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Who Was The First Non-White Superhero?

Discussion in 'Comic Book Culture' started by Christopher Glennon, Oct 27, 2005.

  1. Christopher Glennon

    Christopher Glennon Punch Drunk Flounder
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    Thanks to Revelator, now I'm wondering who the first non-white superhero introduced in a comic book was.

    And by non-white, I don't mean alien, Atlantean or robot (although mutants and metahumans are okay), I mean a human being born on Earth and/or concieved by two human Earthlings that belongs to a non-caucasian ethnic group (black, Asian, whatever).

    And by superhero I mean anyone who puts on a costume or uniform (usually with some kind of symbol or theme) with either powers or extraordinary skills (fighting and whatnot) that uses their ability to help those in need, protect innocents, and punish wrongdoers.

    I always thought Black Panther was the first (he predates Black Lightning, right?), but thanks to Revelator's thread, I'm wondering if it was Crimson Avenger's sidekick, Wing.
     
  2. EinBebop

    EinBebop Data Dog

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  3. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    Howdy,

    Yikes. From that site EinBebop links to:

    I suspect this was back when "Marvel" was called "Timely" comics.

    If you're willing to stretch your definition of both "superhero" and "non-white," I'd probably peg Zorro as the winner of that title, since he was first written in 1919. However, since he's a California Spaniard rather than Mexican, I'm not sure you can accurately call him "non-white." The next one in line that I can think of is probably the Lone Ranger's Tonto, who debuted with the radio show in 1933.

    I do know that Power Man was the first black superhero to have a monthly title of his own in 1972, and most people point to the Black Panther as the first black superhero who was treated with dignity and as a first-tier character rather than as a sidekick in 1966.

    -- Ed/Ace
     
  4. Christopher Glennon

    Christopher Glennon Punch Drunk Flounder
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    Thanks for the link, Ein, interesting site. Although I wouldn't consider Whitewash the first non-white superhero considering he didn't seem to have any powers or particular skills. When they did that Young Allies Counter Earth Heroes Reborn thing a few years ago, was there even a reference to him?

    Ace, you don't know how many times I had to revise that post. I did have Zorro in my mind since he's not all that different from Batman (who I do consider a superhero in the loosest sense of the word), but you'll notice I wrote "introduced in a comic book" (meaning first appearance anywhere), thus making Zorro and Tonto inelligible. But again, just barely where Zorro is concerned.

    I notice that it's mostly the black guys who are first when it comes to this sort of thing (hence why the Wing thing surprised me). You mentioned titles, and who was the first non-white hero to have their own movie? Steel or Spawn, I can't remember which was first.
     
  5. EinBebop

    EinBebop Data Dog

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    [​IMG]
     
  6. Revelator

    Revelator In summary then: "Oh no."

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    So, if we discounted Zorro and Tonto, that leaves it as a toss-up between Wing and (ugh) Whitewash. I'm guessing Wing came first, since he was introduced in 1938. However, this gets even more complicated because The Crimson Avenger and Wing were basically rip-offs of The Green Hornet and Kato. If we were to discount Kato as the first minority superhero (though his claim is not to be taken lightly), then we're back to Wing. However, Wing didn't officially appear in his bright yellow superhero costume till around January 1942 (before that he dressed similarly to the Avenger's first incarnation). Anyway, at this point I'll throw my hat in the ring and say that Wing was probably the first minority superhero in comic books. It would be nice if JLU's upcoming Seven Soldiers of Victory episode would include him as a tribute, but they've got lots of other non-superpowered heroes they could fit in there too. Still, as a racial groundbreaker, it would be nice if Wing was given his due. Perhaps he could be made The Avenger's partner rather than sidekick (if he appeared in the show I mean, since the comics Avenger and Wing are regrettably dead).
     
  7. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    Howdy,

    OK, fine, go ahead and make my life hard by compelling me to answer the question you're ASKING instead of the one I wanted to ANSWER. Keep that kind of behavior up and I see no future AT ALL for YOU to be a political reporter. :D

    In all seriousness, I think I may take it on myself to poke around a bit and see if I can't rustle up a more definitive answer, but Wing certainly looks like a leading contender for the title. Ebony White, the Spirit's blackface sidekick is about the only other character I can think of who'd be eligible, but I don't think he showed up until the 1940's.

    As for movies, I'm going to say Leonard Part 6 (1987) with Bill Cosby may be the first one that had a headlining minority superhero, again assuming that you exclude Zorro. I don't think Shaft quite qualifies as a superhero.

    -- Ed/Ace
     
  8. Christopher Glennon

    Christopher Glennon Punch Drunk Flounder
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    Oh, a wiseguy, eh? Just wait until you get elected to the Supreme Court, Ace, I'll be waiting for you.

