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Friday, 12 August 2011

Characters of Colour in superhero comics - the men (part five)

This is the more independent edition, where we look at a few of the male characters of colour who sit outside of the mainstream superhero comics published by Marvel and DC.

You can read previous entries in the series here:
women (part one)
women (part two)
men (part one)
men (part two)
men (part three)
the X (wo)men
non superhero comics here
men (part four) 
women (part three) and a Spider-man

Blade is a Black half-vampire Londoner.  Strictly speaking, his entry should have gone in the Marvel characters entry, but to most people Blade has nothing to do with spandex clad superheroes and I would guess this has a lot to do with the films starring Wesley Snipes as Blade.  He has dedicated his life to hunting down vampires and destroying them.  The films were pretty good, if you're a vampire fan you should check them out.

Unfortunately there have not been many (if any) ongoing series starring Blade, meaning there's not a lot in print.  Your best bet might be to find the Ultimate Avengers collection named Blade Versus Avengers.  It's quite good if a bit action focused and light on character.  Or you could try two recent Captain Britain and MI-13 books - Hell Comes to Birmingham and Vampire State, in which Blade is one of the British super -heroes drafted into MI-13 to fight the vampire menace.  As an added incentive, you also get to read Dracula's secret gothic castle, based on the moon!

Now moving away from Marvel and DC, we come across Thugboy from Empowered.  Empowered is about an inept superheroine who gets her powers from her suit, but seeing as her suit gets ripped up really easily this leads to her getting kidnapped and tied up quite a lot.  Thugboy is her love interest who used to be an evil minion.  None of the characters have real names, one is named Ninjette, another Captain Rivet, another Jugganaut and so on.  It's an adult comic, drawn in a manga style and contains a lot of sex.  It's not for children.  Thugboy is Asian.

The 99 are the world's first superheroes based on Islamic culture and traditions.  Created by Dr Naif Al-Mutawa, each member of the 99 has a power or ability based on the 99 attributes of Allah, for example, Jabbar: The Powerful, Noora: The Light, Darr: The Afflicter, Jami: The Assembler.  From the website:

"Each of THE 99 possesses a certain gemstone that has imbued in it a special power. While each of our heroes has their own power, each of their powers is enhanced by working in teams of three. Our characters must decide which three heroes and sets of powers are best suited to solve the problem at hand. It is through this process that the values of tolerance and diversity become one of the 99’s most valuable continuing story themes."

The series isn't explicitly religious in nature, instead it aims to communicate Islamic virtues which Al-Mutawa view as universal.  President Obama even gave them a shout out! You can't buy The 99 series in the shops but you can buy and download digital issues from the website.  The 99 did team up with DC's Justice League of America for six issues, but I don't think it was a particularly good series.  There are no signs of it being collected into trade yet.

Finally, we present Al Simmons.  He's the main protagonist of the Spawn series, and is Black.  Simmons story starts when he worked as a government assassin.  He was murdered and sent to hell, where he made a deal with the devil, Malebolgia, to return to earth to see his wife again.  In return for this favour, he becomes a hellspawn, where they gain special powers, armour and have to fight in Malebolgia's army.  When Simmons is returned to earth he finds that's in five years in the future and all is not as he left it.
As you can guess, making a deal with any devil is never going to turn out well.  The Spawn story is about how Simmons lives his new life - taking down criminals, trying to break free of hell's control over him and trying to come to terms with his actions in life.

You could start in the Spawn universe by reading Spawn Origins volume 1.

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