African characters in comics

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Characters native to the African continent have been depicted in comics since the beginnings of the modern comic strip. Initially, such early 20th-century newspaper comics as Winsor McCay's Little Nemo depicted the racist stereotype of a spear-carrying cannibal, a comedic convention of the time. African characters later began to appear as another stereotype, the "noble savage" — a similar progression to that of depictions of Native Americans — and eventually as standard human beings.

History[edit]

American Comics[edit]

Cartoonist Lee Falk's adventure comic strip Mandrake the Magician featured the African supporting character Lothar from its 1934 debut on. He was a former "Prince of the Seven Nations", a federation of jungle tribes, but passed on the chance to become king and instead followed Mandrake on his world travels, fighting crime. He is often referred to as the strongest man in the world. Initially an illiterate exotic dressed in animal skins who provided brawn to complement Mandrake's brain on their adventures, he was modernized in 1965 to dress in suits and speak standard English.[1]

The publisher All-Negro Comics, Inc. published a single issue of All-Negro Comics (June 1947), a 15-cent omnibus, at a time when comics generally cost a dime, starring characters that included Lion Man. Lion Man is a young African scientist sent by the United Nations to oversee a massive uranium deposit at the African Gold Coast. Wearing a loin cloth and tribal headband, he is joined by a young war orphan named Bubba, and fights the villainous Doctor Blut Sangro.[2]

It wasn't until Waku, Prince of the Bantu in the omnibus Jungle Tales from Marvel Comics' 1950s predecessor Atlas Comics, that mainstream comic books depicted an African character as a strong, independent hero. Waku was an African chieftain in a feature with no regularly featured Caucasian characters.

One early Westernized, non-stereotyped African-American supporting character in comics is World War II soldier Jackie Johnson, who integrated the squad Easy Company when introduced as the title character of the story "Eyes for a Blind Gunner" in DC Comics' Our Army at War #113 (Dec. 1961) by writer Bob Kanigher and artist Joe Kubert.[3] He was followed shortly thereafter by Marvel Comics' first African-American supporting character, World War II soldier Gabe Jones, of an integrated squad in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 (May 1963).

The first African-American title character of a comic book series was the titular star of the Western comic book Lobo (Dell Comics, two issues, 1965-1966). The first known Black superhero in mainstream American comic books is Marvel's the Black Panther, an African who first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966). This was followed by the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics, the Falcon, introduced in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969). DC's first African-American superhero was Sgt. Willie Walker, a.k.a. Black Racer of the New Gods, introduced in writer-artist Jack Kirby's New Gods #3 (July 1971). Marvel's first major African female character was the superhero Storm.

African Comics[edit]

The series Powerman, designed as an educational tool, was published in 1975 by Bardon Press Features of London, England, for distribution in Nigeria. The series, starring Powerman, was written by Don Avenall (aka Donne Avenell) and Norman Worker, and illustrated by Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland. In 1988, Acme Press republished the series in the UK for the first time, to capitalize on the popularity of the artists, both of whose careers had since taken off. Acme changed Powerman's name to Powerbolt, to avoid confusion with the character Luke Cage, published by Marvel Comics. Powerman, who was superstrong and could fly, appeared in stories rendered in a simple style reminiscent of Fawcett Comics' Golden Age Captain Marvel. His only apparent weakness was snakebite.[4]

Jet Jungle and his black panther Jupiter starred in one of the longest running radio plays and comic strips in South Africa, from 1965 to 1985. Progressive for his time, Jet Jungle appealed to children across the spectrum but never succeeded in breaking out of the stranglehold of economic sanctions and a cultural boycott caused as a result of the racist policies of the government of the day. Nevertheless he can be credited with inspiring a generation of naturalists and environmentalists to save the rain-forests and jungles of Africa.

