in 1979, then the fourth Goliath (after initially being the first Goliath) in The Thing #1 (January 2006). But I have no idea why they called him back to be played out in Marvel Civil War. I recall the scene quite well. Captain Americas resistance was accosted by Iron Man and Reed Richards monstrous Thor clone named Ragnorock. Black Goliath was the first to jump up, and was first to be put down- killed by a lightning blast through the chest. It was a most unceremonious and gruesome exit for a hero of his cultural significance. The mantle has now been taken up by his nephew Tom Foster.
The hero known as Eli Bradley, better known as Patriot, was one of the tougher choices for me. Patriot was someone who I had to marinate on for a while. Yes, he was inspired by his grandfather Isaiah Bradley aka the ORIGINAL Captain America, and the elder Bradley was a clear nod to the real life trials of Black serviceman who were subjected to the horrors of the Tuskegee Experiment from 1932 to 1972. Though he is said to have come before Ol Star Spangled Garters, hes clearly inspired by Cap in reality. So basically Eli Bradley is a twice removed Captain America rip-off. But I could not front on several aspects of this character; the fact that he wishes to pay homage to his ancestor, his leadership abilities, the fact that his character overcame a potentially debilitating substance abuse problem and he performed admirably in Marvel Civil Wars as well. Initially, Patriot relied on Mutant Growth Hormone, a comic book nod to steroids, to gain powers and abilities. However, after catching a Skrull blast in defense of Captain America, a blood transfusion from his grandfather affords him the real abilities inherent in the super soldier serum, and then some. Bullet proof skin, agility, super strength and stamina make him the technical superior to the original Cap. Hes also gifted with a replica of the original triangular shield carried by his grandfather and Cap. Retired for now, the second rendition of Patriot first appeared in Young Avengers #1 (April 2005) and was created by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung. For legacy and for nepotism, Patriot makes the cut. Im so glad his name is not Black Patriot.
14. Night Thrasher
Night Thrasher fits a familiar mode of superhero, one that is reminiscent of characters like Batman, Wildcat, the Shadow and many others. Dwayne Taylor is a young man who, due in part to the tragic death of his parents, is inspired to train his body to the very peak of human readiness in martial arts and hand-to-hand combat methods. He is far beyond the curve of tech manipulation for all but the very elite techno-geeks in the Marvel Universe and is immune to telepathy. Body armor and a penchant for leadership are very Batman-esque as well. But he’s a pretty decent character, really good at getting the drop on metahumans and also served up a KFC value meal “three piece and a biscuit” to the Punisher. I remember not liking Night Thrasher as a kid because I thought he was a rip off of Batman, but he is a character deserving of respect outside the lines of originality and troupe familiarity.
Im old enough to remember back when Aqualad was simply a younger, shorter version of Aquaman who wore blue underwear and a horrible hair cut. But something strange happened when Aqualad was brought to the future from the 1980s Teen Titans rendition to the modern age on Cartoon Networks dearly departed Young Justice series. There he was with the complexion of a brother straight off the beaches of Belize named Jackson Hyde aka Kaldurahm. It was soon revealed that Aqualad was actually the son of Black Manta, the first Black comic book villain of any significance in DC Comics. Again, a legacy. But he’s a worthy addition. Aqualad possesses super strength, is capable of hydro-kinesis, is able to shoot electrical discharges, possesses leadership skills and a maturity that belies his age. His first comic book appearance was in Brightest Day #4 (2005). He has been in New 52. Aqualad is a very powerful character with a cool look, but he’s just too brand new for me to have him too high up. But I like the character and design. So here he is.
Next week we close out our list with the final 10 Illest Black Superheroes of All Time and include a list of honorable mentions that didn’t make the list but are pretty cool nonetheless. Until then, up-up-and-awaaaaaay!