As Black History Month comes to a close, we take a look back at the supers that inspire our dress, artistry, and lives. The superhero genre of film, television, and media, in general, wouldn’t be what it is without them. We love and appreciate everyone, but this isn’t an all-inclusive list.
Shaq as Steel
We’d be amiss if we didn’t start the retrospective with Shaq Diesel, the man with the S on his bicep. Shaq portrayed a loose version of John Henry Irons, aka Steel, in the 90s. The film is one of many films that took chances studios don’t risk anymore. We can’t knock what Shaq has done for the community though.
Halle Berry as Catwoman and Storm
Halle Berry worked with the material she was given in both of her superhero appearances, which is a shame because she really does bring nuance to her characters when written well. For multiple generations, she is Storm, so fans are curious about who will bring Ororo to the screen next, but until then, Halle Berry is the epitome.
Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther
When Black Panther first appeared in Captain America: Civil War, many fans weren’t ready or aware of the greatness they would soon experience. Chadwick is the embodiment of all the Black superheroes that came before him.
Cress Williams as Black Lightning
The series led by Cress Williams was able to take advantage of a different lane than most on this list, debuting on The CW and eventually tieing into the Arrowverse. Black Lightning carved a space to discuss religion, race, and society in ways other series never developed.
Javicia Leslie as Batwoman/Ryan Wilder
Javicia Leslie filled the role of Batwoman and new character Ryan Wilder after the role was vacant. This was an amazing opportunity for the actress, as she also joined the Arrowverse for two years and participated in what some consider the most successful live-action universe for DC.
Phil LaMarr as Static Shock and Jon Stewart / Green Lantern
Saturday morning cartoons were rather stale in the 90s before Milestone’s Static Shock appeared on FOX Kids. There’s a current resurgence of the comic, in part thanks to DC’s acquisition of the Milestone brand. We’re hoping rumors of a live-action debut are true. We also know that Green Lantern Corps is on the horizon and with every new iteration of Green Lantern, comes the same question: which version are they going to use? Justice League’s Jon Stewart debuted in 2000 and set the bar so high that he’s appeared in multiple spin-offs of the show. Thanks to LaMarr’s voice acting, Jon Stewart is the quintessential version.
Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam
The Rock was often fan-cast in roles on the regular, but his dream role finally made it to fruition in 2022 with Black Adam. Though the film took a decade and never really escaped controversy, his passion for the project continually resuscitated the dream regardless of where the production found itself. His work for the character is still commendable.
Ray Fisher as Cyborg
Though Ray Fisher only appeared in a few DCEU films and his character’s backstory was slightly muddled, the actor found a new lane as an advocate for the treatment of actors on set. The role wasn’t quite the breakout for him, but he’s still finding work slowly and we expect good things from him.
Wesley Snipes as Blade
There wouldn’t be an MCU without the risk taken in 2009 with Jon Favreau and RDJ, but the real accolades go to Wesley Snipes and team for the Blade trilogy. This was before risk was even a word. Vampires. R-rated. Martial arts emphasis. Greatness.
Michael Jai White as Spawn
Spawn often finds itself overlooked because of the graphic novel and the animated version, but the 1997 live-action release is another reason the superhero genre is what it is today. At one point, superhero movies really fell into two categories: great or flop. Spawn was the former.
Robert Townsend as Meteor Man
It’s always fun to see a sitcom dad take a turn into another fan-favorite genre( i.e. James Avery as the voice of Shredder), so we’d be amiss to not include Robert Townsend as Meteor Man. There’s a bit of a theme here, but 90s superhero films definitely took risks in order to entertain.
Will Smith as Hancock
Before joining the Suicide Squad, Will Smith took on the moniker of Hancock, a small indie style superhero that came from a different planet. This was another example of a hero film taking a risk (though it’s only really seen as a risk these days) with R-rated and grounded content.
Omar Sy as Bishop
When the live-action X-Men series moved into the interesting realm of a future with no mutants, there was only one man that could lead them to survival: Lucas Bishop. Omar Sy brought everyone’s favorite future savior to life and we deserved more time him.
Mike Colter as Luke Cage
Netflix produced some of the quintessential work for Marvel Studios over the last 5 or 6 years and one of the cornerstones of the work is Mike Colter‘s Luke Cage. Even with only a few seasons, Luke Cage carved a space for dialogue that other shows couldn’t scratch the surface.
Anthony Mackie as Falcon & Captain America
Anthony Mackie is slowly moving through all the possible avenues for his character. He’s appeared in solo movies, team-ups, the Captain America trilogy, and led his own Disney+ series. Though his series garnered fair reviews, he might just be in the most anticipated MCU film, officially titled Captain America: New World Order.
Don Cheadle as War Machine/Col. James Rhodes
Don Cheadle is the other side of the Col. James Rhodes meme, but he’s also fully taken on the role and embodied it. And similar to Mackie with Captain America, Cheadle will soon step into the solo space in Armor Wars, which is now being developed as a film after originally being announced as a streaming series. Cheadle deserves the space to shine.
Shameik Moore as Miles Morales/Spiderman
Audiences have clammored for Miles Morales in live-action for years, but now that we’re on the verge of Moore’s second animated outing, his is the iteration to beat. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse received acclaim from fandoms all over and anticipation for the sequel grows daily.
Djimon Hounsou as Korath, Wizard, and Midnite
Similar to Jackson belo, Djimon Hounsou can do it all. He’s played roles in so many iconic films that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. But when you hear his raspy bass voice, you know he’s going to give his all to the character.
Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone, Nick Fury, and Mr. Glass
With almost 200 productions to date, Jackson can flesh out any role, but some of his top-tier characters are centerpieces in The Incredibles, MCU, and Shyamalan’s Unbreakable universe. With only a few scenes, he can steal the presence of any film.
Jonathan Majors as Kang The Conqueror
The newest baddie on the MCU block, Jonathan Majors, is an unstoppable force so far. There’s no telling where his characterization will be or where he’ll physically be on the timeline the next time we see him on screen, but Majors is a force.
Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger
Before there was Thanos or the aforementioned Majors stealing the show, we had Killmonger. Michael B. Jordan‘s portrayal was one of the earliest iterations of an MCU villain grabbing audiences’ empathy and consequently, the energy of the film. We were blessed to have him return in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and hope to visit him a few more times when future BP iterations visit the astral plane.
Terrence Howard as James Rhodes
Terrence Howard may be more popular as a meme, but we’ll still acknowledge that he played James “Rhodey” Rhodes first and helped kick off the MCU opposite RDJ. Howard retired a few times in the past few years, but hopefully, he’ll find peace soon.
Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau/Photon
This one’s special because we’ve only been graced by Teyonah in WandaVision, but the anticipation for The Marvels is growing daily. Photon could be the first Black woman to officially join an Avengers team. We know she’ll kill it in the Captain Marvel sequel regardless.
Lauren Ridloff as Makkari
Ridloff brought us our second official speedster in the MCU as well as our first deaf character. Eternals was a significant change in pace and style for the universe and although it received mixed results, audiences all fell in love with the characterization of Makkari.
Dominique Thorne as Riri/Iron Heart
Debuting in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Thorne brought Riri Williams to life well before her series, also under the production of Ryan Coogler, debuts on Disney+. The actress auditioned for honorable mention Shuri, but the role went to Letitia Wright instead. Thorne still brings her confidence and bravado to the character, so we look forward to seeing her again.
Idris Elba as Heimdall
Idris portrayed Heimdall across multiple movies and brought the perfect amount of gravitas to the character. Love & Thunder saw the introduction of his son Axl, so we’re not sure if we’ll see Idris on the screen again, but we were fortunate to have him while we did even though the character didn’t always get much screen time.
Zoe Saldaña as Gamora and Neytiri
Zoe, the first actress to appear in 4 $2 billion grossing films, is another star to portray a character over multiple years, both in minor appearances and mainstays. We’re very curious about her portrayal of Gamora in the next Guardians film since her character is from a different universe than the rest of the team.
Aldis Hodge as Hawkman
Hodge is the newcomer to the genre as Black Adam recently debuted in 2022. We’re not sure if his character will carry over into James Gunn’s DCU, and it most likely won’t, but Hodge was definitely one of the bright spots of the potential revamp The Rock started. Hopefully, he gets another shot with another character.
This list could have gone on for another month, but we’ll wrap at 28! Let us know who you’d like to see next round and hopefully, we’ll continue to run out of space.