Black Panther is already gaining high praise and success mere days after its release but an odd statement has somehow attached itself to the Marvel movie’s publicity. Memes have lauded it as the first movie superhero movie with a black lead ever released which most are eager to correct for there have been a small but memorable legacy of such movies in the past. Whether they were awesome or awful, here’s some trivia about other African American superhero films you might not know.
Meteor Man (1993): The original ending of Meteor Man was intended to be a bit more optimistic and open-ended in a typical comic book fashion. Originally the depowered Jeff would find the confidence to stand up for himself and his community and use his status as a teacher to continue to better everyone’s life. Michael would approach him with the news that an even bigger piece of the meteor that gave him his powers was found in Arizona. They agree to buy plane tickets so Jeff could get his powers back and continue being Meteor Man. The film ends with Michael attempting to negotiate with Jeff into getting some powers for himself so he could be his sidekick throwing such names as Comet Boy, Chocolate Thunder and the Flying Wonder of which Jeff has no response. While I appreciated the honesty and good messages Meteor Man stood by, I don’t know if I could take a hero named Chocolate Thunder seriously in any sequel.
Blankman (1994): Although the film was very lighthearted and reminiscent of 1960s Batman, it was not received well by critics but it would receive a cult following over the years. At the time, star and co-writer Damon Wayans stated in interviews he was very proud of the film but later claimed that he should have done Handi-Man as a movie so he “would have made more than 5 million at the box office”. I still thought the clocks in the Hard Edition office set to Chicago, Hoboken NJ and Miller Time was funny.
Steel (1997): Writer/director Kenneth Johnson said in an interview that he originally wanted Wesley Snipes to play Steel, the film based on the DC Comics superhero of the same name, but Warner Brothers felt that casting Shaquille O’Neal would help sell more toys and merchandise. Considering that Steel made less in its entire theatrical run than Batman and Robin did in its opening weekend at that time shows Warner Bros still has something to learn about superhero films and their audiences. I mean they wasted Judd Nelson as the bad guy Nathaniel Burke on this one.
Spawn (1997): Michael Jai White thought the character of Al Simmons/Spawn was “the most tragic character I’ve encountered in any cinematic production” and welcomed the challenge to make the character sympathetic to audiences. He endured two to four hours of intense make up work to become Spawn which included a complete glued-on bodysuit, yellow contact lenses which consistently irritated his eyes, and a mask that restricted his breathing. He later said his martial arts experience helped him endure the painful prosthetics with “strong will and unbreakable concentration”. While the movie was decent, in my opinion they couldn’t have cast a better person to play Al Simmons/Spawn.
Blade (1998): Marvel creator and icon Stan Lee had a cameo that was unfortunately cut from the film. He had played one of the cops that had come inside the club after the blood rave aftermath and discover Quinn’s body still on fire. This of course was before Stan Lee cameo’s in Marvel movies became as common as Jon Ratzenberger’s cameos in Pixar movies. One would also remember that Wesley Snipes had become attached to the movie because he was in negotiations with Marvel to play Black Panther. As much as I would have been interested to see that, I still believe nobody could have played Blade better than Wesley Snipes.
Up, Up and Away! (2000): A lot of people grew up watching the Disney Channel and if you ask, some may even start rattling off the Disney Channel Original Movies that they remember (been there, done that). Before the Incredibles and Sky High ( which if you think about it, is the EXACT same movie just with a primarily Caucasian cast), there was the story of the Marshall’s, an African American family of famous superheroes and their son Scott who may be the only normal/depowered member of the family. Starring and directed by Meteor Man himself Robert Townsend, this coming of age and family superhero story took place in a world where all superheroes existed in the same universe and everybody’s weakness was aluminum foil. Yeah, let that sink in. Silly and predictable but it was a superhero film that anybody’s kids could enjoy.
Blade II (2002): Along with being Wesley Snipes favorite Blade movie, pop icon Michael Jackson was originally going to have a cameo in the House of Pain segment of the movie. He would have played a “Vampire Pimp” who would have been unpacking human entrails from a box in a room Nyssa walked in as she searched for Nomak and other Reapers in the upstairs hall. Unfortunately Michael had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts and the part was played by a Czech actor. The scene was cut out entirely for pacing reasons and is available as a deleted scene on the DVD.
(Dis) Honorable Mention- Catwoman (2004): They used a Bengal Cat in the film and Halle Berry loved it so much that she announced she was going to adopt it. Some media sources reported this but inaccurately described the 13 pound mixed breed as a tiger which caused the Fund for Animals to send the actress a nasty worded letter. Considering Halle Berry spent about ninety minutes daily for an entire week just to learn how to properly crack a whip, I’m sure they realized their mistake and let her keep the precious feline.
Blade Trinity (2004): An early idea by writer/director David S. Goyer had the final entry in the Blade Trilogy set many years after the events of Blade II where the vampires had achieved world domination and enslaved all of humanity. Blade would be the last hope of humanity having his vampire DNA helping to slow his aging and keeping him a legitimate threat to vampirekind. However the storyline was deemed too dark and dropped from consideration. Another moment to note that when Hannibal King tells Blade about the return of Dracula, he shows Blade an issue of Tomb of Dracula #55. The Tomb of Dracula was the 1970s series which introduced Blade and Hannibal King, both of those issues written by Marv Wolfman.
Hancock (2008): The original screenplay for Hancock was much darker than the final script. In addition to being a drunk and disorderly low-life, Hancock was supposed to be sexually frustrated because he couldn’t have sex with any woman without killing her during the process. A scene was approved detailing the… effects of his explosive orgasm but it was removed from the final cut because one of the test audiences did not find it funny. Imagine if they had kept that and if Dave Chappelle, who had been seriously considered for the role, had been Hancock instead.
Well that’s a wrap. Hopefully you enjoyed it, had a laugh or two, learned something and that there are more entries to add for this legacy in the near future. And on my closing note, this scene came to mind from Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy.