Imagine a world where most if not all of the heroes did not look like you. I have to wonder, would I have been so easily captivated into the world of Super-Heroes if they had not looked like me?
The Super-Friends in the late 70s, after several seasons, added in what have become known as the ethic heroes. Apache Chief, Black Vulcan, Samurai and later El Dorado were prominently featured. In the final season, Cyborg was a featured character. What if the only guy who looked like you was one of these unknowns, say Geo-Force.
The comics did not do as well. Green Arrow introduced Black Lightning to readers like me in the pages of Worlds Finest. Shortly after, in JLA #173, Green Arrow introduced his new ally to the Justice League, suggesting he be admitted. There had been other stories where heroes had been invited to join the League. This usually happened after that hero had been instrumental in defeating the current menace. Unlike those other stories, instead we got push back from members who did not know Black Lightning and his heroic record. So a test was devised. Black Lightning passed. Understandably, he was not impressed that they had tested him and said “no.” Issue #174 gave us the traditional story where the new hero helps save the day before joining. Again Black Lightning turns down the League, saying they are not close enough to the problems facing average people. That worked mentally, sure. On an emotional level, it never rang true. The Justice League was the best of DC’s heroes. This just felt wrong. Then and now.
More years go by and Vixen finally becomes the first black hero to join the Justice League. Imagine every time your favorite team is recast, it consists of the same core group and a few add ons, but all too often, no one or almost no one looks like you. Like the group below. Would you be happy with this as the League? It takes another decade and several restarts for Steel to join the League.
Another decade goes by. 2006. San Diego Comic Con. The DC Universe panel. Question time. Me: “When you put together the new Justice League roster after the One Year Later event, would you please consider adding Black Lightning?” The answer, “I think you will be pleasantly surprised.” And I was. Black Lighting was finally on the team, about 20 years after the original invite. And Vixen was back. A year later Green Lantern John Stewart and Firestorm Jason Rusch joined the team. Icon and Hardware from Milestone even made a few appearances. But it did not last.
Starting with the Flash Point event in 2011, Cyborg became a member of the League. In both comics and the animated movies made about those stories Cyborg took a major role. John Stewart is currently the Green Lantern in the Justice League. Cyborg is still on the team, theoretically. I say theoretically because despite the book being published twice a month, we hardly ever see him in the main title.
Until very recently, this is what our toy collections would have looked like. Not a white hero in sight.
DC Comics, it is time to add more black and other minority heroes to the Justice League. One token black hero is NOT enough.