Top Five Black Marvel Characters with Passive Powers

I want to try my hand at weekly top five lists, because despite what everyone says – lists are interesting. So here’s something based on one of the three things that seems to be going on with black characters in superhero comics: a list of five black characters who have passive powers, rather than active powers.

(Maybe one point down the line I’ll also talk about black characters who have been made into cyborgs, or black characters who have lightning powers, but for the time being – here’s five characters with passive abilities)

This seems to be a thing which has quietly grown without anybody noticing. Every time a black character is brought into the Marvel Universe, there is a strangely high chance of them getting a power which doesn’t display itself physically. Instead, they are given some kind of quiet power which doesn’t have any visual aspect to it.

Rather than the black characters getting to race into battle and hurl lightning or fire, or have access to powers like telekinesis or superspeed – they have some kind of barely-visible power which doesn’t give them direct offensive techniques. For some reason, black characters (and this isn’t even counting the ones like Black Panther, Falcon, and so on whose power is ‘peak’ humanity) seem to get defensive powers rather than offensive and direct powers.

Here’s five Marvel characters. You’ll also notice a second theme crop up as we go through it —

5: Tag

Created for the New X-Men during the period around Grant Morrison’s run, Tag was one of two black guys who showed up in a new group of students attending the school. Now, Tag’s power… is to make people run away from him. If he touches something, and then touches someone, the person he touches will then run away from the thing he touches.

This is the full extent of Tag’s powers. Once Craig Kyle and Chris Yost took over the book, he was promptly killed off in a bus explosion.

4: Alex Wilder

Brian K Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s Runaways was hailed as a new approach to superhero groups. With a more diverse lineup of complex teenage characters, which included a mix of racial groups and characters defining their sexualities, it was a book which went in a different direction to most of the other comics being made at the same time.

Leader Alex Wilder, though, was the only one without a gadget or power. Molly Hayes turned out to be a mutant with super-strength, various other members of the team proved to be magic-users, aliens and robots, and Alex had… a book. Serving as the leader despite having no power set, Alex was later proved to be a traitor, somewhat evil, and then killed off. In an explosion.

3: Synch

Synch arrived to the X-Men during Generation X, another diverse group of characters featuring people like Skin Jubilee, Husk and Monet. Synch proved to be one of the breakout favourites of the book, however. His power let him borrow the powers of other characters, provided they were stood in the same vicinity as him.

This didn’t save him from getting killed off in, erm, an explosion, though.

2: Darwin

Before you ask – no, Darwin has not been killed off in an explosion. Unless you count the movie, in which case yes he was blown up and killed.

But in the comics he’s fine!! Introduced as a new group of students (are you noticing these patterns here?) by Ed Brubaker, Darwin has the power of evolution – in that, he adapts immediately into any setting he’s put into. If his head is pushed underwater, he develops gills. If he is thrown into a volcano, suddenly he’s got skin which can resist extreme heat. And so on. And he hasn’t been killed yet! That has to count as a win.

1: Prodigy

Also not dead! Prodigy joined alongside Tag, and used to have a power. The power meant he had the knowledge of everyone around him – so that meant Wolverine’s fighting skills, Cyclops’ tactician knowledge, that sort of thing. He’s currently in Young Avengers, breaking gay hearts.

So isn’t it interesting how every new group of characters introduced, when they feature a black guy, always have the black guy have passive powers? That’s a strange thing. Also, how this seems to happen to black men more than black women – the black women at Marvel seem far more likely to have an aggressive power than a defensive one.

Interesting, this.


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