In celebration of Black History month this year, we have some great lists planned throughout the month, beginning with the Top 12 Black Comic Book Characters to Watch in 2012!
12. Mister Terrific (DC- Mister Terrific): Michael Holt is one of the few black characters from DC Comics that doesn’t make me roll my eyes and shake my head. Let’s be real here, when it comes to diversity DC Comics is way behind the curve and is just now making a strong effort to correct that mistake. But it was characters like Mister Terrific who showed that sometimes things can go right. Due to several events in his life he’s very angry and bitter, though instead of the usual things writers have black guys do when they’re angry, Holt’s escape is his intelligence and furthering his knowledge and understanding of the universe. This constant pursuit of knowledge ends up making him the third smartest man in the world. Over the years he’s been written as a pretty complex character that has helped to break the mold of what to expect from a black/genius/atheist character in comics.
With DC’s highly publicized reboot/relaunch last year, Mister Terrific was one of the characters given his own series, written by Eric Wallace. After a rough start the series began to find its legs and become a really fun read. A new villain was introduced and Mister Terrific received a much needed update to his costume. Add to that some very welcome and strong character building, and you had the makings of a pretty solid series. However, just when things seemed to be going right for Mr. T, DC announced that the title would be ending with its 8th issue, along with several other New 52 titles. Mister Terrific is too good of a character to let fade into obscurity, and has roots with one of the company’s most beloved teams, the Justice Society of America. So here’s hoping that Mister Terrific will be seen again with them sometime soon in the mix of “new” New 52 titles.
11. Sahara (Image- Elephantmen): The regal, elegant, and highly respected Sahara may not make an appearance in every issue of Richard Starkings’ Elephantmen series, but in the last year or so, she has displayed some shocking character choices. Sahara is engaged to the most famous and successful of the “elephantmen,” Obadiah Horn (an anthropomorphic rhino), and this causes great turmoil in the press and amongst other humans as inter-species relationships are very taboo in this futuristic, post-war world. Well, not only have we come to learn recently that Sahara’s heart may not solely belong to Horn, but her father may very well be out to kill them both.
The former is what may prove to yield the more shocking results this year, as Elephantmen’s main character, Hip Flask (an anthropomorphic hippo), has revealed his amorous feelings for Sahara to the reading audience, not to mention a deep-seeded jealousy of Horn. To boot, Horn isn’t completely unaware of Sahara’s unrest, and in #36, some serious foreshadowing is dropped which if comes to pass will surely turn the world of Elephantmen inside out.
10. Patriot (Marvel- Avengers: Children’s Crusade): With Allan Heinberg’s mini-series, Avengers: Children’s Crusade, coming to a close, many fans must be asking, “What’s next for our beloved, misplaced teen superheroes?” There is one character that piques more interest than all of the rest – Patriot. Since his first appearance in Young Avengers (2005), this young black superhero has intrigued readers with his historic connections to the world of Marvel superheroes (he’s the Grandson of Isaiah Bradley, the only black man to wear the stars and stripes as Captain America), and his edgy sense of justice. When he first arrived on the scene, he was portrayed as the sometimes contested, hot tempered leader of the Young Avengers. The seven years in-between then and now have depicted the slow fall from the spotlight for Eli Bradley. Many thought that Patriot’s close connection to Steve Rogers in Civil War would mark a transition in his career. Unfortunately, Children’s Crusade is proving otherwise, as Patriot provides little more than background dialogue throughout this otherwise fantastic series.
Patriot’s time for the spotlight is now and Marvel should be striking while the iron is hot. Steve Rogers has a new role (Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.) in the Marvel Universe, and Bucky has reverted back to his role as the Winter Soldier. The Avengers have been split into a million different teams, so the need for the iconic Steve Rogers to head up “The Avengers” is no longer necessary. Most importantly though, when you see the success of Miles Morales as the new Ultimate Spider-Man (see below), you know the world is in a more accepting place than it was twenty years ago. Like Morales, Patriot would bring a sense of youthful energy mixed with naivety to the role of Captain America. Bradley is the contemporary vision of what an American Patriot looks like today. Truth be told, it is what a “patriot” has looked like for sixty years, the general public just never wanted to admit it!
Children’s Crusade has shown that Marvel is not yet ready to elevate Eli Bradley to the role of Captain America. This is unfortunate because the timing has never been better.
