June 21, 2019
Beyond Wakanda: 5 Black Marvel Characters You Need to Know About

Welcome back to Geek For The Win’s feature on diversity and representation in Marvel! Last time we explored five Asian superheroes that are freaking killing in it in the Marvel universe. Well, today, as much as we love our African warriors imbued with ancient mystical powers, we’re going beyond Wakanda to get to know five other Black Marvel superhero characters that are shaking things up on page and screen.

“Sam [Wilson], you are a black man, and you are Captain America. Nobody ever notices history when it’s happening, but let me tell you… most of us… we just try to play like it’s normal, try not to make you think about what’s on your shoulders, but … that [doesn’t] mean it isn’t. And this is one of those times when there’s no getting around it. A lot of kids here in South Philly, they got to look up in the sky and see [Rhodey] and [thought] that could be them someday. That kind of hope is in way too short supply these days, but — well, now they don’t have him. But at least they still have you — and now you need to make sure that’s enough.”

Mercedes “Misty” Knight

5 Black Marvel Characters to Keep an Eye on

1. Moon Girl

We start off our list of Black Marvel characters with Moon Girl. Earth-616’s Lunella Louisa Lafayette is not your typical fourth grader. She’d rather wear spring-loaded roller skates that shoot her up to twenty feet tall than emoji print leggings and make speeches at an off planet superhero college in another dimension rather than make slime. Lunella, or Moon Girl, is a super genius. But, not just any super genius. Young Lunella is the smartest person on the planet…and, wait for it, holds the distinction of being the most intelligent character in the ENTIRE Marvel Universe. Drop. The. Mic.

Image Source: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1, Art by Trevor Von Eeden, Marvel, 2015

Moon Girl is an Inhuman whose powers were activated when Terrigen Mist swept through her New York City streets. But, unlike, say our favorite Jersey City Inhuman, Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel!) Moon Girl’s superhuman abilities aren’t so…physical. They’re more in the realm of, well, Doctor Strange.

Moon Girl can SWAP minds with anyone or ANYTHING she chooses. Her go-to swap is with her animal companion. Which, in keeping with Moon Girl’s not-so-typical track record, is no shelter mutt or fluffy tabby cat. Moon Girl adopted a dinosaur from another dimension. YES. Her prehistoric pal, Devil Dinosaur, is a crimson and fiercely loyal T-Rex. Devil Dinosaur and Moon Girl have such an extraordinary connection (what was that about dogs being man’s best friend?) that Moon Girl can swap her brain into Devil Dinosaur’s body!

Image Source: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1, Art by Trevor Von Eeden, Marvel, 2015

With Moon Girl’s brain meeting D.D.’s reptilian prehistoric brawn any evildoers that cross their path are forced to face the jaws of justice (and dinosaur breath that goes along with it). Moon Girl is also very well-known for her ingenious inventions (like a helicopter backpack!), her dope LEGO skills (she built a cybernetic Triceratops!), and her obsession with the cosmos. She’s also quite the young hacker and computer programmer!

Since Moon Girl’s Marvel comics debut in 2016’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, she helped reunite the fractured Fantastic Four, traveled to the moon, and she defended herself from Kid Kree’s kidnapping attempts.

*Sotomayor University, the very same college America Chavez attends.

Image Source: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1, Art by Trevor Von Eeden, Marvel, 2015

Why She’s Important

Moon Girl doesn’t let her age (or her size) define her. She may only be 9-years-old (and the youngest Black superhero in this round up), but she’s a great model for pursuing your dreams in spite of the unknown and when the odds are stacked skyscraper high. As a young Black girl in an urban environment, Moon Girl could easily be labeled by the people who don’t know her as disadvantaged. She defies that and shows young readers especially that the stereotypes and limitations that some people want to apply to you aren’t facts and they can be tossed to the wind!

2. Patriot

The second of our 5 Black Marvel characters to make this list is a young superhero who goes by the name Patriot. Rayshaun Lucas first cameoed in Captain America: Sam Wilson #18, before taking a lead role in 2017’s Secret Empire: Brave New World #2. More prominently, in 2018 Patriot hit screens as a main character in the animated Marvel Rising series.

On Earth-TRN684, Brooklyn teen Patriot is an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America’s (Steve Rogers) protege. One of his most impressive attributes is that Patriot fights evildoers without powers.

