On the cusp of Netflix’s announcement that a second-season of Marvel’s Luke Cage is in the works, and after filing through the pages of Ta-Nehisi Coates “Black Panther,” it’s a safe bet to assume that Black superheroes are what’s hot.
It’s no surprise that art is a reflection of the times – and series like Luke Cage and “Black Panther” help tell a story that’s playing out in real-life. Their characters are complex, defy stereotypes and critique the notions of modern society. Reality seeps into the pages of literary creation – but what does this mean for our sons and daughters?
There’s been much debate about the representation of Blackness in the media – with stereotypes of thugs, criminals and poverty plaguing the airwaves while not actually representing our community’s whole experience. In Luke Cage,an ex-con turns super-human and is impenetrable with bullet-proof skin.
Residing in the historic neighborhood of Harlem, the writers infuse an action-packed series with Black history tid-bits, references to contemporary political commentary, humor, and neo-soul music to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. As one reviewer noted, “while the character is a black superhero from Marvel’s golden era, Cage’s power is one that many black parents wish they could bestow upon their children today.” A power to be impenetrable, brave and unyielding against society’s injustices.
But before there was Luke Cage there was the Black Panther – the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, initially appearing in 1966. Coates, inspired by the escapism and creativity experienced as a nine-year old reading comic books, saw the opportunity to pen the current script as a realization of his dreams.
But even greater was the opportunity to develop a storyline that pulled “from the archives of Marvel and the character’s own long history” as well as “the very real history of society — from the pre-colonial era of Africa, the peasant rebellions that wracked Europe toward the end of the Middle Ages, the American Civil War, the Arab Spring, and the rise of ISIS.” In fusing a heroic tale that triumphs over international terrorist groups, resistance to social change and inter-group conflict, Black Panther can teach us a lesson about how to be resilient in 2016.