They don’t always get the press they deserve, but there are more black female superheroes out there than anticipated. Some, like Storm and Vixen, are well-known. Others have entered the popular consciousness through big- and small-screen, like Marvel’s Valkyrie or Claire Temple.
Still, others have compelling but overlooked stories. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite black female superheroes to showcase their wide range of abilities and storylines.
First Appearance: Marvel Premiere # 21
Misty Knight is the creation of the writing team Tony Isabella and Arvell Jones. She began her stint in comics as an average NYPD officer. Later, Knight lost her arm in the fallout from a bombing.
Far from putting Knight out of commission, the accident spurred this black female superhero to action. After receiving a bionic arm from Tony Stark, she joined forces with friend Colleen Wing.
Together these two embark on various projects, often working as private investigators to Luke Cage and Danny Rand’s Heroes for Hire. But they also team up to form Daughters of the Dragon.
Knight also works with Valkyrie to lead up the Valkyrior, an Asgardian warrior brigade inspired by Norse mythology.
However, not all comic book aspects of Misty Knight translated to the small screen. Netflix attributes her bionic arm to Iron Fist, not Stark. And between Luke Cage and The Defenders, the network had fun keeping fans guessing about when Knight would lose that arm.
First Appearance: The Avengers #83, 1970
Talking of Misty Knight’s partner in justice, Valkyrie didn’t begin life as a black female superhero. Created by Roy Thomas and illustrated by John Buscema, Valkyrie first appears as a white, Nordic warrior woman.
More than a warrior, Valkyrie plays a pivotal role in relocating the displaced Asgardians. Ultimately, she becomes the leader of New Asgard. But not before suffering previous defeat at the hands of Hela, Thor’s sister. She was briefly a bounty hunter on Sakaar until joining forces with Thor.
First Appearance: Heroes for Hire #2, 1972
Claire Temple is an atypical black female superhero in that she isn’t superpowered. Instead, aptly nicknamed the Night Nurse, Temple first appears as a medical doctor to the enhanced Luke Cage.
Her formidable medical expertise enables her to treat medical crises that range from the traumatic to the mundane. But rather than seek out a highly-payed position, the Night Nurse’s skill is routinely deployed at a free clinic when not putting superheroes back together.
Memorably, Temple gets falsely accused of murder as part of the Luke Cage comics. On-screen, however, this female black superhero pairs incredible knowledge with medical curiosity.
The lynchpin of Marvel’s Netflix shows, she tackles problems that range from how to penetrate bulletproof skin with a needle to how to save Misty Knight’s arm.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spiderman Annual #16, 1982
Monica Rambeau first appears in The Amazing Spiderman, created by Roger Stern and John Romita. But that only covers her debut as Captain Marvel.
As time went on, Rambeau took on a range of aliases, including:
She briefly served as leader of the Avengers, again while Stern helmed the publication. Afterward, she remained an Avenger in reserve and reappeared to bolster her fellow superheroes as necessary.
Additionally, she joined Hellcat and Black Cat as one of the main characters in Marvel Divas. While the story took inspiration from Sex in the City, it was far from Rambeau’s only claim to fame.
With the launch of WandaVision in January 2021, this black female superhero came to the small screen, where her encounter with The Hex around Westview laid the groundwork for her transformation from dedicated soldier to superhero Photon.
One of the many to disappear during the Snap during Avengers: Infinity War, Rambeau returns with the empathy to confront and reason with a grief-stricken Scarlet Witch.
First Appearance: Giant-Sized X-Men #1, 1975
Storm became a black female superhero when there was a dearth of black comic book characters for readers to choose from.
Not only that, but many readers consider Storm the first important female superhero Marvel created. Len Wein and David Cockrum wrote and illustrated her early appearances, but Storm quickly became a fan favorite and soon was a comic book staple.
She memorably went toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman during a DC vs. Marvel crossover event. Reader opinion helped influence the battle’s outcome, and Storm won the readers’ popularity by a significant margin.
She was also one of the most prominent X-Men and took over their leadership when Cyclops left the group.
In addition to her time on X-Men, Storm features prominently in Black Panther, where, as the eponymous hero’s love interest, she becomes Queen Consort to Wakanda. The title doesn’t last, as the couple eventually divorced, but the love fans have for this black female superhero endures.
