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Black History Month spotlight: The first black superheroine

HippieVan at 12:00AM, Feb. 26, 2016

In 1971, five years after in creation of Black Panther and four years before Marvel introduced Storm, the first black female superhero appeared in Hell-Rider #1.

A trained fighter, Butterfly’s super cool costume included a jetpack, suction cups for climbing, and lights that were capable of permanently blinding her enemies. Her alter ego was “sexy soul singer” Marian Michaels – unfortunately, not much else is known about the character’s origins.

In language and art style(albeit on the nicer side despite being in black and white), Hell-Rider looks like most comics from this period. It is distinguished, however, by its darkness in terms of subject matter - perhaps a consequence of being published by Skywald, which was largely known for horror comics. While concerns for popular appeal kept Marvel’s Black Panther from becoming too political (despite his creator’s intentions), Butterfly is thrown directly into the gritty world of drugs, death, and violent racism. In the first issue of Hell-Rider she fights heroin-dealing fascists, while in the second she battles a fictionalized white supremacist group called the Brothers of the Crimson Cross.

Unfortunately, Hell-Rider was published for only two issues, leaving us to wonder about Butterfly’s potential as a character. Would she have continued to be political, or would her edges have been dulled to avoid causing offense? Would her character have become developed enough to avoid becoming a ‘token’ or just a sex symbol? It's too bad we never got to find out!

Edit: Most of her two stories can be found here.

Have a comic milestone, a community project or some comic-related news that you'd like to see here? Do you have original art for our newspost image database? Send it to me via PQ or at hippievannews(at), or leave a comment below!



Ironscarf at 2:40PM, Feb. 29, 2016

I have never seen this, great find Hippie!

HippieVan at 10:04AM, Feb. 27, 2016

Haha, it definitely has that feel to it.

KimLuster at 6:04AM, Feb. 27, 2016

Good stuff! You can tell this story was written during the 'blaxploitation' heyday, but overall they handled it pretty well!!

HippieVan at 12:11PM, Feb. 26, 2016

As promised, added a link above.

HippieVan at 11:08AM, Feb. 26, 2016

I'll see if I can add a link to the comics themselves later today! They're tricky to find.

KimLuster at 4:47AM, Feb. 26, 2016

I never know about this character! I googled her and kept getting hits on Psylocke with butterfly energy patterns around her face!! Googling Hell-Rider got better results!! This is a pretty cool character!!

Banes at 4:42AM, Feb. 26, 2016

Wow! Never heard of this character before. I guess Skywald folded? Butterfly sounds like a cool character with some nifty superhero tech! Nice to learn a little comics history; thanks Hip!

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