February 20, 2013

Minorities in cartoons: Black Vulcan

Minorities in cartoons: Black Vulcan

Black VulcanThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Black Vulcan, an African-American superhero who appeared in the classic 70s/80s series “The Super Friends.”

Background

Black Vulcan was created as a pastiche of then-recently-created DC Comics superhero Black Lightning. Supposedly, various rights issues prevented Black Lightning’s appearance in spin-off media.

Like, well, plenty of other African-American superheroes, Black Vulcan’s powers were electricity-themed. Said powers were often vaguely defined, per being the “Super Friends.” Black Vulcan’s powers included:

  • Generating lightning bolts from his hands.
  • Using his lightning bolts to tie villains up.
  • Flying through the air (or outer space) via turning the lower half of his body into a lightning bolt.
  • The impressive feat of traveling through time under his own power. That’s a feat only matched by Superman and the Flash (via their super-speed).

Black Vulcan wasn’t the only African-American recurring character on the “Super Friends.” Others included Aquaman villain Black Manta and late-season Super Friends member Cyborg (of Teen Titans fame). The 2000s “DC Super Friends” comic also featured Green Lantern John Stewart as a member.

Vulcan was created along with several other minority superheroes to add diversity to the otherwise-all-Caucasian core group of Super Friends. None of these characters made it into the comics. However, the comics introduced similarly diverse heroes, as part of the globe-spanning superhero team the “Global Guardians.”

Unlike Storm (Ororo Munroe), Black Lightning (Jefferson Pierce), and Static (Virgil Hawkins), Black Vulcan doesn’t have a real name or an origin story!

Other media

Post-“Super Friends,” Black Vulcan’s turned up several times on the Adult Swim series “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.” There, he’s parodied like the other old-time Hanna-Barbera characters. One episode made fun of his name; Vulcan claims the name (and its attention called to his race) wasn’t his idea, but Aquaman’s.

Other than such parodies, however, Black Vulcan’s generally gone unused since the “Super Friends” left the air. Most spin-off media favor using Static and (lately) Black Lightning, when an African-American hero-with-electrical-powers is desired.

Voice actors

Buster Jones voiced Black Vulcan during the “Super Friends” run.

On “Harvey Birdman,” Phil LaMarr voiced Black Vulcan. LaMarr also voiced Static in that hero’s TV series.

(Updated 11/16/16)

Tags: African-AmericansanimationBlack VulcanMediaminorities in cartoonsSuper Friendstrivia