Cartoon characters were not considered that influential back in the day, not in how they impacted us personally, but in how media depicted that specific piece of media. They were mostly too childish for the media to consider them serious, but some people remember cartoons as one of the most influential media in their young lives. They are right, and when you consider the representation of different cultures and ethnicities that cartoons provide to the massive audience, you can understand the importance of this animated media.
In this article, we decided to focus on specific ethnicities that, throughout the struggles of being accepted as equal to others, presented us with characters that did not affect just one group but people worldwide. We present you with our picks of the 30 best black cartoon characters.
We will include only cartoon characters in this article and exclude anime since we already have that list. Moreover, comic book characters adapted into cartoons will be on this list. If you are interested in our list, stick with us until the end of the article.
30. Dr. Facilier (The Princess and a Frog)
For decades, Disney had problems including different races and cultures in their projects. However, the decade of changes that marked the 1990s included the changes in the Disney animated movies that we knew till that point – Pocahontas and Mulan were at the forefront of the “revolution.” In 2009, one Disney movie solidified the new era of animated movies, and The Princess and the Frog told us a story that we did not see before.
Dr. Facilier is one of the more iconic villains of the 2000s, not just because he was a black man – his charisma and unique “powers of evil.”
That closely connected to the real-life American city of New Orleans made the character interesting and unique in Disney’s history.
29. Fat Albert (Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids)
Oldie, but goldie on this list is Fat Albert. The titular character of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was very popular amongst the American youth in the 1970s and 1980s. The Fat Albert character was probably one of the most popular characters in that era.
His obesity did not stop him at anything since the character was active and loved playing sports. Fat Albert is a wise young man and often served as a conscious of the popular Junkyard Gang. Fat Albert set a precedent for cartoon characters during the 70s and 80s, and its fun but educational purpose brought up many young American children of that era.
28. Cobra Bubbles (Lilo & Stitch)
The cartoon version of the character from the Men in Black, Cobra Bubbles, is a major character in Disney’s notable Lilo & Stitch franchise. He is a former CIA agent who becomes a social worker by the time of the original film.
Even though he seems like an antagonist to the main heroes, Lilo and Stitch, Cobra just wants to ensure Lilo is taken care of by her sister Nani after the accident that took away their parents. Truly a great character.
27. Cleveland Brown (Family Guy/The Cleveland Show)
Even though he was mostly a supporting character in the Family Guy, Cleveland Brown became an essential part of the Family Guy cast. He met Peter Griffin in the 1970s; since then, they’ve been good friends.
Cleveland is considered a token black man in the neighborhood, and the show mostly jokes about it during his involvement in the series.
Cleveland Brown got his own spin-off show, The Cleveland Show, which reduced him to the guest character in the Family Guy. Regardless, his appearance was important in the Family Guy, and because of that, we decided to put him on this list.
26. Frozone (The Incredibles)
The secondary protagonist of The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2, Lucious Best, is a superhero called Frozone. He is a close friend to the Parr family and their ally. His powers include creating ice and freezing surfaces by manipulating moisture.
Frozone is voiced by one and only Samuel L. Jackson, and his cool personality and morals make him one of the coolest Disney characters in the last two decades.
25. Valerie Brown (Josie and the Pussy Cats)
We at Fiction Horizon love blasts from the past, and Valerie Brown is one of them. She was an influential character from her appearance in the Josie and the Pussy Cats since she was the first regularly appearing black female character on a Saturday morning cartoon.
The 1970s introduced many iconic characters, but Valerie Brown set a precedent for the future of black representation in American cartoons. Hanna-Barbera Productions truly revolutionized the way cartoons were seen in the public media.
24. Foxxy Love (Drawn Together)
Foxxy Love is the main character of the adult animated show Drawn Together, which aired for three seasons on Comedy Central at the beginning of the 2000s. The show is a parody of the then-popular MTV reality show The Real World. It follows the misadventures of the housemates in the fictional show that uses the sitcom format with a reality TV show setting.
The conservatives of the U.S. were strongly against this series, but adults liked the humor and references to the reality shows of that era. Foxxy Love was a spoof character of Valerie Brown from the Josie and the Pussy Cats. Her sassy and promiscuous mystery-solving musician personality places her on this list.
23. Mama Odie (The Princess and the Frog)
As you can tell, the characters from this successful Disney movie will feature on this list, and one of them needs to be Mama Odie. She is a supporting character in the film and a blind 197-year-old voodoo priestess who resides in the swamps of Louisiana.
Mama Odie is a warm and charismatic lady and surprisingly humble for someone so knowledgeable. She helps Tiana and Naveen in the battle against Dr. Facilier and even uses her “power” to marry the couple for their ultimate happily ever after.
22. Proud Family
We could not take one character from this notable Disney show, so we included the whole family. The Proud Family is an American animated TV show that premiered on Disney Channel in 2001, and recently the show was recently revived and is currently airing on the Disney+ streaming platform. Many young adults today grew up on this TV show, and Proud Family attracted many viewers from day one.
The story mainly follows the young girl Penny, who is mostly embarrassed by her silly father, Oscar, who only wants the best for her and her siblings. The Proud family dynamic is heavily featured in the show, and many children learn about family values.
21. Dr. Hibbert (The Simpsons)
Dr. Julius Michael Hibbert, M.D., also known as Dr. Hibbert, is Springfield’s most prominent and capable doctor. He is quite an expensive doctor, and he does not hide it.
Dr. Hibbert has been part of the Simpsons since its beginnings, and to this day, the character still appears in some episodes. His laugh is a signature trait of his – “A-heh-heh-heh.” You can hear his laugh in your head, right?
20. Numbuh 5 (KND Code Module)
Codename: Kids Next Door was a cool show back in the 2000s that aired on Cartoon Network. It had six seasons and presented us with a cool premise and characters that we remember even today.
One of them is Abby, also known as Numbuh 5, who is a second in command/spy in Sector V. Abby is also a younger sister of Cree, a former member of the KND, who wants to sabotage the team.
Numbuh 5 is a laid-back, cool, and intelligent character that is not easily forgettable.
19. Monique (Kim Possible)
Monique is Kim Possible’s closest friend and confidante. She usually discusses topics with Kim that revolve around “girls’ stuff,” which Ron cannot understand. Monique has a no-nonsense attitude, confidence has a good eye for fashion, but most importantly, she has a good heart.
Despite other characters having surnames, the writers never revealed Monique’s – fans speculate that the creators wanted to reference then-famous Disney actress and voice actress Raven-Symone. Monique is cool and fashionable, and we all wanted to be like her – at least I was, besides Kim Possible.
18. Spawn (Todd McFarlane’s Spawn)
Spawn is probably one of the most popular comic book superheroes that is not connected to DC or Marvel. Todd McFarlane created Spawn for Image Comics.
This dark, cool antihero is Al Simmons under his mask and probably one of the most iconic black characters in the media ever. Spawn was adapted in multiple media, but the cartoon created by HBO called Todd McFarlane’s Spawn got critical acclaim and became one of the best cartoons of 1999. Al Simmons, the man carrying Spawn’s mantle, is a black man.
17. Vincent LaSalle (Recess)
Vincent LaSalle is one of the six members of the Recess Gang, and he is considered the jock of the group and the whole Third Street School.
Besides being an exceptional athlete, Vince is also sensible and helpful to others, commonly seen giving good advice to his friends. Vince is T.J.’s right hand and loyal companion, whose signature exclamation is “Whompinbobyulah!”.
16. Gerald Johanssen (Hey Arnold!)
Hey Arnold! was a really popular show during the 1990s and 2000s, and it provided us with great characters that we remember to this day. The show revolves around the fourth grader Arnold who lives with his grandparents and is trying to navigate his life in urban surroundings, and his friends encountering and dealing with their problems.
One of them is Gerald Johanssen, a street-smart boy and a bonafide leader of the group. He stands out with his signature hair, and his cool, easygoing attitude attracts many kids to hang out with him.
