The history of black characters in comic books, whether they’re African-American or some other ethnic group, is quite diverse and extremely interesting. It all started with Black Panther, back in 1966, and while Black Panther wasn’t truly the first black superhero in the history of comic books, he was the first black superhero in American mainstream comics. This was a pivotal event that helped shape the history of modern American superhero comic books. Since then, black characters have become more frequent in mainstream American superhero comics and are not portrayed stereotypically, as was the case in the early days of comics, especially in Europe.
Now, since this all started with Marvel, we have decided to honor Marvel’s comic book legacy with a list of the 15 best black characters of Marvel. Some of them are heroes, some are antiheroes, and some are villains, but whatever their affiliation, they are awesome and we are going to tell you a bit about them.
List of Best Black Marvel Superheroes (& Villains)
Created By: Gerry Conway, Alex Saviuk
Debut: Web of Spider-Man #36 (1988)
Lonnie Thompson Lincoln is albino, which makes life difficult for him in the predominantly black neighborhood of Harlem where he was born. A vocal cord abnormality also reduced his voice to a whisper. To compensate for these handicaps, he practices intensive physical training and becomes the terror of children of his age, whom he ruthlessly extorts. His nickname Tombstone is given to him because of his pallor and by analogy with Thompson, his middle name.
Of all his classmates, Joe Robertson is the only one who does not treat him with contempt. Tombstone interprets this as a token of friendship and will be furious to learn that Robertson is putting together a file on his racketeering activities to report them in the school newspaper. From this moment arises the antagonism which later will not cease to exist between the two men.
As an adult, Tombstone becomes the hitman and public agitator in Philadelphia. At the end of twenty years, the Kingpin sends him to New York to kidnap the stockbroker Roland Raymond, a mutant endowed with the gift of persuasion. Robertson, who has since become a journalist for the Daily Bugle, recognizes Tombstone and tries to confront him alone. The mobster spares his life in memory of their old friendship but leaves him practically crippled.
Soon, Spider-Man arrives to the scene. Tombstone misunderestimates the strength of the opponent and suffers a crushing defeat. Sentenced to life for multiple criminal activity, he is incarcerated in the Federal Penitentiary in Philadelphia. At the same time, Robertson is convicted of withholding certain information from the police. Tombstone threatens to be transferred to the same prison facility and hatches an escape plan.
He persuades the broken Robertson to ambush Spider-Man and inoculate him with an experimental virus provided by his pal the Chameleon. Then, he escapes by taking Spider-Man hostage and Robertson in a helicopter. As he eliminates Spider-Man, Robertson comes to his senses and intervenes. During the struggle, he and Tombstone fall from the helicopter into the Susquehanna River, allowing them to escape death.
They are picked up and put back on their feet by an Amish farmer. Immediately, Tombstone challenges Robertson to settle their dispute once and for all. Tombstone is obviously the stronger one, but Robertson gets rid of him at the last minute with a pitchfork. Seriously injured, he survives all the same.
Robertson, upon his return to New York, is acquitted and regains freedom. Tombstone has since joined his former allies Hammerhead and the Chameleon. He uses blackmail to become the king of New York’s underworld, after which he manages to dismiss Hammerhead. But the Mobster Council rejects him, unless he manages to neutralize Spider-Man. Once again he fails, but after seriously injuring Flash Thompson, a friend of Spider-Man, who interfered.
14. Lucas Bishop
Created By: Whilce Portacio, John Byrne
Debut: Uncanny X-Men #282 (1991)
Lucas Bishop (of Australian nationality and Aboriginal origin) was born in a possible future of the Marvel universe where the war between humans and mutants had destroyed the Earth.
Lucas was branded as a mutant with an M-shaped mark on his face around his right eye; he enlisted in X.S.E (Xavier’s Security Enforcement), a police force created to bring the world back to normal, when sentries escaped control eager to annihilate humans and mutants.
Bishop, with his companions, chased the mutant criminal Trevor Fitzroy, famous for his ability to travel in time, in a time gap and found himself in the presence of the X-Men, the heroes he had always idolized as a child. His companions were killed by Fitzroy and his allies, and left alone he was found by the X-Men and soon became a member of the team for many years.
