Although Hollywood has become saturated with a preponderance of superhero films—namely those licensed by the Marvel Comics franchise—these projects rarely, if ever, feature an African American lead. In the comic-book realm, a sweeping wave of cultural diversity has inspired the “browning” of numerous, formerly European characters, including the ever-popular Spiderman, Captain America, and others. This infusion of minority participation is a complete turnaround from yesteryear’s rare inclusion of Black action heroes. A relative newcomer to the animation world is now famously known as “Black Dynamite.”
Joining the lineage of fictional Black “lawmen” including John Shaft and Undercover Brother, the 70’s inspired Dynamite is a hyper-masculine cross between rugged actors Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly. Armed with lethal combat skills, and motivated by a desire to defend his community from the forces of evil—White oppression in particular—the militant Dynamite willfully shoulders the immense burden of neutralizing crime and corruption throughout the inner-city. Operating as a protector of justice and consummate ladies man, his strapping physique intimidates foes and weakens the knees of numerous female admirers. On the cover of his self-titled comic book, the hulking detective is shown delivering knuckle sandwiches to the snout of a great white shark.
Originally a comedy starring co-creator, and martial-arts specialist, Michael Jai White (Why Did I Get Married, Universal Soldier, Never Back Down 2), the comic book adaptation of Black Dynamite pushes the racism envelope into another gear. It starts with him journeying to a secluded locale aptly named Slave Island, where visitors pay top-dollar to observe the interactions of Black captives in a controlled, Jim Crowe-esque environment. Dynamite intercedes by galvanizing his enslaved brethren to rage against their White counterparts, causing an uprising and subsequent blood-bath.
Dynamite attempts to initiate a mass exodus from the island, but his exorbitantly flattering description of American democracy fails to convince his new comrades that such a place exists. They watch in disbelief as he sails into the sunset, partnered with a female character reminiscent of the iconic movie siren Pam Grier. “This fool’s gotta be from the future,” declares one of the onlookers.
Another case Dynamite is called upon to solve involves the violent assassination of a professional basketball player wryly named Paul “The Pole” Monroe (clearly a fictional doppelganger of former New York Knickerbocker Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, also known as “Black Jesus”). In front of a packed stadium—featuring boxing legends Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, and Joe Frazier, as well as the volatile husband-and-wife music duo Ike and Tina Turner—Monroe smoothly executes a slam dunk requiring him to leap over a row of three stationary automobiles.
As he’s hanging from the rim, soaking in the roaring applause delivered by the crowd, one of the vehicles explodes and Monroe dies instantaneously. It’s eventually revealed that his demise was caused to prevent the production of his signature shoe line. According to Dynamite’s logic, the CIA intentionally stepped in the way of a Black man owning a pair of sneakers, thereby preventing him from having the bootstraps necessary for economic prosperity. The term “Boot Strapper” is designated to those who succeed by their own efforts.
Dynamite’s remaining excursions are linked together in a saga that ushers the hero from one part of the world to the next, in search of his arch-nemesis: “The Man.”
Racism has become more American than apple pie. Considering its intended purpose —poking fun at the senselessness of cultural bigotry, the satirical “Black Dynamite” hits the nail on the head. It’s everything writer Brian Ash presumably wanted it to be: offensive, insightful, daring, and more importantly, funny.
Thanks to NNPA.org and Our Weekly for sharing this story with us.