It's no secret that white male leads have dominated comic books since --- well forever. In the '60s, Marvel and DC finally started to put a change to that with the addition of super-powered people of color, which led to some of today's biggest names in comics. But it still wasn't enough. Eventually the lack of diversity led to the onset of Milestone Media in the '90s, where Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle crafted several intriguing characters. With an increasingly active black nerd, or blerd, community, new black characters are being created every day --- primarily through independent publishers, though Marvel has also kickstarted a focus on one of its most notable black characters --- but more on that later.

To celebrate Black History Month, ComicsAlliance is running down our list of 20 Great Black Comic Book Characters. Our list considers old staples as well as some new favorites, including a certain katana wielding badass, space explorers and of course, plenty of superheroes.

  • 20

    Spawn

    Other Name: Albert Francis "Al" Simmons

    First Appearance: Spawn #1 (1992)

    Created By: Todd McFarlane

    Publisher: Image Comics

    Bursting onto the comic book scene in 1992, Spawn became an instant hit. (The first issue sold 1.7 million copies.) The anti-hero, created by Todd McFarlane, earned his powers from Malebolgia, one of the rulers of hell, for the price of his soul. Now, armed with superstrength and regenerative powers, Spawn takes on everyday bad guys as well as highpowered villains. All while donning his signature skulls, chains and spikes. And lest we forget, he was the star of the popular 1997 film starring Michael Jai White.

  • 19

    Bumblebee

    Other Name:  Karen Beecher

    First Appearance: Teen Titans #45 (1976)

    Created By: Bob Rozakis & Irv Novick

    Publisher: DC Comics

    The cute buzzing Bumblebee is DC's first African-American female superhero. Without any superpowers, Bumblebee makes up for it with her scientific mind, which allowed her to create her own special suit. The high tech armor empowers her with super-strength, speed, endurance and agility. A member of both Teen Titans and Doom Patrol, Bumblebee is also one of the featured student heros in DC Super Hero Girls.

  • 18

    Kamau Kogo

    Other Name: Kam

    First Appearance: Bitch Planet #1 (2014)

    Created By: Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro

    Publisher: Image Comics

    She's smart --- and ready to fight. Kamau Kogo admirably works to defends her fellow prison inmates in Bitch Planet. In what's billed as a feminist dystopia with an influence of '60s and '70s women in prison movies, Kogo definitely brings the punch. With a set of martial arts skills, she heads the megaton sports team (similar to rugby) in hopes to make her escape from the dangerous prison planet.

  • 17

    Amanda Waller

    Other Name: N/A

    First Appearance: Legends #1

    Created By: John Byrne, Len Wein, John Ostrander

    Publisher: DC Comics

    Appearing in just about every DC Comic series, Waller is a staple in the universe. Without any superpowers, the government official still proves to be an incredible antagonist. And we certainly can't wait for Viola Davis to portray the heartless foe (and sometimes ally) in Suicide Squad.

  • 16

    Adrienne Ashe

    Other Name: N/A

    First Appearance: Princeless (2011)

    Created By: Jeremy Whitley & M. Goodwin

    Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment

    Princeless creator Jeremy Whitley challenges traditional princess roles inside and outside of the comic as the main character, Adrienne Ashe, notes plot holes in fairy tales with happily ever afters. With her adorable dragon sidekick, Sparky, Adrienne continuously braves dangerous missions --- all while throwing in a few tongue-in-cheek jokes. ComicsAlliance interviewed the latest artists to bring Princeless to the panels. Check it out here.

  • 15

    Lunella Lafayette

    Other Name: Moon Girl

    First Appearance: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1

    Created By: Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, Natacha Bustos, Emily Shaw & Mark Paniccia

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    Lunella is young, curious, and an Inhuman. The little genius picked up her mantle from Moon Boy when she joins Devil Dinosaur as his new companion in adventuring. When she's not occupied with one of her science experiments, she's braving bullies at school. Her sense of self is also out the roof. With two issues under her belt, we're curious to see what Moon Girl does next.

  • 14

    Misty Knight

    Other Name: Mercedes Knight

    First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #20 (1975)

    Created By: Arvell Jones, Ross Andru, Tony Isabella & Roy Thomas

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    Bad. Ass. Misty Knight, who was created in the '70s, clearly draws influence from black exploitation films. But the young detective, with nearly impeccable gun aim, is also skilled in martial arts. She'll soon come to the screen in the Luke Cage Netflix series, played by Simone Missick.

  • 13

    Vixen

    Other Name: Mari Jiwe McCabe

    First Appearance: Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 (1978)

    Created By: Curt Swan, Bob Oksner & Gerry Conway

    Publisher: DC Comics

    With the powers of the animal kingdom passed down with a totem through generations, Vixen became a crimefighter. Not to mention she was DC's first African female superhero to star in her own series. Whether it's poachers or supervillains, Vixen usually emerges victorious.

  • 12

    Joseph "Robbie" Robertson

    Other Name: N/A

    First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #51 (1967)

    Created By: Stan Lee & John Romtia Sr.

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    While J. Jonah Jameson was often hasty and audacious, Joseph "Robbie" Robertson acted as a voice of reason --- especially when it came to vilifying Spider-Man. The Harlem native is not only The Daily Bugle's editor-in-chief, but also one of J. Jonah Jameson's closest confidants.