Bishop was part of a team led by Tempest to retrieve Irene Adler’s diaries in which the fate of humanity was written and a police team composed of some X-Men to ensure the safety of both mutants and humans. During these adventures, he discovered that he was a descendant of the mutant Gateway, an old acquaintance of the X-Men.
3. Willis Stryker
Created By: Archie Goodwin, George Tuska
Debut: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972)
Willis Stryker, one of Luke’s childhood friends, first appeared in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1. He is known as Diamondback for his mastery of knives, including specially designed knives that exploded, released toxic gases, or created sonic waves. Willis Stryker was born and raised in Harlem, New York. He grew up on the street with Carl Lucas, his best friend and future partner. He was recruited into one of the local gangs, The Rivals. The gang consisted mainly of Carl Lucas, Stryker, Shades, and Comanche.
They participated in many gang fights with The Diablos, a rival gang. He also committed petty crimes and worked for a crime lord named Sonny Caputo. Carl changed his life and found an honest job, while Willis became a skilled gangster, but they remained good friends. A girl named Reva Connors loved both of them but she was more attracted to Carl. Willis, devastated by his jealousy, set her up by hiding drugs where Carl lived, which landed him in prison. The drugs belonged to the Maggia, so they hunted down Willis, but ended up killing Reva.
Carl changed his name to Luke Cage and escaped from prison thanks to his bulletproof skin and sought revenge. Luke Cage was attacked by hitmen hired by Diamondback. When the attack failed, Diamondback had his inventor, Gadget-Man, create new modified swords to deal with Cage and kidnapped Claire Temple. Tracking Diamondback to his lair, Luke was surprised to discover that he was actually his old friend, Stryker.
Diamondback fought Cage, who hoped to clear his name. During the fight, Diamondback fell through a skylight and was blown up by one of his own stunt knives, ruining any hope Luke had that Stryker could clear his name. Just then, Claire arrived with Noah Burstein (the man who conducted the experiments at the prison) and the police, and Luke wonders if Burstein will hand him over to the authorities.
Diamondback then appeared alive. He then began making plans to become a crime lord where he will start out in Harlem and then rule crime on the eastern seaboard. By having his men for a meeting with the crime lords at the Ultimate Club, Diamondback planned to have a network of influence. The meeting was called off by Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones. During the fight, Diamondback managed to hurt Jessica Jones.
Diamondback later had a meeting with Black Cat that was crashed by Luke Cage. Using toxic powder, Diamondback struck Luke Cage and proceeded to beat him. Unknown to Diamondback, Black Cat left Luke Cage at the location of the Night Nurse and she was able to heal him. After the recovery, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and his allies went after Diamondback and attacked him at the Ultimate Club.
Diamondback demonstrated his new abilities like superhuman strength and speed. Although he was injured in the fight, Diamondback escaped. During his participation in the Ultimate Club, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones were ambushed by Diamondback, where he shot down Jessica Jones’s car and injured Iron Fist’s back. While gloating over Iron Fist, Diamondback was caught off guard when Jessica Jones attacked him. After being defeated by Jessica Jones and Iron Fist, Diamondback was arrested by the police and transferred to a prison, as he was deemed too dangerous to be placed in the county jail.
12. Brother Voodoo
Created By: Len Wein, John Romita Sr., Stan Lee, Roy Thomas
Debut: Strange Tales #169 (1973)
Following Haiti’s tradition of practicing voodoo, Marvel Comics decided to create a voodoo-based character in 1973, which is when Jericho Drumm, a.k.a. Brother Voodoo debuted. He was created as a very powerful sorcerer who would ultimately replace Doctor Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme, which led to his name being changed to Doctor Voodoo.
In the comic books, Jericho Drumm is a licensed psychologist who returns to his native Hairi after studying in the United States. There, he finds that his brother is dying after being hexed by a local voodoo priest worshiping the serpent-god Damballah; at his brother’s behest, Drumm goes to see the sorcerer Papa Jambo, whose disciple he becomes and eventually becomes Brother Voodoo.