9. Idie Okonkwo (Marvel- Wolverine and the X-Men):She was the spark that ignited the X-Schism between Cyclops and Wolverine, and now she finds herself as one of the many students at the new Jean Grey School in Westchester, NY, with none other than Wolvie as the school’s Head Master. What happens next for Idie, the young woman who can wield both fire and ice? Is her character poised to take on an even larger role this year? One would hope so, especially when considering writer Jason Aaron has expressed great interest in her.
With the whole Avengers vs. X-Men battle set to rage in a month, is Idie going to be one of the major players to step it up in defense of mutantkind? Or is she slated to get lost amongst the seemingly never ending shuffle of mutants on Earth?
Either way, she won’t do it alone as she’s taken on a close friendship with Broo, a renegade Brood who has a conscience, not to mention her long list of classmates. Hopefully, Aaron remains true to his commitment with Idie playing a crucial role in X-Schism and elevates her relevancy status in the X-world during the months to come.
8. Baxter Stockman (IDW- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles): Issue #6 of IDW’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ongoing series saw the first appearance of the dreaded rat chomping machines, the mousers. These destructive and lethal machines were set loose by Baxter Stockman, one of the most underused mad scientists in comics! The new TMNT series has been phenomenal, and the fact that the creative team (which is led by Turtles co-creator, Kevin Eastman) decided to go with the original look of Baxter Stockman was the right choice. In the cartoon, Baxter was portrayed as a snivelling wimp of a scientist who bowed to Shredder’s every command. That is most certainly not the case here.
In the new ongoing, Stockman carries himself with a cool confidence and poise as the leading scientist of a government sponsored research facility. He answers only to the mysteriously aggressive General Krang, and even in doing so, it’s clear Baxter is a man of mettle. With the mousers now on the loose, and the TMNT’s newest villain Old Hob in the dunce’s corner, Baxter’s role as a TMNT rogue has gotten larger. The stage is now set for him to cause crippling damage to the Turtles!
7. Cyborg (DC- Justice League): Justice League #5 of the New 52 showed us that the new Cyborg is a young man with serious stones who isn’t afraid to step into the line of fire. He is newly acquainted with his cybernetic weaponry, having never had the chance to train or test it, when Darkseid attacked and laid waste to Superman, Hal Jordan, and Batman right in front of him. Cyborg didn’t back down from the fight, and while we still have yet to see him really unload, writer Geoff Johns has done a decent job of weaving his story throughout the series so far.
Unlike the Cyborg who starred in Flashpoint, the reader actually gets some background on who this New 52 incarnation is and why we should care about him. He’s just a regular kid who wanted to excel in athletics, but the priorities of his overworking scientist father always made him feel like something less than what he was. Now though, he’s throwing punches alongside the greatest figures of the DC Universe, and we have only been teased with what Cyborg’s true power levels and capabilities are as a League member. Look for things to become much more transparent in 2012.
6. Marcus Johnson: (Marvel- Battle Scars) Since his first appearance in Battle Scars #1 not much is known about Staff Sergeant Marcus Johnson. However, Marvel has cast this very mysterious shadow over the character who has come back from the war overseas after the fallout of Fear Itself. He left chaos only to get blitzed with even more on his home turf; his mother was assassinated by Russian hitmen, he got attacked by Taskmaster and saved by Captain America, only to be captured by S.H.I.E.L.D.! It seems as if everyone knows more about him than he does. Now, what started the major buzz about this guy was the veiled mention of his father along with the various Marvel press releases about a top secret connection in the S.H.I.E.L.D. files.
When this much is unknown about a character it leads to all kinds of speculation, but the big thing on the message boards about Marcus Johnson is that his father just might be the legendary Nick Fury himself! Now wouldn’t that be a kick in the head and one of the biggest surprises from Marvel in 2012. If it is true, then Johnson will have an even bigger role to play in the Marvel Universe than we expected!
5. Massacre (DC- Batwing): The only thing cooler than a black hero is an even cooler black villain that can take the protagonist to task. In recent issues of Batwing, Massacre has clearly shown he’s that man. Why is he a character to watch out for? Well, first try naming some really cool black villains that are also taken seriously… Exactly. Batwing writer, Judd Winick, has given the fans a monster with Massacre, who is a force to be reckoned with.
Massacre racked up a pretty high body count just in Batwing’s first issue alone, in which he also drove a machete straight through the title hero. He’s been one step ahead of both Batman and Batwing at every turn, and has made Africa a more dangerous place than ever.