Because Patriot doesn’t have the same military training as Cap and Falcon, or Super Soldier serum pumping through his veins he wears a superpowered armored suit that Tony Stark designed exclusively for him. Although it can’t enable him to fly, and it’s not quite indestructible, Rayshaun’s Patriot suit enhances his reflexes, stamina, and strength. The suit also boosts his already exceptional hand to hand combat abilities to extraordinarily high levels.

Image Source: Secret Empire: Brave New World #2, Art by Paulo Siqueira, Marvel, 2017

Just like his role models Falcon and Captain America, Patriot possesses a Vibranium shield and is hella adept at using it. It can even be switched into a hoverboard which gives him the element of surprise and an added advantage over the criminals and villains he battles.

Athletic and physically powerful as he may be, Patriot isn’t all brawn. He’s also known for his tactical skills and talent of tracking down rogue and violent Inhumans. In Marvel Rising, Patriot partners with Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Quake/Daisy Johnson and is one of the Secret Warriors’ newest recruits. As part of a team of superpowered teens including Squirrel Girl, Miss America, and Ms. Marvel, Patriot shut down Hala The Accuser’s inhuman abduction ring, defended the city from Exile, a hateful, dark force wielding fanatic, and played a role in rescuing Ms. Marvel from Hala’s clutches. The Secret Warriors continue to defend Jersey City (and New York) from invasion.

In the 2016 comic series Marvel’s All-New, All-Different Avengers: The Champions, Patriot is part of another organization of teen superheroes, the new Champions along with: Cyclops, Miles Morales’s Spider-Man, Amadeus Cho’s Hulk, Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, Riri Williams’ Ironheart, and Nadia Van Dyne’s Wasp.

Why He’s Important

In an opinions article on Grazia, Black entertainment writer Jazmin Kopotsha asserts that “We exist beyond the slapstick, sidekick from ‘da hood’ who never gets a romantic story line but will probably be killed off first. Our stories are richer than that.” Patriot is one such character! He’s one of Marvel’s most interesting up and coming superheroes and is a key member of Marvel’s increasingly inclusive and diverse next generation, or phase, of heroes.

3. Cloak

With his main squeeze Tandy Bowen (aka Dagger), Tyrone Johnson, also known as Cloak, patrols the NYC streets to protect teens, kids, and city dwellers of all ages from thugs, thieves, and sleazy drug dealers. On Earth-616 this vigilante power couple can work some serious superhero magic.

A runaway from the slums of Boston, when Cloak met Dagger, another runaway, there was instant kismet between the teens. Not long after they struck up a close friendship, they were force-fed an experimental drug, D-Lite, by a scumbag chemist who lured homeless people into his home under the guise of helping them. The only ones to survive being drugged, Tandy and Tyrone developed extraordinary superhuman abilities and became Cloak and Dagger.

The ‘Cloak’ to Tandy’s ‘Dagger,’ Tyrone can teleport and conjure up portals to the Dark Dimension on command. He has the strength to lift objects twice his weight and can create and spread out a living darkness around him that can cause nightmarish visions and madness in the people exposed to it.

Image Source: Cloak And Dagger #1, Marvel, 2018

Cloak and Dagger joined Marvel’s comic universe in The Amazing Spider-Man #64 in 1982. Since their first appearance, they have been featured in hundreds of Earth-616 comics. Affiliated with many superhero teams like The New Mutants, The Secret Defenders, and the New Warriors, Cloak aided his teammates in stopping Darkling’s rampage across NY, defending the city from serial killer symbiote Carnage, and put the kibosh on one of Doctor Doom’s millionth attempts to take over the world. *sigh*

But, unlike some of Marvel’s other superpowered teens, Cloak’s heroics stayed close to home. He primarily targeted drug lords and street criminals.

Until very recently, with the premiere of the FreeForm series Cloak & Dagger in 2018, Cloak and Dagger had very sporadic appearances in comics. Now with C & D having just wrapped its second season, the superhero duo is back on Marvel’s pop culture radar and is seemingly here to stay (for another year at least!).

Image Source: Cloak And Dagger #2, Marvel, 2018

What sets these teens apart from some of their other superpowered cohorts is just how grounded and realistic they are, especially in the Earth-199999 Cloak & Dagger MCU. Sure, there’s Cloak’s whole Dark Dimension thing, but the foes he battles are more familiar to daily life than saving the universe antics in the Avengers films.