As a new superhero, he fights and defeats the sorcerer who killed his brother. He later collaborates with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, eventually becoming Sorcerer Supreme after the Eye left Doctor Strange. As Sorcerer Supreme, he apparently sacrificed himself, but returned later, alive and well.
11. Erik Killmonger
Created By: Don McGregor, Rich Buckler
Debut: Jungle Action #6 (1973)
Born in Wakanda, he was born under the name N’Jadaka. When Ulysses Klaw and his mercenaries attacked Wakanda, they pressured N’Jadaka’s father, N’Jobu, to help them; when Klaw was defeated, his father died and his family was exiled. N’Jadaka ended up in Harlem, New York, fueling a hatred against the supervillain and T’Chaka, the king who had exiled him.
He changed his name to Erik Killmonger and studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, desperate to avenge the death of his father. He eventually contacted King T’Challa and was repatriated back to Wakanda, settling in a town that would later change its name to N’Jadaka Village in his honor. He became a guerilla fighter, with dreams of ridding Wakanda of what he called “white colonialist” cultural influences and returning it completely to its old ways.
He then took advantage of Black Panther‘s frequent absences in America with the Avengers to stage a coup, along with Baron Macabre. He was defeated and killed, until the Mandarin claimed his body. Using his rings, the Mandarin was able to amplify the Altar of Resurrection and bring Killmonger back to life. Killmonger returned to his lover and ally, Madame Slay, and the two conspired to kill the Black Panther and return Wakanda to its old ways.
While Tony Stark was visiting Wakanda, Madam Slay drugged Jim Rhodes and took him prisoner. Killmonger appeared to have killed Black Panther, and he blamed Rhodes and Stark, convincing the Wakandians that he could lead them to revenge. Black Panther returned, revealing that he had faked his death using an LMD.
Black Panther defeated Killmonger. The Mandarin called his ring back to his side, and Killmonger became an inanimate skeleton. Killmonger’s followers resurrected him again, and he would face T’Challa on several other occasions.
10. Misty Knight
Created By: Tony Isabella, Arvell Jones
Debut: Marvel Premiere #21 (1975)
Born in Harlem, New York, Misty Knight graduated with honors from the local police academy and then entered service at the NYPD, where she reached the rank of lieutenant and worked as a partner of Rafe Scarfe until, to avert the explosion of a bomb in a bank vault, Misty is seriously injured and has her right arm amputated, which makes her so depressed and distressed that she leaves the police to avoid being relegated to an office job.
Shortly after this, however, Tony Stark, struck by the girl’s heroism, decides to give her a bionic arm that allows her to restart her life by opening a private detective agency together with her best friend Colleen Wing – the Knightwing Restorations. Shortly after starting her new career, Misty meets Spider-Man, the Human Torch and Iron Fist, and she makes a deep friendship with Storm, briefly shares her apartment with Jean Gray and collaborates on several occasions with the X-Men.
After teaming up with Iron Fist again to save Colleen from Master Khan’s clutches and helping him regain control of her company, Misty, begins a fluctuating relationship with the superhero. The Knightwing Restorations, specializing in cases of missing persons, is in the meantime nicknamed “The Daughters of the Dragon” due to the martial arts skills of the two founders becoming regular collaborators of Iron Fist contributing to the latter’s first meeting with Luke Cage and the consequent birth of their friendship that leads them to found the Heroes for Sale agency, of which Misty and Colleen become regular partners.
Following the alleged death of Danny Rand (Iron Fist), Misty tries to forget him but, after discovering that it was not him who died but an impostor, she begins to investigate with the help of Namor managing to free him from the clutches of the his captors Skrull. Later, Misty is briefly hired as a paralegal by Nelson & Murdock, she regularly attends the short-lived new lineup of Heroes for Sale, she collaborates with X-Force and is rescued by Steel Fist and Wolverine after being kidnapped by the Hand.
Later the Daughters of the Dragon unmask the attempt of a rich New York tycoon to spread a computer virus capable of destroying the entire global economy, however, in the clash with the latter, Misty’s bionic arm is seriously damaged and, therefore, Stark gives her a new arm made out of vibranium. Later she Misty attends the wedding of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones as the date of Iron Fist.
