Imagining a Strange New World: Racial Integration and Social Justice Advocacy in Marvel Comics, 1966–1980


David T. Terry

Document Type

Book Section

Publication Title

Soul Thieves

Publication Date


Date Added



High above New York City, in a gleaming futuristic jet, three of members of the superhero team Fantastic Four head to their next adventure. As they start out, however, something is different. Benjamin Grimm whose codename is “Thing,” asks team leader, Mr. Fantastic, “When did you have time to dream up a jazzy flyin’ fastback like this baby?” “I didn’t Ben! It was an unexpected gift sent to me by an African chieftain called, ‘the Black Panther’!” Cynical, Grimm smirks, “Never heard of ‘im,” adding, “how does some refugee from a Tarzan movie lay his hands on this kinda gizmo?”1 Black characters were unknown in mainstream comics at the time. As part of a broad endorsement of racial integration, writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, two creators at upstart publisher Marvel Comics, determined it was “time to end that lunacy.” They set out to create “a new major character strong enough to stand on its own.”2 Thus, the July 1966 issue of the Fantastic Four (no. 52) presented a black character as a bona fide superhero for the first time ever in comics.


978-0-230-10897-4 978-1-137-07139-2




Palgrave Macmillan US