Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Super Black

Super Black

  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Super Black
    Book Description:

    Super Black places the appearance of black superheroes alongside broad and sweeping cultural trends in American politics and pop culture, which reveals how black superheroes are not disposable pop products, but rather a fascinating racial phenomenon through which futuristic expressions and fantastic visions of black racial identity and symbolic political meaning are presented. Adilifu Nama sees the value-and finds new avenues for exploring racial identity-in black superheroes who are often dismissed as sidekicks, imitators of established white heroes, or are accused of having no role outside of blaxploitation film contexts.

    Nama examines seminal black comic book superheroes such as Black Panther, Black Lightning, Storm, Luke Cage, Blade, the Falcon, Nubia, and others, some of whom also appear on the small and large screens, as well as how the imaginary black superhero has come to life in the image of President Barack Obama. Super Black explores how black superheroes are a powerful source of racial meaning, narrative, and imagination in American society that express a myriad of racial assumptions, political perspectives, and fantastic (re)imaginings of black identity. The book also demonstrates how these figures overtly represent or implicitly signify social discourse and accepted wisdom concerning notions of racial reciprocity, equality, forgiveness, and ultimately, racial justice.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-73545-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    Circa 1975, when I was five or six, my father took me to a toy store. I went straight to the section where all the superhero action figures were on display, enclosed in window-boxed packaging. They were eight-inch toys made by the now defunct Mego Corporation. Prior to this moment, superheroes inhabited the television reruns of Filmation’s The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure (1967–1968) and the few comic books I had tucked in the corner of my room. Now I was poised to have a handful of superheroes of my very own and I would be able to dictate the...

    (pp. 9-35)

    Scores of readers have used superhero comics to vicariously defy gravity and bound over skyscrapers, swing through the Big Apple with the greatest of ease, stalk the dark streets of Gotham, or travel at magnificent speeds throughout the universe on an opaque surfboard. Yet superheroes are more than fuel for fantasies or a means to escape from the humdrum world of everyday responsibilities. Superheroes symbolize societal attitudes regarding good and evil, right and wrong, altruism and greed, justice and fair play. Lost, however, in the grand ethos and pathos that superheroes represent are the black superheroes that fly, fight, live,...

    (pp. 36-66)

    In 1976, in Superboy #216, DC Comics introduced Tyroc to the world, and what an introduction it was. With his oversized Afro, tiny elf shoes, bare legs, and skimpy, white leotard, Tyroc looked like a life-size Tinker Bell without wings. Despite the goofy outfit, Tyroc reflected the remarkable transformation America was experiencing in the wake of the racial justice movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. Given that speeches and public demonstrations were a signature aspect of both the civil rights and Black Power movements, Tyroc’s ability to alter reality with his voice and various types of screams was a...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 67-88)

    Black characters in television and film have historically played the man standing next to the man. Films such as Play Misty for Me (1971), Silver Streak (1976), 48 Hrs. (1982), The Last Boy Scout (1991), Men in Black (1997), and, of course, the television series Miami Vice (1984–1989) demonstrate a range of examples where black characters are cast as ultracool sidemen or wise-cracking partners to various white protagonists. This is not to say black characters are the only or most aggrieved party when it comes to the history of minorities playing a secondary role to white characters. Across scores...

    (pp. 89-125)

    Even though the race-reversal trope has a checkered past, beginning as it did with the blackface minstrel tradition, American pop culture is littered with contemporary examples of whites transforming into black folk. Films such as Black Like Me (1964), Watermelon Man (1970), Soul Man (1986), White Man’s Burden (1995), and Tropic Thunder (2008) have whites experience life as black folk. Of course, the superhero genre has had its share of race reversals. One of the all-time strangest was when Lois Lane, Superman’s long-term love interest, was morphed into a black woman for twenty-four hours by Superman’s Transformoflux machine.¹ The experiment...

  10. CHAPTER 5 FOR REEL? Black Superheroes Come to Life
    (pp. 126-154)

    In 2008 The Dark Knight became the benchmark for serious film adaptations of comic book superheroes. Heath Ledger’s unnerving performance as the Joker and his posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor certainly contributed to making the film a Shakespearian tragedy on and off screen. Yet the critical success of the film is not reducible to the unfortunate and untimely passing of Ledger before the film’s release. The epic scale of the film, technical execution of full-throttle action sequences, and gritty performances amplified the primal expression of sheer anarchy and chilling lunacy Ledger’s performance conveyed as Batman’s arch nemesis. The sum...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 155-164)
    (pp. 165-170)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 171-180)