Created By: Stan Lee, Gene Colan
Debut: Captain America #117 (1969)
Samuel Wilson is originally a young black bandit from the New York ghetto. It was then that the villainous Red Skull chose him to make him a “hero-trap” of Captain America. Through the powers of the Cosmic Cube, Sam is given the ability to communicate with his hawk, Redwing. Trained by Captain America, the Falcon has long been the latter’s associate while being tasked by Red Skull to kill him. But, that failed.
Equipped by the Black Panther with special wings that allow him to fly, The Falcon has seen his powers develop over the years, so much so that now he can communicate with most birds. In his civilian life, Sam Wilson became a social worker. After his death by the Anti-Captain, he reappears at the start of the House of M saga, with no apparent explanation. During the Civil War crossover, he sided with opponents of the Superhuman Registration Act. He even led them for a short time, when Captain America needed to heal his wounds.
After Captain America’s death, the Falcon registers and becomes responsible for the territory of Harlem. On the other hand, he continues to be in contact with the Secret Avengers who still refuse the Registration Act. On July 16, 2014, Marvel Comics announced that Sam Wilson was taking Steve Rogers’ place as Captain America. Indeed, he was deprived of the effects of the Super-Soldier serum and therefore entrusted the role of Captain to his friend Wilson.
In Sam Wilson, Captain America #21, Sam ultimately gives up the Captain’s costume. During the Secret Empire event (2017), he helps other heroes fight the HYDRA. He resumes the Falcon costume but no longer wishes to be called by a code name.
8. James Rhodes
Created By: David Michelinie, John Byrne, Bob Layton
Debut: Iron Man #118 (1979)
James Rhodes was a good boy born and raised in Philadelphia. Growing up, he wanted to join the military and serve as a pilot. On a war mission, his helicopter was shot down. When trying to get a plane, he found Tony Stark in his first Iron Man armor that had just escaped from an enemy prison. Together, Rhodes and Stark manage to return to the USA.
Tony offered Rhodes a job, but he refuses because he is still interested in the job of defending the United States in direct combat. Little did he know what fate had in store for him. After the war, Stark, who had secretly become the superhero Iron Man, offered Rhodes a job as his personal driver. Rhodes soon became one of Stark’s closest collaborators and earned his trust as well as the position of treasurer for Stark Industries.
As a result, he had numerous adventures with his employer where his boldness and skills were valuable qualities. Stark was so confident of Rhodes that he knew he was Iron Man. When Stark lost his company to Obadiah Stane and fell into alcoholism, Rhodes took on the role of Iron Man, helping Stark in the meantime to overcome alcoholism. For some time he worked with the Avengers.
7. Isaiah Bradley
Created By: Axel Alonso, Robert Morales, Kyle Baker
Debut: Truth: Red, White & Black #1 (2003)
Towards the end of World War II, geneticists from the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom embarked on a race to develop the Project: Rebirth (under the umbrella of the Super Soldier Program). Dr. Josef Reinstein was the project leader for the United States and he tested his research on 300 African American soldiers. Only five survived the formula, and to cover up secrecy, the army executed the camp commander and a hundred soldiers left at Camp Cathcart, the project’s base.
The families were told that the soldiers had died in action. The only survivor of his test group, Isaiah Bradley was sent on a mission to Germany to fight the Nazi regime. He stole a suit and a replica of Captain America’s shield and managed to take out the German project leader. But he was then captured and presented to Hitler who planned to dissect him. Eventually, Bradley escaped death in a laboratory when he was freed by German resistance fighters.
Returning to the United States, he was court-martialed for failing to follow orders, and was incarcerated in Fort Leavenworth Military Prison at the end of 1943. During his sentence, the US military drew his blood to recreate the birth of a Super Soldier. The 39th test was the only one that passed, with the birth of Josiah X.
In 1960, Bradley was pardoned by President Eisenhower. Considered since as the (Black Captain America, Isaiah Bradley became a legend for African Americans, and especially for black superheroes. He received many visitors, like Malcolm X, Richard Pryor, Mohamed Ali, Nelson Mandela and Colin Powell.
He even received the honor of being invited to the wedding of Tornado and King T’Challa. As he got older, the properties of the serum waned and Bradley’s steroid-overloaded metabolism deteriorated, as if he was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Miles Morales
Created By: Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli
Debut: Ultimate Fallout #4 (2011)
Miles is an African-American teenager of Puerto Rican origins, who lives in Brooklyn with his family after New York had been rebuilt following the events of the Ultimate Fallout storyline; he is a shy but very intelligent boy who finds himself catapulted into a world completely out of the ordinary, that of the metahuman community, due to the bite of a spider.
After the death of Peter Parker, he decides to act, gradually becoming a more conscientious and self-confident person by embarking on a career as a superhero heir to Spider-Man. His parents, Rio Morales and Jefferson Davis, in the hope that he will receive an advanced education, enroll him in a prestigious school but, while visiting his uncle Aaron Davis’ home, he is stung by a spider which gives him some skills, such as camouflage, enhenced agility and the ability to paralyze opponents with his hands.
Then he discovers that these abilities are similar to those possessed by some types of spiders. Frightened by this situation, he claims he just wants a normal life and doesn’t want to be a hero like Spider-Man. But, following the death of Peter Parker, Miles, who had sneaked out of his student residence and had headed right near the battle to try to understand what was happening, witnesses the last moments of the hero’s life.
Miles is burdened with guilt because he could have helped him if he had decided to use his powers rather than be subdued by fear. Later, Miles decides to somehow undertake a career as a vigilante and in his first outing he confronts and defeats the criminal Kangaroo, but in a clumsy way, and the press begins to write about him because of his bad taste, much more because of his actions.
Created By: Todd McFarlane
Debut: Spawn #1 (1992)
Al Simmons was born in Pittsburgh, United States. He grew up and had a classical education but stood out for his competitive spirit and his desire to emerge victorious from each of the challenges he had faced. After completing his senior high school, Simmons moved on to military school. His integration was widely appreciated and Al proved to be a very successful fighter.
In view of his skills, he was directly enlisted in a special unit of the CIA which aimed to protect the President of the United States. Many times rewarded for his successive acts of bravery, he rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel after receiving a bullet intended for the president. Jason Wynn, general manager of the group of elites of the United States, senses in Simmons an indispensable element and became his mentor.
In reality, Wynn turns out to be a cruel person devoid of empathy and willing to cause immense collateral damage for the sake of the success of his missions. He manipulates and keeps Al Simmons in the lie by constantly reassuring him about the severity of the damage caused by the missions carried out. Some of them were aimed at causing civil wars.
Al became more and more bloodthirsty and his lack of humanity worried his wife Wanda Blake whom he raped after an argument. She lost the child she was carrying. As the events unfolded and out of love for Wanda, Al began to question the value of these secret missions and his responsibility for all the massacres. He decided to refer it to Jason Wynn who could not tolerate Al Simmons breaking free.
Moreover, Wynn would consider that Al had in his possession elements far too compromising to let them escape into the wild. Al agreed to carry out the last mission in Botswanga in the company of Jesse Chapel and Jessica Priest during the year 1987. Taking advantage of a moment of inattention, the two agents immolated Al and watched him burn alive. Jason Wynn was the sponsor of this assassination.
Al Simmons is stranded in the Eighth Circle of Hell. He makes a pact with Malebolgia, the supreme master of the Eighth Circle. Hoping to come back to life and find his wife Wanda one last time, he agrees to sell her soul to her and shoulder the responsibility of leading the troops from Hell to victory over the heavenly forces in the Armageddon.
Malebolgia sequesters him for 5 years in hell and makes him undergo various humiliations and sadistic games in order to sharpen his hatred and satisfy his taste for torture. Al is sent back to Earth, with fractured memories, in the form of Spawn.
Created By: Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Debut: The Tomb of Dracula #10 (July 1973)
Born a half-human and vampire hybrid, Blade has enzymes in his blood, which made him immune to normal vampire bites; he could sense the supernatural, and he is also resistant to aging. Blade has gained more of the traditional powers of the vampire without having any of their weaknesses. He cannot be affected by sunlight. He has superhuman strength, stamina, and senses, as well as an accelerated healing factor.
