Marvel Studios has made significant progress toward embracing black culture. There’s a Black Panther movie on the way, to be directed by Ryan Coogler (of Creed and Fruitvale Station), and the Netflix show Luke Cage marked a significant departure from the more traditional white heroes and communities of past Marvel projects. Where the studio is still falling short is in the delivery of a female black superhero. It took them long enough to start promoting black and female superheroes separately, so unfortunately combining the two will probably take a little longer.
That’s not to say there haven’t been a few prominent black female characters involved in superhero projects. Most recently, Rosario Dawson has emerged as nurse/superhero-helper Claire Temple in the Marvel/Netflix dramas. Equal parts savior and love interest for Daredevil when she first appeared, Claire has since had a role in a every one of the four shows that have debuted on Netflix, and will reportedly be a Luke Cage love interest in The Defenders. The latter plans will bring the heroes from these four shows together, Avengers-style. It’s definitely a positive step to see a black female character playing a key role in these shows—but it would also be nice to see something that goes beyond a love interest.
We’ve also seen Halle Berry perform for years as Storm in the X-Men films, though more recently she’s been mostly cut out of the movies. Even with her recently out of the picture, the image of a badass black female superhero lives on with Storm largely thanks to Berry’s portrayal. Storm resembles the Berry version in a few different Marvel mobile games, as well as in an X-Men game that’s listed among the best slot games from the UK. In the latter, the game is mostly made up of images of X-Men characters placed on and surrounding a slot reel. You could say that she’s just as prominent as the likes of Wolverine and Magneto, so it’s not a bad tribute. But the character is all but gone from the big screen, and was never attached to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to begin with.
That’s about as far as we go with prominent black female characters in superhero movies—so far. Black Panther offers some hope here with the casting of Lupita Nyong’o, who’s undeniably among the hottest up-and-coming black actors in Hollywood. Nyong’o will play the role of Nakia, who has also gone by the alias “Malice” in some comics. Marvel’s Wikia describes her as having powers of heightened strength, speed and accuracy due to a magical ritual, though she’s also supposed to be infatuated with Black Panther. That means she may be primarily a love interest in the upcoming film, though we could also see her emerge perhaps as the Black Widow to Black Panther’s Captain America.
Aside from Malice, there isn’t really a hint of a black female superhero on the way. The best bet, other than simply turning a traditionally white hero black, would seem to be Monica Rambeau, who has appeared with the Avengers in the comics. She’s been described as the first female Captain Marvel, although she’s known as Spectrum these days. We already know that Brie Larson is going to be playing Captain Marvel in the 2019 film. Nevertheless, because of her connections to the Avengers storylines, Rambeau might be the character to hope for moving forward.
In the meantime, let’s hope Claire Temple and Malice become more prominent in their respective projects. These are strong, independent women that deserve to be more than just love interests for their male counterparts. Here’s hoping that Marvel can finally buck the trend and give black women the hero they truly deserve.