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