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Black Superheroes are Agents of Social Justice

Stan Lee once said, "Hatred, intolerance, and bigotry are the only things we cannot tolerate."

 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge comic book fan. Reading comics as a kid helped shape me into who I am today. Once I became an adult, I understood the depth of comic books. Stan Lee, the co-founder of Marvel Comics, created several comic characters, including the X-Men, which stories highlight the struggle during the Civil Rights movement. And like the characters in those comic books, I believe everyone has a "superpower" that they must discover, harness, and apply toward the good of humanity.

 

X-Men was arguably the most overtly political of all the Marvel comics published in the 1960s. Two main X-Men characters were metaphors for the most prominent Civil Rights activist during that time. Professor X's ideal of peaceful human-mutant cohabitation represented Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision. Magneto's inflexible stance toward the defense of mutant-kind represented Malcolm X's philosophy. Lee reinforced the ideas of acceptance and tolerance while opposing bullying and demonization by telling tales of people that the general public saw as less-than, maybe even scary. Using his comic book platform to describe his characters' experiences, Lee showed a parallel world, with the same equality issues as our own. He showed that huge risks are needed to achieve incredible things on the page, the screen, and in real life.

 

Black lead characters from Marvel Comics, including Black Panther, Storm, Sam Wilson, and Luke Cage, (and other minority characters whose superpowers were as varied as their racial and ethnic backgrounds) were first presented to a generation of comic book readers under Stan Lee's direction. To defeat villains, they battled right alongside white superheroes. Children from minority ethnic origins may feel invisible or insignificant because of a lack of representation. Lee not only recognized how important it was for minorities and women to be represented in comic books, but he also found a way to share the importance of the equality movement to an audience who, at the time, might otherwise have been reluctant to listen.


 

Cyril Davis, RN

DBT Administrative Consultant and Lakes Center Program Director

Lakes Center Mental Health Network

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