Black History Month 09: Black Race-r

February 9th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

JLA 14 pg 19 JLA 14 pg 20 JLA 14 pg 21
JLA 14 pg 22 JLA 14 pg 23
from dc comics’s JLA #14. grant morrison and howard porter on words/art.

Unseen. Unexpected. I come by many roads.
–Black RacerWe all know that DC sucked at repping black characters until the ’80s, while Marvel was all up in your face by the mid-70s. But, you want to know about “unexpected?” Let me give you a list.

Gabriel Jones, Black Panther, Flippa Dippa, Vykin the Black, Black Racer, Sam “Falcon” Wilson, Princess Zanda, and Mr. Miracle.

That’s eight black characters, right? Spread out over maybe fifteen years from the first to the last. Every single one a Jack Kirby creation.

The man may not have been the greatest with names (Black Racer, Vykin the Black, Black Panther) but he had a sick visual style and a willingness to throw black characters into his books with no problem at all. His characters have legs, too. Four of these characters are still players to this day (Falcon, Miracle, Panther, Racer), Gabriel Jones appeared in the 65th Anniversary issue of Captain America (with no lines, sadly), Vykin bit the bullet with Death of the New Gods, and Zanda had a good cameo in Black Panther where she was described as the “Paris Hilton of Africa.”

Well, I guess Flippa Dippa gets no love, but that’s just because he’s too awesome for anyone to write.

But really, eight fun black characters? Eight black characters with different origins, various abilities, all without falling into the trap of “Oh, he isn’t a stereotype!” or “He’s from the hood!” Fully realized, treated as equals, and completely interesting. It’s good stuff.

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11 comments to “Black History Month 09: Black Race-r”

  1. You are so very right. Kirby was righteous in this as in so many other things. I’d also add the “Black Musketeers” (yes, seriously, they were woefully underappreciated) and his depiction of Wakanda in general to that list.

    After Gabe Jones and the Black Panther, Marvel introduced Bill Foster (in Avengers #32, September 1966), Robbie Robertson (in Spider-Man #51, August 1967), and the Falcon (in Captain America #117, September 1969) before DC had introduced a single recurring black character. In fact, DC didn’t get one until Kirby returned there.

    Funnily enough, though, the first regular or recurring black character to appear at DC wasn’t a Kirby creation: it was Mal Duncan, created by Bob Kanigher in Teen Titans #26, March 1970. This is especially odd because Kirby had created both Vykin the Black and Flippa Dippa first, but their debut stories were only published after the first appearance of Mal.

    I have to admit, even given my nearly uncritical love of all things Kirby, even I don’t know what he was thinking with the name “Vykin the Black”…

  2. The most sensible option is to just drop “the Black” from his name altogether, but I would’ve liked to see him reinvented as Vykin the Blacksmith. He controls metal, after all, and developing societies need someone to pray to for their horseshoes to come out okay.

    And don’t forget Black Lightning. Yes, he was yet another black character named Black, but he debuted in ’77 and is still relevant today. He appears regularly in JLA and has a Year One mini due sometime soon. He has a daughter each in the Outsiders and the JSA. If it turns out Kid Devil is his illegitimate son, that’s a hat trick.

  3. Does Black Racer count? Isn’t he black as in plague, not black as in race? Do embodiments of death even have races?

  4. Black Racer definitely counts. It’s a power that’s passed down from person to person and in his first comic appearance, it was given to Willie Walker, a black guy on Earth.

  5. In honor of black history month, I will refrain from hating on Flippa Dippa.

    You only get 19 days flippa. Use them wisely.

  6. Could somebody please explain the Skiing motif with the Black Racer to me, i really really don’t get it.

  7. The Black Racer is on skis basically because it’s more visually striking than if he would just fly like a regular superhero. Think Silver Surfer. Personally I don’t think it works as well; It clashes with the other design elements of the character, and… well, they’re skis. It just doesn’t look particularly elegant.

  8. Black Racer got killed in DONG, also. So he’s not really a relevant player anymore, either.

    With DC bringing back all of the old Kirby creations, how long until Flippa Dippa shows up?

  9. Also, searching for Flippa Dippa on Google Image Search brings up a bunch of pictures of…Supergirl. What.

  10. […] since last I remember, she was in Priest’s Cap & Falcon. I’ve talked about Kirby here, here, and […]

  11. […] mentioned it last year, but Kirby invented Gabriel Jones, Black Panther, Flippa Dippa, Vykin the Black, Black Racer, Sam […]