Updated: Mar 29, 2022
Black women have always been superheroes, in one way or another, they've just often gone unrecognized by the mainstream media. Here are 10 of my favorite badass Black female superheroes who hold their own in a male dominated universe. Some of them are well-known, while others are more obscure, but all of them deserve respect. So without further ado, let's get started!
Misty. Mercedes "Misty" Knight first appeared in Marvel Premiere #21 in March of 1975 - a whole year after I was born! But it wasn’t until 1991 when I first crossed paths with the former NYPD detective with the bionic arm in Deathlok #2. Misty’s hand-to-hand combat skills, especially her martial arts ability, is nothing short of sickening. I also love that she’s kicking ass alongside best friend Colleen Wing as the deadly Daughters of the Dragon. That’s something she has in common with my character, Alora Factor, and why she’s first on this list.
Storm. There’s no way I could compile a list without Storm. Born Ororo Munroe, Storm is the first Black female comic book character who totally enthralled me. Storm’s first appearance was also in 1975 in Giant-Size X-Men #1, but my favorite Storm is mohawked, punk Storm who first appeared in 1983’s Uncanny X-Men No. 173. Fans were shocked by the mane chop and I was, too, at first. But Storm with the mohawk was harder and edgier and I was here for it. As one of the most senior X-Men, Storm has experienced a lot in over 40 years and I’ve enjoyed her growth. If I have any gripes, it’s that Halle Berry and not Angela Bassett was cast to play her in the original live action X-Men films. In fact, I’m still pretty salty about it, but it’s not Ororo’s fault.
Captain Marvel. Okay, this is MY Captain Marvel, but let’s not get into that right now. Also known as Pulsar, Photon, Daystar, Sceptre, Lady-of-Light and Spectrum, Monica Rambeau is another former member of law enforcement turned superhero. Monica first appeared as Captain Marvel in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16. Since then she’s gone on to make multiple appearances under different names in different comics, but my most favorite arc for her was when New Orleans was being overrun by vampires and she teamed up with Black Panther, Luke Cage, Blade, and Brother Voodoo to rid her city of the bloodsuckers. Published in Black Panther #12-13 in early 2006, just shortly after Hurricane Katrina leveled much of the city, I can’t help but think that the vampires were a metaphor for all of the military contractors who descended on the city proclaiming themselves a necessary part of the recovery and rehabilitation. Gotta love disaster capitalism.
Shuri. Everyone’s favorite badass little sister, Shuri is a favorite of mine for her prowess with technology. I love a fellow Blerd. Shuri first appeared in Black Panther #2 in May 2005. To be honest, I missed a lot of the debuts from the early aughts because my kids were little and I didn’t have as much time to read, but I started diving back into comics in 2006, starting with Black Panther. I think Shuri’s true brilliance as Wakanda’s chief science officer and as a warrior, especially when she eventually becomes the Black Panther, is better articulated in the books than in the movie, but we’ll see how that changes after the death of our beloved Chadwick Boseman.
Nubia. Finally, a DC character! Obviously, I prefer Marvel over DC, but when I first heard of Wonder Woman’s Black sister, I had to check her out. Nubia was DC’s first Black female superhero, making her appearance in Wonder Woman #204, ready to kick Diana Prince’s ass. And Nubia stays ready! Although the character has been around since January of 1973, she’s received very little page time in over forty years. So, I was beyond excited to learn of the Nubia and the Amazons mini-series by Stephanie Williams, Vita Ayala and Alitha Martinez that dropped in 2021. I am here for people of color taking the lead on creating the content and making Nubia a queen in her own right and not just the Black Wonder Woman. Now if DC would add Nubia to its database of characters, all would be right with my world. (Seriously, why doesn’t she have her own page?!?!)
Ironheart. Ironheart is one of the newest comic book characters, making her first appearance as a cameo in Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2 #7, May 2016. Don’t get it twisted, Riri Williams is not Iron Man, but she does pay homage to her mentor with her suit of armor and she seems to have a bit of Iron Man’s fighting style, which is probably because he’s still mentoring her as an AI. Like Tony Stark, Riri is a genius, especially with technology. I will say that I liked Riri immediately whereas I had to warm up to Tony Stark. The movies made Tony’s narcissism cute, but he was a real asshole in the comic books. Riri, on the other hand, is a sweetheart who has already endured a lot at a young age - like Disney characters, Marvel characters (now one in the same!) frequently lose one or both parents at a young age. She’s young, as a character and to the world of superheroes, so time will tell if life hardens her like it did Storm.
Bumblebee. For reasons that I don’t completely understand, a post in DC’s fan news credits Karen Beecher, aka Bumblebee, as “DC’s first African-American female superhero” even though her first appearance wasn’t until 1976 in Teen Titans #45, a whole three years after Nubia, but I digress. Like many of the other women on this list, Karen doesn’t have actual powers, she’s just a brainiac scientist who builds her own super-suit. Again, I stan a Blerd who does her own thing and Bumblebee is definitely a self-made superhero who does exactly what she wants, when she wants.
Vixen. If someone said, “Captain Planet, but make it a Black woman who’s an animal rights activist,” you would have Mari Jiwe McCabe. She’s also mistakenly referred to as DC’s first African-American heroine - really DC, y’all should put more effort into clearing up who was first instead of being coerced into one more Batman movie - but Vixen appeared first in 1981’s Action Comics #521. Vixen’s powers allow her to take on the abilities of any animal although it’s important to note that she doesn’t actually turn into animals. And when she’s not saving humanity, she is a supermodel because she’s got it like that. Although I don’t follow Vixen’s adventures as closely as some of the other women on this list, her power’s origin is rooted in African mythology in ways that inspired how I crafted the Factor Force.
Rocket. I hate to say it, but I didn’t learn of Rocket until this heroine from DC’s Milestone Comics imprint was resurrected in 2021. So, her partner Icon is literally an alien, but Rocket may be one of the realest comic book superheroes ever. Raquel Ervin first appeared in Icon #1 in 1993 as a teenage girl who convinced the alien-born Icon that he should use his powers to fight crime and that she should be his sidekick. In the original run, Rocket even experienced a teenage pregnancy and the challenges of figuring out what she was going to do - that’s some real world stuff. Even though Rocket originally considered herself a sidekick, she was the true star of Icon and now shares billing with him as Icon & Rocket. (As a side gripe, like Nubia, DC has not devoted a character page to Rocket.)
Silhouette. Silhouette Chord, a teleporter, first appeared in 1990’s New Warriors #2 with her twin brother, Midnight's Fire. The Chord twins' backstory is a lot and involves their mother, a descendant of the Dragon's Breadth cult, faking their deaths as well as her own to hide from their father, a former soldier. The twins are separated from their mother and eventually end up raising themselves on the streets of Chinatown, participating in a gang before flipping sides and teaming up with Night Thrasher in a bid to clean up New York City’s streets as vigilantes. During an effort to take down a street gang, Silhouette is shot and becomes paralyzed from the legs down. Silhouette’s disability didn’t take her out of the fight. In fact, Silhouette has used things like her crutches as an extension of her body or a weapon on its own. Like Misty, she does not let her disability define her.
There you have it, my 10 favorite Black female superheroes. I hope the next time someone writes a list like this our very own Alora Factor is on it! Be sure to share this blog post and let me know what you think in the comments.