While reading an article on Marvel's Luke Cage, it mentioned a few other black superheroes, but I didn't see a couple that probably opened the doors to such a thing. I then looked up who I thought was the first African superhero - Lothar (of Mandrake fame) - but apparently he wasn't the first.

Who was the first African/Black superhero (defined here as a protagonist having powers or abilities beyond normal men)?

For this question, let's limit ourselves to modern media - pulp magazines, comics, film/tv, novels, etc. No folklore, mythology, or tribal legends.

  • 2
    Are you talking comic books, films, TV shows, folklore etc? Oct 9, 2015 at 13:56
  • 1
    @DrRDizzle - added to question. We'd probably find a lot of supernatural abilities if we included folklore & oral tradition, so let's stick with modern superhero media.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 9, 2015 at 14:05
  • Novels about folklore? Oct 9, 2015 at 14:11
  • @JasonBaker - nah. And honestly, I don't know if John Henry would even count. In most versions of the story, he isn't superhumanly strong or anything, he's just very strong and a hard worker. That particular story has been embellished quite a bit over the years.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 9, 2015 at 14:16
  • Related/dupey: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/11927/1027
    – user1027
    Oct 9, 2015 at 14:26

1 Answer 1


First black comic-book main character

This honour goes to "Lion Man", who debuted in 1945 as the hero of the groundbreaking one-shot "All Negro Comics #1". While he doesn't have any discernible 'lion powers' he does seem to have exceptional agility, hearing and aggression. He's heroic, but not superheroic.

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First (regular) black character in a superheroic comic

This honour goes to Gabriel "Gabe" Jones, debuted in 1963 as one of the Howling Commandoes. Although he doesn't have any obvious superpowers, it's notable that he doesn't age, something that has been commented upon in-universe (with regard to Nick Fury).

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First Black title superhero with powers

This would probably be T'Challa, otherwise known as the Black Panther, who debuted in 1966 in Fantastic Four #52.

His powers include...

...superhumanly acute senses and increases his strength, speed, stamina, reflexes, and agility to Olympic-levels. He has since lost this connection and forged a new one with another unknown Panther deity, granting him augmented physical attributes as well as a resistance to magic.[61] His senses are so powerful that he can pick up a prey's scent and memorize tens of thousands of individual ones. Following his war with Doom, T'Challa loses his enhanced abilities only to once again establish a connection with the Panther God.

enter image description here

which leads us to the...

First Superheroic black character

As pointed out by Omegacron in his comment below, the first superheroically powered black character is "Lothar", Mandrake the Magician's sidekick who briefly debuts in the first Mandrake story in 1934. Lothar is described as the "Strongest Man in the World" and on at least one occasion lifts an elephant into the air, a feat that goes well beyond normal human abilities.

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  • 1
    Lothar first appeared in 1934, so he predates all of these. And he could pick up an elephant, was invulnerable to weapons, and had the stamina of ten men. I'm not sure why the article said he was "one of the first" - it seems like he was probably THE first. I mean, if Richard can't find it, it ain't out there.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 9, 2015 at 14:19
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    @Omegacron - Excellent point, well made. I spotted that he was the world's strongest man but didn't spot that his powers actually went well beyond human-max
    – Valorum
    Oct 9, 2015 at 14:31
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    Gabriel Jones is as white as a ghost covered in mayonnaise during a blizzard in that picture. Oct 9, 2015 at 14:50
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    I feel obliged to point out at this point that Lothar looks like an angered tomato covered in ketchup.
    – Mr Lister
    Oct 9, 2015 at 16:33
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    @DarrelHoffman - Per wikipedia; "Although colorist Stan Goldberg knew that Jones was African American, the company that made the engraving plates for Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 thought a mistake had been made and colored him the same color as the rest of the Howling Commandos."
    – Valorum
    Oct 9, 2015 at 19:50

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