First Appearance: Black Panther #2, 2005
Like Claire Temple before her, Shuri is another black female superhero who tackles problems not with superpowers but with a high degree of competence and intellect.
Shuri is a young, enterprising woman in STEM. In the cinematic universe, she creates the armor worn by the Black Panther and helps her brother and the black female military arm, the Dora Milaje, find Ulysses Klaue.
Shuri also plays a crucial role in extracting the mind stone from Vision during the Infinity War.
Throughout comic book history, the character, created by Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr, inherits not only the Black Panther title but its corresponding abilities. She is also a capable transformist.
First Appearance: Invincible Iron Man #7, 2016
This black female superhero is newer to the comic book scene but no less remarkable for that. Like Shuri, Riri Williams, alias Ironheart is a woman in science.
She’s young, too. At 15, she’s already enrolled at MIT and covertly appropriating school supplies to customize Iron Man’s famous costume.
Williams first appeared in Invincible Iron Man as a supporting character. But fans immediately warmed to her, and she quickly became a key player in such major stories as:
- Secret Empire
- Invincible Iron Man
On the strength of her popularity, she joined the Champions team of black superheroes and, in 2018, began headlining her own series under her superhero name, Ironheart.
First Appearance: The Pulse #11, 2005
Danielle Cage is a black female superhero related to not one but two superheroes.
The daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, Dannielle is named after Luke’s long-time colleague and friend Danny Rand.
In the year 20XX, she is also the inheritor of the shield and the title Captain America.
One of the few female superheroes not only to aspire to heroism but to be born to it, Cage’s powers combine her father’s bulletproof durability with the super-strength of Jessica Jones.
Like her mother, she can and does do vigilante work. But she also has affiliations with the Avengers.
Danielle’s turn as Captain America is part of Marvel’s Earth-15601 universe. In the better-known Earth 616, Danielle is an infant who was briefly kidnapped by a Skrull masquerading as Edwin Jarvis.
First Appearance: Action Comics #521, 1981
Mari Jiwe McCabe’s Vixen is arguably one of the best-known black female superheroes in comic books, second only to Storm.
She’s a DC character who has worked with the Justice League and Suicide Squad at different points in her career. While allied to the Justice League, Vixen was notoriously fierce, partly because of her ability to communicate with animals, which was then uncontrolled.
However, her time on the Suicide Squad helped hone her ability, and while she is still a strong black female superhero, she is also an avid animal rights activist.
In addition to an affinity with animals, many of Vixen’s powers are linked to animals. For instance, her power set includes:
- Strength and tenacity of a bull
- Cheetah’s speed
- Breath underwater
However, like many superheroes, it takes a tragedy for Vixen to come into her powers. She acquires the amulet that transforms her into Vixen only after losing both her parents.
First Appearance: Give Me Liberty
Frank Miller and David Gibbons are the creative minds behind the Dark Horse Comics’ black female superhero Martha Washington.
Among other things, Washington saved the world repeatedly. A soldier from the future, she battles:
- Alien invasions
- Nefarious robots
- Corrupt politicians
But Martha isn’t a warrior by choice. She joined the PAX Peace Force, and at her core, is an intelligent programmer and hacker.
She survived for a century before metamorphosing into a blast of fireworks.
First Appearance: Teen Titans# 45, 1976
Bumblebee’s first appearance was as her human alias Karen Beecher in the 1976 Teen Titans. Here, a group of superheroes tackled supervillains while dealing with the trials and tribulations of being high school teenagers.
But it wasn’t until June 1977, several issues later, that Karen Beecher revealed her identity as the black female superhero Bumblebee.
She’s one of the DC comic universe’s unsung heroes, with an eclectic list of powers including:
- Sonic blasts
- Electric bee stings
She’s also a clever teenage scientist, and to complete her superpowered accouterments, she builds a suit that not only enables Karen to fly but shrinks her to the size of a bumblebee.
While it’s the suit that gives Bumblebee many of her enhanced capabilities, DC makes it clear that her real superpower is her intellect. She now builds weapons for S.T.A.R. Labs and works for the Doom Patrol. She has also fought the Secret Six and Aristocrats.