Cloak & Dagger’s showrunners and writers are unafraid to make Cloak confront the raw, grittiness, and ugliness of the city around him. Corruption and greed in companies, police brutality, human trafficking, and sexual abuse are all addressed in the series in mindful, respectful ways, without shock value. After all, creator Joe Pokaski shared in an interview that Cloak and Dagger are “heroes for people who are lost” and that they’re “adept at helping people that couldn’t help themselves.”

Why He’s Important

Although his vigilante efforts may sometimes be misconstrued, Cloak is at his core, an activist. Cloak’s all about caring for his community. He refuses to be a bystander and is continually doing whatever he can to put an end to injustice. Cloak also models what it means to be in a healthy and equal relationship. Cloak’s partnership with Dagger keeps his dark powers and Tandy’s light powers from consuming them from the inside out. Their closeness, both physical and emotional, keeps their powers balanced. Combined with their determination to fight together as equals, they’re a force, one with a drive to spread real positive change to be reckoned with.

4. Mercedes “Misty” Knight

When NYPD detective Misty Knight zoomed into action one day to lend a hand deactivating a bomb she saved the bank…but lost her entire left arm in the blast. As a highly regarded member of the NYPD, Misty was no stranger to protecting and serving those around her. This time, though, her bold move would launch her into a superherodom she never imagined. One that would come to define her for the rest of her life.

Image Source: Heroes For Hire Vol.2 #7, Marvel, 2007

After her injury (and the loss of her dominant arm), the ambitious detective refused to settle for a cushy desk job at her precinct when her cop friends and coworkers deemed her unfit for active duty.

Enter Tony Stark! The billionaire tech genius witnessed what went down at the bank and was so impressed by Misty’s heroic feat he created a bionic arm for her. Armed and ready for action, in one comic, 1974’s Power Man #48 Iron Fist, Misty founds the Heroes For Hire with Luke Cage. In another, Misty parts with the NYPD, grabs her best friend Colleen Wing and launches a private investigation biz– Knightwing Restorations. Pretty badass!

Image Source: The Fearless Defenders #12, Art by Stephanie Hans, Marvel, 2013

On Earth-616, Misty Knight is a non-superpowered human being whose powers stem from her Stark engineered bionic arm. Made up of Antarctic Vibranium and diamond alloy, it can generate an energy shield to protect her, interfere with some technology in close range (like stopping robots!), and liquefy metals including the nearly indestructible Adamantium steel! Misty is also an expert in close combat fighting, sharpshooting, and is an exceptional martial artist who was trained by Shang-Chi and Iron Fist, as well as one of the brightest detectives and forensic scientists in NYC.

Image Source: The Fearless Defenders #8, Art by Stephanie Hans, Marvel, 2013

In 2006, Misty took center page starring in her own limited series comic Daughters of The Dragon #1: The Things We Do For Money (2006) with her superhero bestie Colleen. In the Kung-Fu dram-com, Misty and Colleen kept their martial arts-infused crime fighting close to home.

Like when they took down a cyber-terrorist and mobster queen, Celia Ricadonna. Misty later became a paralegal employed by Nelson and Murdock Law Office (aka Daredevil), hit the streets with her Heroes for Hire after Civil War to track down superpowered criminals who didn’t comply with the Superhuman Registration Act, and even went to Asgard to fight off Doommaidens in the Realm Eternal alongside the elite Valkyrie warriors.

Image Source: The Fearless Defenders #8, Art by Stephanie Hans, Marvel, 2013

Why She’s Important

Misty’s bionic arm may be the most visually striking thing about her, but it doesn’t define her. Since her comic debut in 1972, Misty’s female friendships, especially the bond she has with Colleen Wing, have been an essential part of her life and who she is. No matter what superhero side hustle she has going on, or wherever she is in the world (or, um, dimension), Misty is there for her friends. 1972’s Marvel Premier #21: Okay, Zorro actually featured her recruiting Iron Fist to help her save Colleen from alongside Master Khan. Later, in another comic, Misty dashed into action to save Colleen from being shot into human swiss cheese in a Manhattan gun fight. Misty’s selflessness, determination, and fierce love for her friends is perhaps her greatest superpower.

5. Spectrum

Q: What do the superheroes Captain Marvel, Pulsar, Photon, and Spectrum have in common?

A: They’re all the same woman–Monica Rambeau!

Having deja vu? Nope! This year’s Captain Marvel gave us one version of Monica. In the MCU, Monica (Akira Akbar) is the eleven-year-old daughter of Carol’s (Brie Larson) airforce pilot bestie Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and is Carol’s biggest fangirl. But that’s hardly even a speck of who Monica is. Perhaps Marvel’s most prolific Black superhero on this list, Monica has one of the most storied superhero careers both in and beyond the pages of comics.