There’s some speculation as to who this man is, since his mask covers most of his face. The popular opinion was that he was the brother of Batwing who was thought to be dead. However in the latest issue, we find it just may be someone else entirely… Massacre’s a character to keep an eye on because even though the first story arc is almost complete, DC would be foolish to have him meet his end so soon. He’s going to cause Batwing and hopefully Batman some serious problems in the future and you’re going to want a front row seat!
4. Becky (Vertigo- Sweet Tooth):This addition is probably lost on a majority of readers due to the obscurity of the book Becky is from, but for anyone who has been reading Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth, it’s easy to see how key a character Becky is playing in this story. She is the first human we’ve witnessed in “real time” to contract the “disease” that has been the underlying plot point of this entire series (now more than 30 issues in). She is also the romantic interest of the book’s main badass, Mr. Jepperd.
It’s important to keep an eye on Becky this year because she may be the key to not only figuring out a cure to the disease that killed off a majority of mankind, but also in discovering just what the hell it is and how it can be contracted. In the latest issue of Sweet Tooth, Becky’s health status is up in the air, having recently taken a severe beating. If she survives, her character seems poised to advance the plot and shed some light on a series that has kept its readers entertained mainly by keeping them in the dark.
3. Mother’s Milk (Dynamite- The Boys): Oh man! If there’s one guy to watch in 2012 because he’s about to kick some serious ass, smear guts all over the wall, and mail the remainder to the victim’s significant other, it’s Mother’s Milk from Garth Ennis’ The Boys. MM has been a long-time member of The Boys, a team of enhanced humans who specialize in keeping out-of-control superheroes in line… usually by killing them. Or at least seriously maiming them.
The Boys is already well into it’s 60th issue, and you don’t have to put your ear to the ground to hear the title’s finale war drums beating. The Seven (who are basically the [corrupt] Justice League of The Boys universe) are poised to strike a decimating blow to humanity, and it’s up to The Boys to stop them. Make no mistake, Mother’s Milk will be instrumental in a Boys’ victory. He’s a brutal brawler, and after recently discovering his ex-wife was forcing his daughter into doing mommy/daughter porn, he’s never been more livid and willing to bust some twisted superhero skulls.
Why is he called “Mother’s Milk,” you ask? That’s up to you to figure out.
2. Luke Cage (Marvel- New Avengers/Thunderbolts): It’s been a long time coming but Cage has finally become a character to be taken very seriously in the Marvel Universe. For decades readers have had a love/hate opinion of the character, mostly due to various writers’ interpretations of him. One minute he’s exceeding expectations and then some incompetent writer comes along and scripts him as a one dimensional angry black guy from Harlem.
Well, for the past six years Marvel has continued to show a steady growth of the character by getting past stereotypes and focusing on the man he is. The result has yielded some of the best Luke Cage moments in comics. From his involvement in the super hero Civil War and Secret Invasion, to his formation of the New Avengers (not to mention becoming their leader, too), Cage also leads the Thunderbolts, which is a team of former villains seeking a shot at redemption.
His recent rise in the Marvel mythos has come at some cost and he, along with his wife and infant daughter, have been put directly in the cross hairs of Norman Osborn. Osborn has sworn to kill Cage’s family if he ever crossed him. New Avengers writer Brian Michael Bendis has put Cage’s team directly in the line of fire, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Osborn makes good on his promise. Speaking of Bendis, a lot of credit to Cage’s progression is because of his writing of the character. Even though there were a few good Cage stories in the past, hopefully future writers use what Bendis has done as a benchmark for how Luke Cage is to be portrayed in years to come. Anything else would be a slap in the face and a step backwards.
1. Miles Morales (Marvel- Ultimate Comics Spider-Man):When people heard that Marvel was going to kill off Peter Parker in the Ultimate Universe, a lot of them went bananas! Then when it hit that his replacement was going to be the black/latino Miles Morales people went bat **** crazy! Some, because they just didn’t want their beloved Parker to die, and others because they didn’t like the idea of a black/latino Spider-Man. Much like when people went crazy at the mention of a black Captain America years back.
Well, Brian Michael Bendis really didn’t care either way, and the result has been one of the best opening story arcs Marvel has published in a long while. Bendis made Miles a great character in a short time, and even more so by tying Peter’s legacy into Miles’ story on an emotional level.
So, with the first arc wrapped up what’s next for Miles? Who will train him? Which classic villains will he come up against? Just how untapped are his powers? Will he discover his uncle is the Prowler? How will the rest of those that were close to Peter react to Miles taking up the mantle of Spider-Man? Wherever the story may lead, Bendis seems to be focused on giving us some of the best new Spider-Man tales the Marvel Universe has to offer.