While Bumblebee has yet to get her chance at a live-action film, tan animated series exists featuring Karen and other Teen Titans.
First Appearance: Wonder Woman #204, 1973
This black female superhero is Wonder Woman’s sister. Sometimes called Nu’Bia, the character was created by Robert Kanigher and Don Heck. She has all the same powers as her better-known sister.
Kidnapped and brainwashed by villain Mars early in childhood, Nubia comes to earth in DC’s Final Crisis to fight her sister.
When her identity reveals itself, she joins the Justice League and later takes over her sister’s Wonder Woman title.
First Appearance: Outsiders #3, 2003
Annissa Pierce or Thunder is one of DC comics black female superheroes who also stands for queer representation. She is in a long-term relationship with Grace Choi.
She is also another black female superhero with a family legacy to pick up. Thunder’s father is Black Lightning, a man with electrically-charged superpowers. Annissa Pierce, alias Thunder, is a metahuman with a power list that includes:
- Altering molecular density
- Becoming bulletproof
She can also stomp her feet to invoke powerful shockwaves that recall her father’s similarly cosmic power.
Thunder works alongside fellow superheroes in the Outsiders team.
She entered the Arrowverse in Black Lightning, where actress Nefessa Williams portrayed her.
First Appearance: Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.S. #9, 2000
The Crimson Avenger has had many identities over the years. But the second person to take on the role is a black female superhero, Jill Carlyle. She inherits the unasked-for job when she takes justice out of the courthouse and enacts vengeance on a man who escaped conviction.
Now she sports a bullet wound on her chest and carries guns that force her to exact punishment from people who took innocent lives.
In that respect, Carter and other Crimson Avengers before and since share certain DNA with Marvel’s Ghost Rider, at least as portrayed by Robbie Reyes, who is likewise possessed by a vengeful spirit following his own murder.
Carlyle’s enforced sense of justice isn’t limited to ne’er-do-wells. She also tangled with do-gooders:
- Power Girl
- Captain Atom
Created by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins, Carlyle’s is a darkly compelling story about the difference between justice and vengeance.
First Appearance: Justice League #61, 2002
Cecilia Forrestal’s Skyrocket is a black female superhero who battles racism and sexism in her military career.
Her parents, a pair of genius scientists, give her superpowers, and from then on, Skyrocket embarks on a new career. While she still faces her share of bias, she has the tools to combat it.
As a superhero who works alone, she facilitates a prison break as part of DC’s Infinite Crisis series. And while not a regular team player, Forrestal does occasionally collaborate with other characters, among them:
The character was created by Kurt Busiek and artist Tom Grummett.
First Appearance: Icon #1, 1993
Raquel Ervin was conceived by the collaborative team of Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, and M.D. Bright.
Initially presented as the sidekick to other superheroes, many readers view Rocket as a black female superhero in her own right.
Notably, she became the first teenage mother depicted in a DC comic. She aspired to write like Toni Morrison but found herself redirected to superherodom.
Among other things, she guided friend and fellow hero Flash through a cocaine addiction and became heavily involved in the Justice League. Rocket proved instrumental to the League’s successful defeat of the Shadow Thief.
Rocket appears on Young Justice: Phantom.
First Appearance: Legends # 1, 1986
Created by John Ostrander, John Byrne, and Len Wein, Amanda Waller first appeared in DC comics’ Legends in 1986.
She might have started in Chicago’s housing projects, but Amanda ‘The Wall’ Waller soon found herself achieving a Ph.D. in political science. From there, she became a political aide and then the Director of A.R.G.U.S.
As Director, she assembled the Suicide Squad. She also played a role in creating a new Justice League. Her skill with hobnobbing and speaking politics means that Waller also dealt with the U.S. President several times and persuaded him that the work the Suicide Squad did was necessary.
Black Female Superheroes, Final Thoughts
We hope we’ve persuaded you these black female superheroes deserve more recognition than they’ve so far received, especially in media.
While not all of them are superpowered, they are all strong, capable, intelligent women with stories that inspire and engage readers. Whether you return to an old favorite or seek out a new black female superhero’s narrative, we hope you’ll enjoy your next foray into the world of superheroes.
There’s a lot to be learned from comics, and these are no exceptions.