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6 Black Comic-Book Heroes Who Deserve Their Own Animated Film

With the success of "Into the Spider-Verse," we pick more Black heroes to get the animated big-screen treatment.

As Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse crosses over the magical $200 million mark at the box-office, the critically acclaimed, visually-stunning film, which is now the odds-on favorite to win a Best Animated feature Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards, has plenty to celebrate. At the top of the list is more proof that, given the chance, Black comic book characters can flourish in the theatrical market. Young Miles Moraleswho proudly dons the iconic Spider-Man mask, joins the Black Panther as heroes of color who not only defy tired movie racial stereotypes, but unapologetically embrace their Blackness in a world of unbelievable wonder. Now it’s time for Hollywood to make even bigger bold statements. BET presents six Black superheroes that would translate brilliantly on the animated big screen. 

 

  1. When you are a 9-year-old African-American genius who rivals (and at times surpasses) the raw, supreme intellect of the Fantastic Four’s Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards, you pretty much are a big deal. Not only has Lunella Lafayette been described as the smartest character in the Marvel Universe (Moon Girl’s IQ is also canonically higher than Tony Stark’s, Doctor Doom’s, and Bruce Banner’s), she also has the ability to switch consciousness with her mammoth, protective reptile cohort Devil Dinosaur. 

    Just how brilliant is Lunella? She once built an inter-dimensional spaceship out of trash, greatly enhanced a non-working copy of Professor X’s Cerebro, and created a life-size triceratops battle suit. Certainly a Moon Girl animated film, done right, would be a landmark statement on many levels given that it would be the first headlining big-screen project to feature a Black female superhero.

     

  2. Not to be confused with the Transformers’ lovable yellow Volkswagen Beetle, this severely underused character has been a part of the DC world since 1976, oftentimes cited as its first Black woman superhero. Born Karen Beecher, Bumblebee has gone through several iterations both as a member of the Teen Titans and Doom Patrol. A dynamic scientist, Beecher created her own super-suit, granting her the ability to fly, project sonic energy blasts, and shrink down to the size of a bee while showcasing enhanced strength. 

    After the events of 2016’s DC Rebirth re-launch, Bumblebee no longer needs scientific hardware to battle evildoers, as she is now able to control her powers naturally. As for commercial crossover viability, the strong-willed heroine already has a head start over the other heroes on our list, having appeared in several well-received animated television shows including the original Teen Titans,Teen Titans Go!Young Justice, and Super Hero High

     

  3. So what’s cooler than a swaggering, wisecracking Tony Stark taking on the bad guys in one of his many brilliantly constructed Iron Man suits? An equally brilliant teenage inventor from Chicago who attends M.I.T., rocks Converse, is A Tribe Called Quest stan, and saves the day in her own personally designed Ironheart armor. In fact, Stark was so thoroughly impressed by the beyond-her-years engineering mind of the then 15-year-old Riri Williams that he co-signed her decision to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Avengers adventurer. 

    But Riri is not just content with carrying the Iron Man legacy. As newcomer Marvel writer Eve L. Ewing makes clear in the recently released Ironheart comic series, Riri is her own hero. Her new and improved Ironheart Armor Model 3 is lighter, faster and much more powerful than her original soaring, repulsor-blasting creation. And then there’s her connection to the aforementioned Miles Morales, who is a fellow member of the youthful superhero collective The Champions. Imagine Ironheart popping up in the sequel to Into the Spider-Verse before spinning off into her own animated flick. It could happen, folks.  

     

  4. From the minds of iconic comic-book visionary Frank Miller and English artist Dave Gibbons, Martha Washington represents a more adult departure from our previous entries. Dark Horse Comics’ resident computer programmer, hacker and soldier made her first appearance in 1990 in an alternative reality. In this sci-fi dystopian world, the Chicago-born Martha finds herself in the middle of the second American Civil War. As a member in the PAX Peace Force, the former Cabrini-Green housing project resident becomes a symbol of resistance in her quest to fight for a more just, peaceful United States no longer ruled by violent, blood thirsty authoritarian factions. 

    Given the dark, political content of Martha Washington, it’s clear that a G or PG-rated take on such adult-aimed material won’t cut it. The mature-leaning cinematic classic Akira (1988) would be a worthy, risk-taking guide. But impressive box-office returns for an R-rated film is indeed possible. The fantastically more profane Sausage Party (2016), made on a $19 million budget, took in a huge haul of over $140 million worldwide.  

     

  5. Icon & Rocket

    The otherworldly Icon and his two-fisted partner, Rocket, are arguably the most intriguing picks of the bunch. Arnus, an ageless Terminan alien, crash lands on Earth in the American South in 1839 as his life pod transforms his physical appearance to duplicate the DNA of the nearest life form—an African-American slave woman named Miriam. Soon after discovering he has powers (imagine a Black Superman with the added ability to generate and control energy), the future Icon, who takes on the apt civilian name Augustus Freeman, uses his abilities to free his fellow slaves through the Underground Railroad. 

    The serious historical elements of Icon’s story would instantly separate it from the run-of-the-mill animated superhero flick. But it’s the young, feisty, and liberal Raquel Irving, a.k.a. Rocket, who adds a modern, lively edge. After she convinces the Republican-leaning corporate lawyer to use his gifts to fight for the people of Dakota City instead of returning to his home planet, Rocket teams up with Freeman with the aid of her inertia belt, which enables her to fly and manipulate kinetic energy in a myriad of ways. 

    An Icon/Rocket film instantly opens the door for an untapped embarrassment of Black superhero riches from the Milestone Comics wing of the DC. The late, great Dwayne McDuffie co-created characters, which includes Static (who anchored his own popular Static Shock cartoon television series from 2000 to 2004), Hardware and the Blood Syndicate members DMZ, Brickhouse, Pyre, Tech-9, Wise Son, Flashback, Fade, and Aquamaria, more than deserve the big-screen treatment.  

     

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