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After becoming an international mega-success, Black Panther appears to be a turning point for Black Marvel characters and for representation in films in general. The more optimistic of us suspect this will result in more stories being told from the perspective of those less often seen on screen.
Fortunately, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been introducing diverse characters into the fold for years and doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. While everyone’s more aware of the power diversity onscreen can have, let’s take a look at the progress we’ve made thus far in regards to the presence Black Marvel characters and take a peek at who may be around the corner as well.
Black Marvel characters in the MCU
Any list of Black Marvel characters has to start with the Black Panther himself. Especially in the year 2018, when the entire world is wondering how they can get to Wakanda.
As the recent film well-established, T’Challa is the king of Wakanda and the Black Panther, a super-powered protector of the highly advanced country. His abilities include super strength, enhanced agility, and a vibranium-infused suit. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a genius and one of the wealthiest people to ever live.
2) Luke Cage
While many superheroes are known for going out into space and beating up aliens from other dimensions, there are still a few who stay close to the ground and protect the people. Luke Cage is one of them.
Created in the 1970s and inspired by blaxploitation films, the bulletproof Black man with super strength was a perfectly timed vehicle for political commentary and just a lot of fun to spend time with. Thankfully, he’s traded in his tiara and oversized collar for a more modern look that can be seen in the Netflix Marvel series based on the character’s work protecting Harlem (and his work with the Defenders).
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3) Misty Knight
Think about your favorite super spies. They can probably disarm any opponent, utilize a worldwide network of sources to get the answers they need, and have access to a small arsenal upon request. Now imagine giving this person a bionic arm. That’s Misty Knight.
Knight has spent decades proving her capabilities as she’s partnered with the Heroes for Hire, Sam Wilson, and Colleen Wing, the latter of whom Knight formed the Daughters of the Dragon. Although she’s never gotten her own solo comic book series, Knight’s story is rich with potential.
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Sam Wilson is a personal favorite in comics mostly because of how low he started and how high he’s soared. Originally, Wilson was Captain America’s sidekick and one of the first African-American superheroes to exist. Over time, he started getting more responsibilities and accolades. Somehow, he turned the ability to fly and talk to birds into a spot on the Avengers, eventually leading them, and most importantly, replacing Steve Rogers as Captain America.
While Wilson’s time as Captain America was brief, it showed what he was capable of given the opportunity and was an inspiration to say the least. With Steve Rogers rumored to not survive the fourth Avengers film, there’s technically a chance this storyline presents itself in the MCU. But then again, can you really picture Anthony Mackie throwing a shield around?
One of the best things about Black Panther was how many other characters got to stand out and surprise audiences. Out of the many that did so, Shuri is easily the most popular. With her quick wit, genius inventions, and meme-worthy one-liners, she proved that she’s worthy of more shine.
The good news: The groundwork for a higher calling has already been laid. If you haven’t read the comics, you’d probably be surprised to know that there was a time where Shuri actually served as the Black Panther and was really good at it. So much so that a lot of fans are counting the days until we get to see it come to life in the MCU.
6) James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine)
After reading comics and watching movies and enough TV shows about them, you start to realize that our favorite heroes wouldn’t be here if not for their support system. Captain America has Bucky and Sam. Spider-Man has Mary Jane Watson, Aunt May, and sometimes Harry. Thor has all of Asgard. For Iron Man, he’s got Pepper Potts, whatever artificial intelligence he’s invented recently, and James “Rhodey” Rhodes.
Rhodey is Tony’s best friend and has saved his life on numerous occasions. So it’s only fair that he get his own super suit to help save the world while doing so under the name of War Machine. For a time, he even held the mantle of Iron Man while Tony was out of commission. So don’t ever let yourself think he’s just an Iron Man copycat or sidekick.
Black Marvel characters not in the MCU (yet)
The success of the above Black characters should lead to opportunities for a lot of others to make their first appearances in the MCU. There are plenty to choose from, but the following few look like they have the best shot either because of where they fit into established storylines or their popularity makes not adding them seem like a sorely missed opportunity.
7) Miles Morales
Miles Morales started off as just a normal 13-year-old navigating his way through a city where a superhero fight could happen around any corner. Then, one day, one of those fights resulted in the death of Peter Parker.
As fate would have it, Miles would later be bitten by a radioactive spider, gain spider abilities, and become the new Spider-Man, with some unique powers of his own to boot. The legwork has already been done to introduce Miles to the MCU; Donald Glover’s character in Spider-Man: Homecoming is Aaron Davis, Miles’ superthief uncle.
If you’re reading this article you’re likely well aware of Storm, a.k.a. Ororo Munroe. She’s one of the most powerful members of the X-Men and has the ability to control the weather in her immediate vicinity to create lightning storms, tornados, and even hurricanes.
One of the most anticipated results of the potential Disney acquisition of 21st Century Fox is introducing the X-Men to the MCU, especially Storm. As one of the most popular characters in all of comics, it’s only fair that Storm get called up to the biggest stage in comics today and join the Avengers for a mission or two.
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9) Monica Rambeau
There have been many Captain Marvels over the years, and they’ve all been highly capable at doing whatever they put their minds too. Monica Rambeau is no exception. The former police officer was the second Captain Marvel and led the Avengers for a time. If you’re familiar with comics, you know just how much respect both of these feats carry. While the title of Captain Marvel will likely be taken for a while, Rambeau could still go by one of her other aliases if she shows up anytime soon.
With the ability to manipulate all forms of energy, Rambeau can pretty much take anything you throw at her and send it back 10 times stronger. As one of the strongest (yet most slept on) characters in all of comics, hopefully Captain Marvel rumors are true and she’ll make an appearance.
Let’s put this plainly: The Marvel CInematic Universe wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for Blade. If Wesley Snipes didn’t spend a chunk of his career wearing a leather coat, landing suplexes on stunt doubles, and wearing prosthetic fangs, fans wouldn’t have shown how much they were willing to support an entire franchise of Marvel movies.
For those of you who don’t know, Blade is a half-human, half-vampire slayer of the latter. He often takes on the evil creatures that most people don’t even know exist with the benefit of vampire strength and reflexes, along with the ability to naturally walk in the sunlight.
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11) Riri Williams
A time will come when Tony Stark is no longer part of the Avengers. Many of us thought it would come during Avengers: Infinity War, but we were very, very wrong. But when that day comes, there’s no way possible that the MCU goes without an Iron Man for long. The easy way out is to have Rhodey change his suit’s color. But the riskier, much more rewarding route would be to introduce Riri Williams.
A recent addition to the comic book universe, Riri is a teenager from Chicago who becomes the latest supergenius to don an Iron Man suit. The advantage she has, however, is that Tony Stark himself serves as her life coach in the form of artificial intelligence.
Bill Foster has had a few superhero names. Black Goliath, Giant-Man, Goliath. Picking up on a trend here? He can make himself really, really big.
Foster’s powers work very similarly to Ant-Man’s, meaning he can manipulate the size of different objects and himself. While Ant-Man is more recognized for shrinking, Foster is more prone to grow a few stories in a moment’s notice. If you’re intrigued by the idea of this, you’re in luck. Foster is set to appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp and be played by none other than the great Laurence Fishburne.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Keith Reid-Cleveland is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering geek culture, streaming entertainment, and politics for more than five years. His work has appeared in Uproxx, the Undefeated, Black Nerd Problems, and the Black Youth Project.