It’s 2020, and change is downright inevitable.
I mean, duh, yeah. It’s weird it took three years to realize this.
Kids today have it lucky. While diversity, thankfully, is more commonplace today, back in my heyday Black characters were few and far between – we’d usually get one tough-talking sidekick or sassy sister per show. MAYBE. But there were many other times where a character wasn’t necessarily drawn as Black but DEFINITELY has the blackest of characteristics.
Let’s look back at 11 characters who may not have been outwardly portrayed as Black, but trust, we ALL KNEW our kinfolk when we saw them. You can’t surpress blackness.
Skeeter from Doug
Although it was always subtle, as a kid I felt there was something authentically Black about Mosquito “Skeeter” Valentine. Maybe it was how he’d randomly man the turntables in one episode, or how he’d do some pseudo-beat-boxing in another. Apparently Doug creator Jim Jinkins recently admitted that “it’s pretty common knowledge that Skeeter was African-American,” so my juvenile instincts were correct after all.
Panthro from ThunderCats
Panthro is every cool Black uncle ever. He spends every free moment working on his pimped-out whip, always down to spit sage advice, is QUICK to put mouthy children in their place and is all jokes until someone harms his family or his aforementioned car. Then it’s hands on sight.
Jazz from The Transformers
Jazz is a breakdancing giant robot who is obsessed with TV, slang and pop culture. He’s basically me, minus the metal part.
Soundwave from The Transformers
Oh, the Decepticons had brothers on deck too! Speaking of decks, Soundwave was a smooth talking, shade-throwing tape deck who was totally loyal to his crew of murderous cassettes. Definitely Black. Oh, and I know someone will bring up his Autobot rival Blaster but, to me, he just felt like the cool white dude who had an internship at a radio station.
Hong Kong Phooey
The young’ns among us probably don’t know the greatness of those crazy Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and this one might be the most underrated of all. Penry Pooch is a goofball janitor who fights bad guys as kung-fu master Hong Kong Phooey. He’s basically Sho Nuff from The Last Dragon if he had more morals and less hand-eye coordination.
Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Frylock’s not just on this list because he has locks … made of fries. He has the best Black Man Glare of any cartoon character I’ve ever seen. That’s not a trait you learn, it’s one you inherit. Also he got his locks braided so yeah, I guess the hair is a big part of it too. You never saw Master Shake get his straw braided, did you?
Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z
Black men have long been unfairly discredited with the deadbeat dad label, when studies show that brothers actually are more present in the lives of kids than other groups. So while Goku is off training or eating ramen or being dead, who is around raising that man’s kid? Piccolo, that’s who. #BlackMenUplift.
Cell from Dragon Ball Z
I know this is an unconventional pick but hear me out – Cell is a funny-looking jock who thinks he’s perfect in every way. If he was human his name would be Pretty Ricky and he’d definitely have an S-Curl.
Riff-Raff from Heathcliff
Only the real ones remember Heathcliff, who was sort of like a cooler, less lazy version of Garfield. Every episode also featured the adventures of Riff-Raff, who ran the block with his crew, The Catillac Cats, and dressed like your church deacon on date night. Yep, Black.
Martian Manhunter from Justice League
J’onn J’onzz is a brother displaced from his homeland who has a difficult to spell name, constantly codeswitches to fit into society and really hates hot temperatures. Yep, he’s Black.
Powerline from A Goofy Movie
Bobby Brown’s haircut, Chris Brown’s dance moves and Tevin Campbell’s vocals? It’s like when Cobra used the DNA of a bunch of dictators to create Serpentor – except the R&B version. Get this man on the radio expeditiously, he’s the savior R&B needs right now.
What other cartoon characters are undeniably Black? Let us know below.