15. Static (Static Shock)
Another comic book character adapted to the cartoon media is Static, who appeared as a titular character in the WB Television Network called Static Shock. The show follows Virgil Hawkins, a 14-year-old boy who uses the secret identity Static after exposure to the mutagen gas that gave him electromagnetic powers.
Static was the first African-American superhero that was the titular character of his broadcast animation series — a true black icon.
14. Cyborg (Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go!)
Teen Titans was the most acclaimed cartoon of the 2000s for Cartoon Network, and it set a precedent for the future of superhero animated shows. One of the main characters was Cyborg, also known as Victor Stone, who was a promising teenage athlete before the accident that killed his mother and severely injured him.
His father provided him with cybernetics to keep him alive, and he later met his fellow teenage heroes and formed a group called Teen Titans. Since then, this iconic black character has featured in multiple Teen Titans projects, including Teen Titans Go!, which steamrolled his popularity even more.
13. Garnet (Steven Universe)
Another character from the Cartoon Network cartoon comes from Steven Universe. One of the most popular cartoons of the last decade, Steven Universe, provided us with many cool characters, but one that stood out from the rest was Garnet.
She is one of the tritagonists of the show, and with Steven, other allies are trying to protect the Earth from the aliens. Besides being a black woman, Garnet is also an LGBTQ+ icon who received critical acclaim for her portrayal and interpretation. One of the most popular characters in the last few years – for a good reason.
12. Miranda Killgallen (As Told By Ginger)
One Nickelodeon show was different from the others at the beginning of the 2000s. As Told By Ginger is a cartoon series that focuses on a junior high school girl named Ginger Foutley who, with her friends, tries to become more than a social geek.
The show was critically acclaimed, and it dished out characters that we know and love today. One is Miranda Killgallen, whose mean demeanor and sometimes cruelty can be repulsive, but her kindness surprises her friends, even her biggest rival Ginger. Miranda was unapologetically a flawed character that fans will remember for a long time.
11. Trixie Carter (American Dragon)
Disney released a lot of cool cartoons during the 2000s, but one was a hit from 2005 to 2007, and it was called American Dragon. The show follows the story of a young Chinese-American boy named Jake Long who, trying to live a normal life, tries to handle the ability to turn into a dragon.
One of his best friends is Trixie Carter, who is quite similar to Jake in many ways – she is a cool, witty, blunt, and incredibly sharp-tongued girl. She is passionate but is still a logical and mature group member.
10. Jodie Landon (Daria)
Daria is one of the most successful animated series MTV ever created. The show mostly follows a cynical teenage girl Daria who is trying to live in a world vastly different from the one she wants to be in.
One of Daria’s colleagues from high school is Jodie Landon, a popular girl who actually gets Daria’s humor and shenanigans and mostly feels comfortable around the sarcastic and cynical girl. Fans never forgot Jodie Landon, and it will get its featured film that will be released soon. For a very good reason.
9. Wade (Kim Possible)
Batman has Oracle, Kim Possible, and Ron have Wade. This young boy is Ron’s and Kim’s communication Guru that helps them with cool gadgets, tools, and other items used on the missions.
Wade is extremely smart and is always available for Ron and Kim to contact him and help them against Team Impossible, Kim Possible’s enemies. Wade is one of the coolest side characters we witnessed in the cartoons from the 2000s and is still remembered by the now young adults today.
8. Uncle Ruckus (The Boondocks)
We are now getting to more iconic black characters, and Uncle Ruckus is one of them. Even though The Boondocks is exclusively popular only in the United States, its influence on American black youth is unmeasurable. The show deals mostly with the dysfunctional black family, the Freemans, who are trying to settle in the predominantly white suburb of Woodcrest.
The series is a literal melting pot of various cultures and lifestyles that only a few have – it also deals with many social problems and conflicts. Uncle Ruckus is a really interesting character we rarely see in cartoons, even in adults – he is a bold, racist black man against his race. Still, he is also trying to be accepted by the community – Uncle Ruckus is essentially a walking contradiction.