Blade has a wide range of weapons in his arsenal, his most known one and his most valuable one is his adamantium sword. He has other weapons such as a shotgun stake, and he infuses his bullets with garlic because not all vampires can be taken out with bullets alone, but because vampires’ weakness is garlic, Blade uses that to his advantage to take them down.
Blade is so strong that he’s able to rip a vampire’s head with just one hand and one time only. And vampires are known to have one of the strongest bone structures. Blade has been able to go up against a vampire Spiderman, which is stronger than a Spiderman in his normal state, and defeated him with ease.
3. Luke Cage
Created By: Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Roy Thomas, John Romita Sr.
Debut: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972)
Luke Cage is a popular comic figure because he is the first-ever African American superhero in the Marvel Universe. Luke grew up in a poor neighborhood in Harlem, New Work. He had a close friend Willis Stryker. Both of them were part of the local gang Rivals.
As kids, they used to engage in gang fights and were involved in petty crimes. But Luke soon realizes that his actions were causing trouble for the other members of his family. He quits the gang and gets himself a legitimate job.
However, his old friend Stryker remained a member of the gang Rivals. He started,d attracting too much attention from opposing gangs, and one day he gets badly beaten by the opposing gang. Luke intervenes and saves him. He takes Stryker home, where he meets his girlfriend Reva Connors.
Reva breakups with Stryker fearing that the gangs might come after her and her family too. After their breakup, she comes close to Luke, and they soon get into a relationship. After Stryker finds out about this, he sets Luke up.
Stryker plants drugs in Luke’s home and calls the police. Luke is arrested and sent to prison. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t convince the police that he wasn’t guilty, and all of it was a setup.
While in prison he consents to participate in an experiment that led to him developing impenetrable skin, and superhuman strength. Stryker stole drugs from the Maggia gang to plant at Luke’s home. When members of the Maggia gang find out about the stolen drugs, they killed Reva.
Created By: Len Wein, Dave Cockrum
Debut: Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975)
Storm was born Ororo Munroe to a tribal princess of Kenya and an African-American photojournalist father and grew up in Harlem, New York City, USA and Cairo, Egypt. She was orphaned after her parents were killed amid an Arab-Israeli conflict. An incident at the time also traumatized Munroe, leaving her in a claustrophobic situation that would make her fight for her life. Storm is a member of the X-Men, a group of mutated heroes who fight for peace and equality between mutants and humans.
Under the guidance of a master thief, a juvenile Munroe became an experienced pickpocket, whose means she met the powerful mutated Professor X by chance. Professor X later convinces Munroe to join the X-Men and use their skills for a bigger cause and cause. Storm has natural leadership skills and impressive powers of his own. He has led the X-Men at times and has been a member of teams like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
1. Black Panther
Created By: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Debut: Fantastic Four #52 (1966)
Black Panther is actually the alter ego of T’Challa, the king and protector of the fictional African country of Wakanda. Black Panther is actually a hereditary title that is passed on to Wakandan rulers, but they have to prove themselves beforehand. Interestingly enough, although the character debuted under the name Black Panther before the Black Panther Party was actually founded (October 1966), Marvel’s editors tried to change his name to Black Leopard during the ’70s in order to avoid a connection with the BPP, but the new name was never accepted so they quickly “revived” Black Panther.
As a child, T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, was killed by villain Ulysses Klaw, leaving the underage prince as the successor of the throne. His uncle was regent until he became of age. T’Challa was obsessed with avenging his father and killing Klaw, which has driven a lot of his initial plots. But he was also a very successful ruler, uniting the majority of Wakandan tribes under his rule. A lot of his initial stories focused on him wanting to kill Klaw.
As part of his training, he even summoned the Fantastic Four in Wakanda and fought them one by one to prepare for Klaw; he would later explain his motives and befriended the group. This all happened in his debut appearance. Later on, Black Panther became part of the Avengers and the authors further developed his story.