    Blankman? Leonard Part 6? Wait, wait, wait, I meant the first movie to be based on a non-white (can't really say minority) superhero who first appeared in a comic book. So no Meteor Man either. I think I'm just confusing myself...
     
  9. wonderfly

    wonderfly Shaking things up a bit
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    Ummm...was it Blade?!? He appeared in a comic book first, (in "Tomb of Dracula" in the 70's), before heading to the big screen.
     
  10. cameronpoe1986

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    steel and spawn came out before blade. and i think coffy and shaft and alla those blaxploitation characters were the first heroes of color to see respect........they were made with a comic book type of style......
     
  11. The Old Maid

    The Old Maid Voice in the wilderness

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    Since we're including non-comic book based heroes, in The Incredibles was Frozone based on any one character, or is he an amalgam or an original character?

    *still shaking head after seeing Mr. Incredible and Friends on the Bonus Disc*
     
  12. Christopher Glennon

    Christopher Glennon Punch Drunk Flounder
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    Wow, both Steel and Spawn came out in 1997, what are the odds? Still don't know which was first, though.

    Frozone's powers, most notably the ice bridge, seemed to be based off Iceman from the X-Men. Whereas his costume was more like the Avengers/Iron Man villain Blizzard. Frozone as an African American super hero didn't remind me of any black heroes in particular in terms of powers or personality. He seemed pretty original to me.

    My goodness, that short was one of the FUNNIEST things I have ever seen! That rabbit was way cooler than Gleek and Ms. Lion, and the commentary on it made it even funnier.
     
  13. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    Howdy,

    Brief update: I just got the following from Don Markstein, keeper of the most excellent Toonopedia:

    Stories about the Whip crop up here, here, and (as part of a larger review of the DC Rarities Archive edition) here. The interesting bit (and one which I'll follow-up with Don about) is that the Whip began life as a Caucasian character who affected a Spanish/Mexican accent, and acquired partial Mexican heritage much later in his life (provided by, who else, Roy Thomas). As a Zorro clone, he has the same issues that crop up whether one would consider an ethnically Spanish character to be "non-white."

    So, at the moment, it seems that Wing may still be the leading contender, but not if you account for the Whip's retconned origin.

    -- Ed/Ace
     
  14. Christopher Glennon

    Christopher Glennon Punch Drunk Flounder
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    Oh geez, now THAT'S a tough one!

    I'd say it doesn't really count because when the Whip was created, they intended for him to be caucasian, and it wasn't until after other non-white characters appeared until his ethnicity was changed.
     
  15. Beyond Batman

    Beyond Batman The Tomorrow Knight

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  16. Ed Liu

    Ed Liu That's 'Cause I ATE IT!!!
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    Howdy,

    I discovered another potential candidate in the form of Lothar, sidekick/partner to Mandrake the Magician. He debuted in the Mandrake comic strip in 1934 as the African "Prince of the Seven Nations" and joined Mandrake, first as the muscle (and as a caricature) and later as a parter in his own right. You can read up on him at Don Markstein's Mandrake Toonopedia entry, or at the Gallery of Black Superheroes (go to Exhibits and click on "Marvel" to find him).

    It's still a bit of a stretch, since Lothar's "costume" was either his native clothing or more of a stage costume rather than a superhero costume. One could even argue whether Mandrake himself was a superhero, but if he isn't, then it would seem to also to disqualify Zatara and possibly even Zatanna.

    BTW, this book on black images in comics is pretty interesting, if flawed and limited by its own mission statement. However, it's not a bad start to the subject, and points to a bunch of other good resources.

    -- Ed/Ace
     
  17. DOOM2099

    DOOM2099 Member

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    Sweet Christmas!
     
  18. Lucho

    Lucho 'Ja think I'm a cowboy?

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    Lothar should definitely count, he easily fit's your criteria for Superhero -
    .
    And that is definitely a costume.

    [​IMG]


    Also it wasn't his own movie, but he may have been the first non-white superhero character
    (again going by your criteria for superhero) to be translated into a movie.
    In the 1939 Mandrake the Magician movie serials.

    [​IMG]

    But really I'd go with Black Panther, who really is the first!

    ___________________________________________

    Zorro vs. Zoro…
     
    #18 Lucho, May 20, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2008
  19. Christopher Glennon

    Christopher Glennon Punch Drunk Flounder
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    Hmm, I guess going by my definition, this guy would definitely count (provided those clothes he's wearing aren't his normal clothes and he only wears the costume "on the job"). I've seen him before, but I didn't realize he pre-dated so many other characters.
     
  20. DisneyBoy

    DisneyBoy Searchin' My Soul

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    I don't know if it was made first or not, but perhaps Meteor Man came before Blankman?
     

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