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Black Panther to Black Lightning: Why more black heroes are taking flight in Hollywood

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NEW YORK (Circa) — New York Comic Con 2018 hosted a panel discussion, called "Black Heroes Matter," that centered on portrayals of black heroes in contemporary pop culture.

The panel focused on the cultural renaissance of black creativity and representation following the box-office success of "Black Panther," and the mass appeal of "Black Lightning" and "Luke Cage."

Black Heroes Matter
People filled the room at the "Black Heroes Matter" panel at New York Comic Con on Saturday, October 6, 2018.

"The only person who looked like me and my family was a pimp"
Black Heroes Matter sprang from the Black Lives Matter movement and its effort to offer a more accurate and complete depiction of the black experience in media.

"Every person on this planet deserves to see a positive representation of themselves that inspires them to be more and to be better," panel host David F. Walker told Circa in an interview.

Walker is an award-winning comic book writer whose work in comic books include Marvel Comics. He was 10 years old when he decided to make it his life's mission to change the image of black people in Hollywood after seeing how the only black character to appear in the 1978 film "Superman" was a nameless pimp.

"I was so crushed and devastated that the only person who looked like me and my family was a pimp," he said.

"Every person on this planet deserves to see a positive representation of themselves."
David F. Walker, Writer and Filmmaker

That's why four decades and $1.3 billion dollars later in global ticket sales, Walker says "Black Panther" is so beautiful and important. "It shows that we are human beings. That not only do we matter, but we can be a force of good."

"A positive image that young black kids need to see today"
Desmond Odom was one of the many New York Comic Con attendees to dress up as Black Panther this year. He said his costume is a positive image that young black kids need to see today.

"He is everything that I’m trying to be in life," Odom said. He added that the Black Panther character represents "a very strong monument for kids to see other than just seeing kids on screen that are shooting each other and killing each other, and gangs, and drugs."

Odom is also a huge fan of Luke Cage. "He’s a bulletproof Black man. Let that sink in. He’s a bulletproof black man and in the environment that we’re living in right now that has meaning."

"We’ve opened the floodgates and not just shown that representation matters, but also that diversity sells."
April Reign, Senior Director of Marketing at Fractured Atlas and #OscarsSoWhite Creator

Diversity sells
April Reign, the Senior Director of Marketing at Fractured Atlas and creator of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, anticipates we'll start to see more leading characters of color in Hollywood, because they're in high demand.

"People from traditionally underrepresented communities are hungry for depth," she said. "So, any studio, network or platform that is not being more inclusive is literally leaving money on the table."

"We’ve opened the floodgates and not just shown that representation matters, but also that diversity sells."

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