The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Cage, Monroe and Morales


The importance of black people in sci-fi and fantasy

I am a professed comic book nerd as well as a lover of all things science fiction and fantasy. Growing up, I read “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Harry Potter,” “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” and other books like these, and I loved all of them. Some of my fondest memories from about fourth grade until now are around me reading these books and comics and watching the movie adaptions of them.

However, it was always a little sad to me that nine times out of 10, the characters did not look like me. If there were black characters they were either relatively unimportant, died early, were there to serve as some moral lesson for the main white character or a mixture of the last two (i.e. Rue and Thresh in “The Hunger Games”).

This is the reason why characters like Aurora Monroe (Storm), Static Shock, that one version of the Green Lantern, Blade, Catwoman (Halle Berry and Eartha Kitt in the films), Cyborg, Mace Windu, Lando Calrissian and Nyota Uhura were all the more important to me.

Around the age of 14, I went on a quest to find out where all the black comic book and sci-fi characters were. In my search, I found the Black Panther, Miles Morales, Michonne, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Black Lightning and a bunch more. Through this search not only did I find new things to read and watch, but I found superheroes that, for once, I felt like I could relate to instead of just admire.

When Luke Cage was picked up by Netflix and became a show, it was a huge hit. For me watching an alien white dude in spandex with a nice coiff run around protecting suburbanites from threats all day is cool and all. But, what really pops off for me in the era of Trayvon Martins and Mike Browns is seeing a bulletproof black man protecting Harlem. Seeing Luke Cage having a romance with a darker skinned black woman was also important to the show’s impact.

For me, watching Michonne in “The Walking Dead” hold her own not only the undead but also against the males who sought to control her, as well as outliving all of the white men who wanted her dead, fed my rebellious black little soul. The fact that she got to be black without it being a huge deal is important to me. Not every black character’s purpose should be to teach a white character a moral lesson.

ILLUSTRATION: Luke Malanga ’20

Finding out about Wakanda and the Black Panther was groundbreaking. You mean to tell me there’s a secret African nation untouched by the rapacious colonizing hands of the Europeans and it flourishes in technology and wealth!? I was amazed. The Black Panther allowed me to view a continent that often gets painted as behind and impoverished as a futuristic utopia, and let me ask the question: what could Africa have been today had Europeans left it alone?

More currently, the release of “Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse” with the young black Miles Morales as this universe’s Spiderman hit me in the childhood for a few reasons. I have been waiting a long time for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to roll out Miles. I had hoped it would have been live action with Donald Glover… but such is life.

What really made my heart swell was hearing my 4-year-old cousin say, “I want to be the black Spiderman for Halloween because he looks like me.”

Often, I believe people overlook this genre as one that needs diversity, but little black kids need superheroes that look like them too. They cannot always see themselves as the thugs, robbers and king pins we often get portrayed as in TV and movies. What will these portrayals tell young black kids about themselves?

Those portrayals are why entertainment like “Luke Cage,” “The Watchmen” reboot, “Black Panther”, “Afro Samurai,” “See You Yesterday,” “Sorry to Bother You,” and all Jordan Peele films are important. For too long black kids have had to look up to and read about characters who don’t look like them and who are hard to relate to due to the cultural disconnect.

Having comic books, comic book shows/movies and sci-fi/fantasy shows/movies with black main characters (and having black main characters whose full story arch is not centered on them being black) is not only important but necessary in popular culture.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (0)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *