Black characters come in all colors. Sometimes, when looking for characters to relate to, you need to look beyond the superficial and dig a bit deeper. What do I mean by black? Perhaps it’s their voice or a particular personality quirk. Mannerisms, resemblances and cultural similarities can all serve as markers for your connections to characters. Not to mention, if you are looking for inspiration for you NYC Comic Con Cosplay, look no further! Here are seven characters who aren’t black, but are totally black if you look think about it. Let’s dive in.
The Dragonball series is stuffed full of quirky, intimidating, and downright imposing characters. None are more endearing or beloved than the green-skinned stepdad Piccolo. His heroes journey led him from villain to reluctant friend, to Gohan’s father figure, to full-on series hero. Growing up watching Dragonball Z, I always had an uncanny connection to Piccolo. His character spoke to me. His voice was tremendous and he sort of reminded me of my dad. It didn’t hit me until sometime in high school. Piccolo is a black man trapped in a green man’s body. His unsmiling, cold, yet caring demeanor resonated with me. It may have even informed how I treat people today.
The original black panther. Panthro was voiced by Earle Hyman, the grandfather from the Cosby Show. The muscled kitten was the Thundercats lead mechanic and resident nunchaku expert. This character subconsciously reminded me of the Cosby Show. I never remember Panthro doing anything “black” per se, but he sure was a parental figure for Lion-o, the adult prince with the mind of a teenager. In the Thundercats revival in 2011, cartoon voice king Kevin Michael Richardson played papa Panthro.
DC has a black superhero problem. The ones they do have are not very interesting (looking at you Mr. Terrific) or well highlighted. Their rainbow heroes, however, are well established. None more than super martian himself, Martian Man Hunter. The shapeshifting orphan of Mars has a secret Identity by the name of John Johns. Many of the incarnations of JJ are portrayed by black men. In the most recent Supergirl CW TV show, The Manhunter is played by David Harewood. In the OG Superman CW series Smallville, JJ was played by Phillip Morris. Carl Winston and Kevin Michael Richardson lent their voices to the character in Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice respectively.
Starfire, the quickly, fun-loving alien princess from the Teen Titans never struck me as a black character trapped in an orange body. Then, DC Universe announced Titans, a gritty, F-word filled take on the Teen Titans. Lo and behold, Anna Diop was cast as fire-hurling Starfire. Outside of the gritty, gritty trailer above, I don’t know much about how this character will be portrayed. One thing I do know, that wig is horrible.
Who didn’t love Aqua Teen Hunger Force? The insane, mentally draining cartoon on Adult Swim offered up a strange assortment of sentient fast food products as the protagonists of the series. None more interesting as the super genius, floating carton of french fries Frylock. Voiced by Carey Means, Frylock portrayed a few characteristics people would associate with black culture. He routinely got his fries braided, he was the voice of reason, and his voice was sultry and easy to listen to. He also had laser eye beams. Something most people don’t know, we black folks can do… (it’s a secret, shhh)
Played by the incomparable Zoe Saldana-Perego, Gamora is the no-nonsense killer on the Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel group. While Zoe is not necessarily black, she is black adjacent, born to a Dominican father and Puerto Rican mother. Gamora’s character in the Marvel films has a distinct, curt personality I remember growing up around. She reminded me very much of every little girl in our grade school. Strong, opinionated, uncompromising young women who would smack you raw if you crossed them. Oh the playground massacres we endured at their hands…
Another stretch character, especially since you see he is a Japanese man in the original comic, cartoon, and terrible Michael Bay movies. However, the original cartoon voice actor is none other than Uncle Phil himself, James Avery, R.I.P. I will always give props to Uncle Phil, as J. Cole did. He brought that character to life, and made me believe that he hated those damn turtles.
Do you know any more characters who are totally black, but not? Get in touch with us on Twitter or Instagram and let us know! Rate and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and listen to your wonderful voices as we celebrate and create heroes of color. You can reach us on Twitter and of course on our contact page. Thanks for reading, remember to tell a friend. Reading is good, right?