News flash: Being a black superhero is in. Whether that means being able to walk through a sea of bullets or being able to protect yourself with a 6-inch machete, black superheroes are here to stay.
From the nearly all-black cast in Luke Cage to Danai Gurira’s kick-ass Michonne in this season of The Walking Dead, black heroes and sheroes are permanent central characters in superhero stories.
On Tuesday, Netflix announced a second-season pickup for Marvel’s Luke Cage. What makes this news notable is that Luke Cage is one of a few recognizable black superheroes being received with large-scale attention. Also worth noting is the upcoming all-black cast of Black Panther, known as the first black superhero.
Growing up, my cousins and I would watch several superhero shows. When we would “play pretend” to be these superheroes, it never struck us that many of these superheroes didn’t represent us to the fullest degree. For years I would ask myself, “Where is a superhero I can connect with? Someone battling the same stresses or the same pressures that I am dealing with as a black man?”
Sure, there were characters of ambiguous race like Storm and Rogue from X-Men, but growing up, we never had strong male black superheroes with which we could connect, especially knowing that Batman’s superpower was white privilege.
For characters like Luke Cage and Black Panther, what makes them so great for the black community is knowing that each of them stands for more than just justice. These are characters who are not only protectors of their families but protectors of the greater good. They stand for the struggles that black men and women face at a systemic level.
The same can be said about Michonne and how her character has redefined what it means to be a black female superhero. I have been so happy to see the progression of Gurira’s character in this season of The Walking Dead. In past seasons, Michonne has been the one supporting Rick (Andrew Lincoln). She has often worked as his right-hand person to make sure that the group stays safe. But since season 5, we have seen Michonne take out some of the most crucial villains in the show, providing leadership, all while providing love and support to everyone in the group.
The ratings and viewership for shows like Luke Cage and The Walking Dead show us that folks are paying attention to black superhero storylines, as well as how much the black community values having these stories as the central focus of new and exciting content.
I hope the evolution of characters like Luke Cage, Michonne and Black Panther is just the beginning of an increase in investment in black-superhero storylines, because at the end of the day, Black Superhero Lives Matter—and so does equitable representation.