7. Princess Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)
The final character from the Princess and the Frog on this list is Tiana, a Disney princess that we know and love. Tiana is a hardworking waitress who dreams of opening her restaurant. She transforms into a frog after kissing a frog-like Prince Naveen, who Dr. Facilier cursed.
Her journey and values ultimately brought her love and success, and her legacy and princess status only encouraged more representation of other cultures in the Disney projects. She is the first African American Disney princess in the Disney Princess franchise – Tiana will get her show on Disney+ in 2024.
5. Joe Gardner (Soul)
A more recent character, Joe Gardner, emerged with the Disney animated featured musical comedy-drama in 2020. The film was critically acclaimed and won various awards. The Soul follows a story of a pianist, Joe Gardner, who is involved in the accident before his big break as a jazz musician and tries to reconnect his separated Soul and body.
This emotional story touched many hearts, especially during the hard times of the COVID-19 era, and it gave us a great perspective of the beauty of living and finding purpose.
6. Susie Carmichael (Rugrats)
Rugrats was THE show of the 1990s. The story focuses on the babies and their day-to-day lives, usually including the babies and their rich imaginations. This notable Nickelodeon show released a few spin-offs and revivals recently, and its popularity hasn’t veined to this day.
One of the characters featured in the show was Susie Carmichael, who is constantly butting heads with another baby named Angelica. She appeared in the various revivals and spin-offs of Rugrats and still is a very fondly remembered character.
5. Miles Morales (Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse)
Stan Lee was always vocal about never changing Spider-Man’s character, especially Peter Parker, the original Marvel superhero. However, Peter Parker’s Spider-Man died, and Marvel decided to create a character that would continue the Spider-Man legacy – a Puertorican black young teenager named Miles Morales.
From day one, fans warmly welcomed Miles Morales, and the character’s popularity skyrocketed with the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, released in 2018. The film got universal critical and commercial acclaim. It became one of the best-animated movies made in the last two decades, and Miles Morales became one of the most popular superheroes and cartoon characters today.
4. Robert Freeman (The Boondocks)
Another Boondocks character on this list, Robert Freeman, is Huey and Riley’s grandfather and legal guardian. He loves his grandchildren, but he goes on long tirades that mostly don’t make sense when he explodes. Robert can be described as an older man but unwise since he did not learn anything from his actions.
He is also a naive man and is usually attracting bizarre or crazy women who are trying to kill him. Regardless of his faults, his character left a huge mark on the black community in the United States and definitely should be high on this list.
3. Storm (X-Men)
The X-Men animated series from the 1990s is probably the best-animated series Marvel created ever. The way the series influenced the youth of that era can be seen today. The characters and storylines were on point, and children started loving comic book characters that they did not care about at all to that point.
Storm was my favorite superhero, not just because of her cool powers of manipulating the weather, but her characterization and design that “blew” my mind when I was little. Storm was an idol to millions of little girls back in the day and still is today.
2. Black Panther (Marvel)
When Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther appeared in the MCU for the first time, people lost their minds – the superhero instantly became the fan favorite for the black community and all Marvel fans. In the cartoon media, Black Panther appeared multiple times, notably in Fantastic Four, What If… ? and Avengers Assemble cartoons that were really popular amongst Marvel fans.
Black Panther is universally an iconic black character, so it’s not surprising that the character has the same impact in cartoons.
1. Huey Freeman (The Boondocks)
The final character on this list is another Boondocks character, this time the protagonist Huey. The young boy is the opposite of Uncle Ruckus and his grandfather Robert. He identifies himself as a revolutionary left-wing radical who regularly reflects on the happenings of American society and questions the reality of the United States of America he lives in.
He is extremely intelligent and charismatic in his speeches but usually cynical and too mature for such a young boy. Nothing can measure his influence on American youth. Because of that, we think Huey Freeman is probably the best black character of all time – Huey is one of a kind and cannot be replicated by anyone.