Image Source: Captain America and The Mighty Avengers #7, Marvel, 2015

Lieutenant Monica Rambeau, later known as Spectrum, came into her powers when she attempted to disarm an uber powerful energy disruptor machine. Created by a terrorist and dictator, the invention was capable of massive interdimensional destruction, something Monica could not allow to happen.

In her efforts to shut it down, she was blasted with pure extradimensional energy which her body instantly absorbed. Suddenly, with an onslaught of electromagnetic energy rushing through her veins, Monica went from being a Harbor Patrol Officer–disenchanted with her boss’s refusal to promote her to Captain– to a literal powerhouse.

Fueled by the electromagnetic energy flooding her body, Spectrum has the power to zip through the skies faster than the speed of light, shoot out energy blasts from her eyes and fists, turn invisible, and can “phase” through solid items like walls.

Because of how she’s basically pure energy, Spectrum can also travel through space as any variation of electromagnetic energy and shrink down to sizes smaller than the naked eye can see. Another unique effect the energy buzzing through her body has on her? It arrests her aging process! Monica won’t grow old!

Image Source: Marvel Infinity Mighty Avengers #1, Art by Greg Land, Marvel, 2003

After appearing in over 860 comics since 1982 and trying out four different names* one has always stuck with Monica: team player. When Monica debuted in Marvel comics in 1982 in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, she took up Captain America and the Wasp’s invitation to hone her (unwieldy) superpowers. She became the first Black woman to join the Avengers! Her alias at the time? Captain Marvel! Yes, thanks to the media who bestowed the moniker upon her, Monica was the first human Captain Marvel and held the title, decades before half-Kree Carol Danvers changed her name from Ms. to Captain Marvel.

As Captain Marvel, she went on to become one of the first women to lead The Avengers! That’s even more impressive when one considers that she helmed the team when it was at its messiest and most chaotic with a roster of hotheaded and rowdy superheroes like Namor and Doctor Druid continually clashing. As Pulsar, she lead an anti-terrorism strike team called Nextwave, aligned herself with Captain America in the first Civil War, and joined Cap’s Secret Avengers.

As Spectrum, she was a member of the all-female superhero team The A-Force, then became co-leader of The Mighty Avengers with Luke Cage and took down a cult of vampires targeting her own home city, New Orleans, with them. Afterward, Spectrum would go on to assemble and lead a team of superheroes called The Ultimates, who most famously took on the universe destroying, world-eating Galactus and turned him into a life bringer.

*Sooo why all the name changes?
Two words: Kree drama.
Mar-Vell’s son, Genis-Vell, assumed his father’s name, leaving Monica to change her alias to Photon…which not long after the flaky Kree also demanded she give up so he could take it. UM, WAT. Not feeling Geni V’s drama, Monica ditched Photon and became first Pulsar then, finally, Spectrum.

Why She’s Important

Daren W. Jackson of Water Cooler Convos writes that often, even in the Black community, “strong Black women [characters] are relegated to supporting roles, even when they have superpowers themselves.” Monica is no such character! What name she chooses to go by, Monica has the distinction of being the first major female Black superhero in the Marvel comics and is one of the most powerful heroes in the entire Marvel universe. Whatever comic she’s in or team she’s affiliated with her character is one of the most competent, respected, and driven superheroes out there!

Conclusion

These five Black Marvel characters reflect the power of embracing different perspectives, and just how valuable representation is in the once very homogenous superhero landscape. Patriot, Moon Girl, Spectrum, Cloak, and Misty Knight are just the beginning though! Next time, we’ll be exploring Iron Man’s successor Iron Heart (Riri Williams), the Alpha-Level mutant and goddess Storm (Ororo Munroe), and the current Power Man, Victor Alvarez!

Be sure to check back frequently as we spotlight more Black characters from Marvel’s comics, books, television adaptations and, of course, the MCU.

Victoria Tomis

Contributor

Hiya, my name is Vicky and I’m your friendly neighborhood Marvel-loving, Studio Ghibli-obsessed, Queer Potterhead.

I may be in my mid-twenties but I’ve been an enthusiastic Potterhead for over a decade. I can’t go a day without firing off at least half a dozen Harry Potter references and have a small museum of Potter and Wizarding World merch… one with FAR too many Funkos.

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