  • 11

    Static

    Other Name: Virgil Hawkins

    First Appearance: Static #1

    Created By: Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle & Michael Davis

    Publisher: Milestone Media / DC Comics

    For many black millennials, Static Shock holds a special place in their heart. Although Static debuted in 1993 under Milestone Media, it's the character's cartoon series that he's well known for. He was a superhero for the everyday high school student --- with the powers of electromagnetic powers. Fun fact: Hawkins is named after the first African American to go to law school in the U.S.

  • 10

    Gwendolyn (Saga)

    Other Name: N/A

    First Appearance: Saga #8

    Created By: Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

    Publisher: Image Comics

    Okay, so technically Gwendolyn is horned woman from Wreath, but there's no doubt some melanin in her system. As a high-ranking officer of Wreath's High Command, the space traveler is after her ex-husband, Marko, who married Wreath's enemy, a Landfallian named Alana. But that doesn't stop her from getting into a few adventures of her own --- including saving Slave Girl.

  • 9

    Miles Morales

    Other Name: Spider-Man

    First Appearance: Ultimate Fallout #4 (2011)

    Created By: Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    When the news broke that there would be a half-Black, half-Puerto Rican Spider-Man, it was hard not to be excited at the possibilities for Miles Morales. Armed with the similar web-slinging and spidey-senses abilities as Peter Parker, Morales also stands as a character on his own. The Brooklyn native also has two new moves, spider-camouflage and a paralyzing attack called venom strike. His first comic hit the shelves last Wednesday (Feb. 3).

  • 8

    Blade

    Other Name: Eric Brooks

    First Appearance: The Tomb of Dracula (1973)

    Created By: Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    Blade is definitely one of our favorite vampire slayers. While he wielded a wooden dagger in the comics, we were happy to see the half-human and half-vampire upgrade to a double edged sword in the late 90s (to early 2000s) film series. With Wesley Snipes as the title character, it was also one of the biggest comic book movies of the '90s.

  • 7

    Michonne

    Other Name: N/A

    First Appearance: The Walking Dead #19 (2005)

    Created By: Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

    Publisher: Image Comics

    Michionne's katana has been the talk of comics since her debut in 2005 in the post-apocalyptic series. She's certainly an exceptional survivalist, but she's also known for her merciless killing of zombies. Above all else, she's just really, really cool.

  • 6

    Cyborg

    Other Name: Victor Stone

    First Appearance: DC Presents #26 (1980)

    Created By: Marv Wolfman & George Perez

    Publisher: DC Comics

    The half man, half machine is another one of our favorites. As an original member of Teen Titans, Cyborg uses his intellects and ability to communicate with machines to defeat foes with the team. Lately he's been running with the big boys as a member of the Justice League.

  • 5

    Storm

    Other Name: Ororo Munroe

    First Appearance: Giant Sized X-Men #1 (1975)

    Created By: Len Wein & Dave Cockrum

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    Any list of great superheroes would be incomplete without this weather wielder. Armed with the ability to bring strong winds, lightning, and tornadoes at will, Storm is one of the X-Men's greatest heroes and leaders.

  • 4

    Sam Wilson

    Other Name: Falcon / Captain America

    First Appearance: Captain America #117 (1969)

    Created By: Stan Lee & Gene Colan

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    Sam Wilson held the moniker Falcon for decades. Regarded as one of the first mainstream African-American comic book heroes, it's no wonder Wilson was chosen to take over the mantle of Captain America during Steve Rogers' short-lived retirement. Anthony Mackie has made the mechanical-winged hero a movie star in Captain America: Winter Soldier.

  • 3

    John Stewart

    Other Name: Green Lantern

    First Appearance: Green Lantern Vol 2. #87 (1971)

    Created By: Denny O'Neil & Neal Adams

    Publisher: DC Comics

    The green power-ringed hero is the first African-American to star in his own DC Comic. Known for his serious demeanor, Stewart acts as Earth's representative in the Green Lantern Corps. He also plays an integral role in The Justice League.

     

  • 2

    Luke Cage

    Other Name: Power Man

    First Appearance: Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1 (1972)

    Created By: Archie Goodwin & John Romita Sr.

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    Unbreakable skin and superhuman strength? Needless to say Power Man has a pretty great set of abilities. Often teaming up with his wife, Jessica Jones, and best buddy Iron Fist, Cage fights crime in New York City. Originally a superhero born out of blaxploitation, Cage was redesigned to fit a more modern comic book world. After a lengthy role in Marvel's Jessica Jones, the super-powered hero is set to star in his own Netflix series later this year as well.

  • 1

    Black Panther

    Other Name: T'Challa

    First Appearance: Fantastic Four #52 (1966)

    Created By: Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    Black Panther is one of the most innovative characters ever. Hailing from the fictional kingdom of Wakanda, T'Challa rules as king. He's not only a warrior but a master strategist with catlike grace that makes him a threat to everyone who crosses his path. Needless to say, we can't help geeking out as the resurgence of Black Panther. Between author Ta-Nehisi Coates taking the helm for the comics this year and a debut in the highly anticipated film Captain America: Civil War, it seems the T'Challa is finally getting his due.