Marvel Comics set itself apart from other comic book companies in the 1970s and 1980s by creating strong black superheroes in a market which had none. To this point, very few of the black characters have made it to the movies, though many have been introduced to fans through TV, especially in the last few years. TV is being used to add more popularity for Marvel's black characters and might be preparing African-American fans for a stronger representation on the big screen in the future.
Black superheroes in movies
The "Blade" series introduced many movie fans who had never read the stories of the vampire hunter and the "X-Men" series gave fans their first look at Storm in movie form. Fans were excited to see War Machine in "Iron Man 2" and hope he will be present in future movies as well. Nick Fury first hit screens in "Iron Man" and Heimdell was an important part of "Thor." Oddly, Nick Fury and Heimdell were both white in the Marvel Universe before the current Marvel movie push. Three originally black characters and two characters that were altered after decades of continuity do not count up to a significant number of black characters in Marvel's movies.
Other black characters
The comic book company has spoken about movies based on black characters such as Luke Cage, Deathlok, Black Panther, and Falcon but these have not come to pass. Marvel has other strong black characters such as Monica Rambeau who became Ms. Marvel, Cloak, Bishop, and Brother Voodoo. Even though only a few of the black Marvel characters have gone untapped in movie form, many have made a strong presence on TV.
Black Panther has appeared on Marvel animated shows since 1994 when his character was used in "Fantastic Four." Recently, he has shared the small screen with Falcon on "The Super Hero Squad Show" and the duo will be together in the upcoming "Avengers Assemble." The warrior from Wakanda is one of the more popular characters on "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes." Luke Cage is seen from time to time in the background during "The Super Hero Squad Show," is one of the secondary characters on "Ultimate Spider-Man" along with Nick Fury, and was in an episode of "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes." Bishop was often tapped by the animated version of the X-Men.
Future live-action shows
If "AKA Jessica Jones" is finally created for ABC, fans will appreciate seeing a live-action version of Cage. ABC Family has been working on a Cloak and Dagger, so there is a chance fans will have an upsurge in the portrayal of black superheroes on TV. Over the years, I have asked such comic book legends as Stan Lee (creator of Black Panther and Falcon), Rich Buckler (creator of Deathlok), and Arvell Jones about why black characters have missed out on being portrayed in the movies and each has simply answered "I don't know." Maybe by exposing more fans to black and African American superhero characters on TV will open more doors for them in the movies.
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