I want to begin by saying this is meant to be a serious and thoughtful discussion and examination of characters of African descent in the Avengers (that will hopefully not degenerate into senseless flaming). This subject was touched on in the Avengers thread, but merits its own discussion, I think. The discussion in the Avengers thread had me reflecting on how the Avengers have dealt with race in the past.
Looking back there have been definite trends in the conceptions for black characters in the Avengers and in Marvel Comics as whole that seem to reflect the attitudes and images of black people in the larger culture. Characters like Luke Cage, Black Panther, Falcon, and Storm of the X-men were introduced in the late sixties and early seventies and Marvel, for better or worse seemed to be taking its cue from the Civil Rights Movement and blaxploitation films. The main of the black characters introduced seemed to have some kind of criminal past. Luke Cage was an ex-con (although wrongly convicted), Storm of the X-men was a former pickpocket, and Falcon was a small time hoodlum nicknamed "Snap". Even Black Panther, the dignified king of an advanced African nation, began as a nemesis of the Fantastic Four. Interestingly, they have remained for the most part some of the most enduring archetypes and are still active today.
Times have changed and black characters have come a long way since then, but on closer examination it seems they have quite a ways to go. Focusing on the Avengers specifically, while the ever changing roster has often included a black character, they seem to follow a particular pattern. In a team that will comprise androids, cosmic beings, Eternals, energy-wielders, as well as Norse and Greek deities within its spectrum, black male characters tend to fall into the category of either super-athletes or heroes who rely heavily on technology to be on equal footing with their superpowered teammates (Triathalon, Falcon, Black Panther, Rage, Patriot etc.). That’s not to say that there are no white characters who have this conception, but that black male Avengers are almost always conceived this way. Black male characters also tend to be the angry or frictional member of the group -- at least upon their introduction (Falcon, Triathalon, Patriot etc). The one black female heroine I can think of – Pulsar/Photon/Captain America – seemed to fair somewhat better. She, at least, was one of the more powerful members of the team.
Has anyone else noticed any trends? What is it about the Avengers set up that has made it less inclusive to minorities in general than say, the X-men? It’s obvious that writers in the past have halfheartedly tried to explore this with characters like Triathalon and Falcon thru their storylines. Discuss…