In November 2005, Nelson Mandela announced that the comic book A Son of the Eastern Cape would provide an illustrated history of Mandela's formative years, starting with his birth. The opening panels show Mandela as a swaddled baby in his parents' arms in their mud hut in the village of Mwezo, near Qunu in the Eastern Cape. The graphic novel was made up of 8 volumes, written and illustrated by Nic Buchanan of comics company Umlando Wezithombe, and to be translated into South Africa's 10 other official languages. A teacher's guide was also to be created.[5]

Umlando Wezithombe produce African comic books and have covered topics such as Steve Biko, Xhosa Cattle Killings, Mapungubwe, Table Mountain, water conservation, quadraplegia, gay and lesbian rights, recycling, and more. See www.umlando.co.za.

Listed by company[edit]

DC Comics[edit]

  • Adiremi - personification of the living wind she is a pattern in the clouds. One of the Orishas.
  • Agemo - the chameleon, depicted as a shapeshifter. One of the Orishas.
  • Computo (Danielle Foccart) - member of an alternate version of the Legion of Super-Heroes (in a now-erased continuity); hails from Côte d'Ivoire
  • Doctor Mist - former leader of both the Global Guardians and Primal Force.
  • Erinle - depicted as a living flame, needs to consume to live. One of the Orishas.
  • Eshu - The trickster and maintainer of balance. very similar to Anansi.
  • Freedom Beast - a South African hero from the Global Guardians.
  • Impala - a former member of the Global Guardians, now deceased.
  • Invisible Kid (Jacques Foccart) - member of the Legion of Super-Heroes; hails from Côte d'Ivoire
  • Jakuta - a warrior of living stone and earth. Interestingly enough, Jakuta like Shango is traditionally a thunder god known as "Thrower of Light". One of the Orishas.
  • Kid Impala - of the Ultramarine Corps
  • Mawu - Mawu is the mother of the gods. She is always depicted as riding the rainbow serpent Oshunmare. Mawu created Ifé the living homeland of the gods, and imbued it with Lido (her life-force). Her traditional name is Mawu-Lisa. One of the Orishas.
  • Mohammed Ibn Bornu - North African warrior hero from the Cadre of the Immortal. He rode a robot horse and carried and electronic spear that fired bolts of lightning.
  • Molo - the International Sea Devil who represented Africa.
  • Moremi - she appears to be a communally sentient flock of birds. One of the Orishas.
  • Obatala of the White Cloth - leader of the Orishas. Used to take mortal form, was killed in mortal form by the king of Benin. He is later re-incarnated as a mortal man named Doctor Efraim Ngai, with no memory of his godly origins.
  • Ochun - basically a naiad, Ochun personified the "Sweet Waters" and can manifest in any body of water. One of the Orishas.
  • Ogun - God or iron and the forge, sometimes referred to as He-Who-Is-Iron. The blacksmith god who was the and creator of the Golden Chain linking earth to Ifé home of the gods. And he was also the one who broke the chain at Shango's request. One of the Orishas.
  • Olorun - depicted as a face that took up the entire sky, Olorun is defined as "He-Who-is-the-Sky". Olorun was the first Orisha, born of Mawu into the land of Ifé.
  • Orunmilla - The lawgiver of the Orishas, and voice of Olorun. Carries an everburning torch.
  • Osain - depicted as a human woman spontaneously formed from the leaves of a tree. One of the Orishas.
  • Oshunmare - A giant rainbow serpent which is ridden by Mawu the goddess of creation. One of the Orishas.
  • Shango - A hotheaded, war-axe wielding thunder god capable of changing his size at will, warchief of the Orishas.
  • Vixen - a member the Justice League. Was originally supposed to be the first African-American super heroine but her comic was canceled during the DC Implosion

Wildstorm (ABC/Homage)[edit]

  • Anansi - an illusion-casting hero Astro City universe, based in Kenya where he fought the invading Enelsians.
  • Flint - a superstrong and near invulnerable Kenyan woman. Formerly of Stormwatch and an associate of the Authority.

Marvel Comics[edit]

  • Bashenga - an ancient Wakandan whose first and only appearance was in Black Panther v1 #7 from 1978, Bashenga was supposedly the first king of Wakanda and the first Black Panther some 10,000 years ago.[6]
  • Bedlam III - member of the Exemplars.
  • The Black Musketeers - the trio of Dr. Joshua Itobo, Ishanta, and Khanata were all members of the royal family of the African kingdom of Wakanda. They were usually called to assist the king.[7]
  • Black Panther - hereditary title of the ruler of Wakanda, who is currently T'challa son of T'chaka, grandson of Azzari the Wise (yet another story names Chanda as his grandfather).
  • Brillalae - which means "She Who Glistens," is a native of Murkatesh. She attempted to recruit Abe Brown of America as the new Black Tiger. Heroes for Hire foiled her invasion of Halwan a neighboring African country.[8]
  • Cub - member of the Remnants (counter earth).
  • Doctor Crocodile - ally of Captain Britain
  • Embyrre - an ancient African Vampiress who lived and died in the pages of Midnight Sons.[9]
  • Erik Killmonger - a longtime enemy of the Black Panther.
  • Hack - a teleporting mutant from Genosha (a fictional island nation located near Madagascar).
  • Ikon - a Black Panther villain named Dr. A'kurru whose body was made of living wood.[10]
  • Frenzy - Acolyte.
  • Gentle - student from Xavier's.
  • Impala - villainous member of Bad Girls, Inc.
  • Ivory - member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Super Soldiers.
  • Leecher - member of the Bio-Genes a group of Somalian Mutant rebels.
  • Lightbright - member of the Intruders, formerly with the Bio-Genes a group of Somalian Mutant rebels.
  • Mali - member of the Bio-Genes a group of Somalian Mutant rebels.
  • Man-Ape - now labelled a villain, M'Baku was Wakanda's greatest warrior second only to the Black Panther. He plotted to usurp the throne with the help of the outlawed White Gorilla cult who were ancient rivals of the Black Panther cult, which basically made them heretics since Panther worship is the state religion.
  • Midnight Sun - an African child named M'Nai adopted by Fu Manchu, and raised alongside his son Shang-Chi. Fu Manchu impressed with his stoic nature trained him as one of the Si-Fan his elite assassins. Due to his badly disfigured face he always wore a mask, he was mute due to the attack that scarred his face. because they were equally skilled Fu Manchu sent him to kill Shnag Chi after Shang refused to assassinate James Petrie. Midnight died as a result of their second battle, but was later resurrected by the Kree in cloned body and gifted with cosmic powers strong enough to challenge the Silver Surfer. After a couple of battles with the Surfer he settled down to a peaceful life in the Blue Area of the Moon where he was accepted by the Inhumans.[11][12]
  • Moses Magnum - the ruler of Canaan a small offshoot of Wakanda. An enemy of the Black Panther.[13]
  • Mubaru - was a Wakandan cabinet member who represented the Mountain Tribes.[14]
  • N'Kama - a Zulu Warrior hired by Damon Dran to capture the Black Widow. Master of hand-to-hand combat, also a master hunter and tracker.
  • N'Kantu, the Living Mummy (Swarili tribe's king)
  • Punchout - member of the Genoshan Press Gang.
  • Sekmeht the Lion God - leader of the Lion Cult of Wakanda. Believes himself to be an actual God, opposed to the Panther Cult whose worship diminished his own followers. banished to another dimension by Iron Man and Mantis.[15]
  • Shola Inkosi - a telekinetic/telepathic mutant from Genosha (a fictional island nation located near Madagascar)
  • Solomon Prey - a villain and enemy of the Black Panther, he possesses bat-like wings that enable him to fly. Also has razor sharp claws.[16]
  • Sombre - an agent of Eric Killmonger and enemy of the Black Panther. Sombre's touch is highly corrosive and painful.[17]
  • Splice - Chandra Ku was a 13-year old Zulu girl from the 18th century. Recruited into the Young Gods by an African goddess.
  • Sparrow - member of the Soldiers of Misfortune.
  • Storm (Ultimate version) - Ororo Munroe, born in Morocco.
  • Transfaser - member of the Bio-Genes a group of Somalian Mutant rebels.
  • Vibrania (Ally of Speedball)
  • Vibranium- The former king of Canaan. Baru was deposed by Moses Magnum and transformed into living Vibranium by the villain Diablo.
  • Vibraxas - was formerly a member of Fantastic Force.

Atlas Comics[edit]

  • Waku Prince of the Bantu - the titular character was an African chieftain in a feature with no regularly featured Caucasian characters.

Marvel UK[edit]

  • Afrikaa - Afrikaa Ngala first appears in Black Axe #5 Marvel UK. Draws power from a magma pool known as the "Heart of Afrikaa".[18]
  • Doctor Crocodile - Joshua N'dingi, Chief of the African nation of Mbangawi. A friend of Captain Britain and powerful magic user, it was he who uncovered Jamie Braddock's insanity and evil to his siblings Brian and Betsy.[19]
  • Howitzer - a member of the Genedogs and English hero team combining mutants and mutates.

Strikeforce Morituri[edit]

Supremeverse[edit]

  • The Five - five unnamed African superhumans who tell the Squadron Supreme and Hyperion to leave Africa and never return.
  • The Voice - General John M'Butu, a genocidal tribal leader gifted with a powerful psychic suggestion ability with a vocal component.

Small Press: Comic Book[edit]

African Prince[edit]

  • Captain Africa - baqased in Juba Castle near the high-tech metropolis called Egyptica, Prince Najee M’Witu is secretly Captain Africa a brilliant detective.

All-Negro Comics[edit]

  • Lion Man - American born, college educated Lion Man is a young scientist, sent by the United Nations to watch over the fearsome ‘magic mountain’ off the African Gold Coast.

ANIA Publishing[edit]

  • Zwanna, Son of Zulu - An over the top caricature of the black superhero, complete with a "Zulu-sense", and the ability to summon the powers of the Zulu. He carries a short spear in one hand, with green tassles which are in fact magical vines that he can mentally control.

Arcane Comics[edit]

  • Nighthawk - appeared in the Soul Sorcerer
  • Noah - appeared in the Soul Sorcerer

Awesome Comics[edit]

  • Nubian Knight - an ordinary man living in South Africa who is granted super powers by "El" an ancient Godlike being.

Comico[edit]

  • Anansi

Daathrekh Publishing[edit]

Griot Enterprises[edit]

  • The Horsemen - Incarnations of the Yoruba pantheon's orishas including Yemaya, Ogun, Obatala, Oshun, Shango, Oya, and Eshu

Liberator[edit]

  • C.U.S.H. - a team of black superhumans.[21]

Miller Publishing Co.[edit]

UNForce[edit]

  • Oba - a member of UNForce

Urban Style Comics[edit]

  • Dreadlocks - he is a blind, revolutionary hero empowered by the gods of ancient Alkebulan. Taught by the master teacher Pharohn, his duty is to bring Ma'at (order, justice, peace) to the people.

Small Press: Graphic Novel[edit]

Double Storey[edit]

  • Red Monkey [1] - Dave the Red Monkey, a red "apeman" stoner, lives in a surreal version of Cape Town alongside normal appearing humans. Dave appears in "Red Monkey: The Leaking Cello Case" written and illustrated by South African artist Joe Daly, and published by Double Storey in 2003. "The characters spend their lives in a sophisticated, new age version of hell. Monkey-footed Dave lives in decaying art deco splendour, dodging his underachieving dagga-smoking white buddies who are always out to loan a buck."[22]

Gettosake[edit]

  • Credence Walker [2] - a Doc Savage styled adventurer in an alternate Africa, written by Travis G. Johnson, with plot and art by Jeremy & Robert Love. Originally slated to be published in 2004 by Gettosake Entertainment.

Webcomics[edit]

Other media[edit]

Television[edit]

  • Anansi the Spider - a hero of Ghana, and the greatest hero in west Africa. Anansi has the power to create visible, realistic illusions. He is named after Anansi, the trickster spider of African folklore. Made guest appearances on the animated television show Static Shock.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]