Today, in American we are celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is observed on the third Monday of January each year a holiday to mark the birthdate of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.(King’s birthday was actually on January 15, But, if we celebrated that day each year , we wouldn’t have as many holiday weekends.)King was a great man (and only one of four people with a federal holiday)—he was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. King was assassinated in 1968.
In order to commemorate the holiday, I wanted to highlight some of the many comic book appearances by Dr. Martin Luther King.Unfortunately and surprisingly, there weren’t that many.However, in the course of my research, I did uncover some strange comic book connections between comics and the civil rights movement.
More after the jump.
Let’s start with an easy one. Ho Che Anderson ‘s King: A Comics Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. was released in 2005 by Fantagraphics Books.This book was over 10 years in the making and has the weight and depth of a lifetime of research. The book is a compelling and often moving narrative of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Anderson follows King from boyhood through college and into the stormy Civil Rights movement.
This was not the first comics biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.In 1966, There was comic called Golden Legacy #13, which featureda story called "Martin Luther King, Jr ."A copy of that book is available to read for free here.
Another biography was put out by Personality Comics in 1992 in their American Heroes Comic.Issue #1 featured "Martin Luther King, Jr.: Curator of the Dream," a 20-page unauthorized biography of the civil rights leader.The cover is a painted portrait of MLK by Max Siebel. Research for this story is credited to Cruella DeVille. Following the 20-page story were 12 pages of house ads for Personality Comics titles, with an emphasis on its then-new Spoof Comics imprint.
Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a pivotal role in Quantum Leap #1 from Innovation.The plot from www.quantumleap-alsplace.com/comics/index.html is as follows: As a twenty-four year-old white female teacher with predominately black students, Sam is presented with three obstacles. First, he must find a way to hold the attention of his students, allowing them to pass the exams. Second, in doing this he can turn around the life of the teacher he has leaped into so that she takes the correct career path. And third, he is in a position to save the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. just days before his assassination - but is Sam really there to save him?
Issue #76 of the original 1960 Green Lantern series has a story entitled ‘No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!” where Dr. King appears in a flashback.Of course comic fans will remember this issue, which came out in 1970, as the beginning of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow run by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, which featured the duo travel through America encountering "real world" social issues, to which they reacted in different ways — Green Lantern as fundamentally a lawman, Green Arrow as a liberal iconoclast. Although (as seen below) there was a Martin Luther King Flashback, Issue #76 is much more memorable for the second scene that appears below.
Next we have three appearances of Dr. King in Superman books.The first is Superman 400.An anniversary issue where Superman is featured in a pin up with other great historical figures.
The next is Superman 79, by Dan Jergens and Brett Breeding.Once again, Dr. king only appears by reference as Ron Troupe struggles with the death and possible reappearance of Superman. This story was part of the Death of Superman storyline in the 90s where four heroes were thought to be Superman returned from the grave. (most notably in this issue--the Cyborg Superman).
The next appearance of Dr. King in the Superman titles was as a ghost in Action Comics 719 by Michelinie, Dwyer and Rodier.Once again, Ron Troupe is in the catalyst when he sees Dr. King walk through the Daily Planet staff room.The ghost later turns out to be a hallucination caused by the Centurian’s ship.
Next stop, the Marvel Universe. Specifically, we turn to Ultimates Annual 2, which features the first appearance of Ultimate Falcon.Falcon updates Cap on the civil rights movement and mentions Dr. King, who is shown in a flashback.
Cap gets in on the action in Captain America Theater of War Ghosts #1, where he can be seen marching with Dr. King. Once again, things are not always what they appear to be.
Dr. King’s most recent so-called appearance in the Marvel Universe was in Black Panther v. 4 Issue #34.This issue features two very familiar looking Skrulls who want to change their world for the better.
I should also mention that Vision and Scarlet Witch Issue #8 takes place on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But, Dr, King really isn't in the book.
The one other book I was unable to find in my collection was American Way issue 2 (from Wildstorm) , which apparently also contains a flashback with Dr. King.
As a final note, I came up with a book in my research called, “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story”, which was published by The Fellowship of Reconciliation in Nyack, New York during 1959.The Fellowship worked with Martin Luther King Jr during the Montgomery bus boycott and held workshops on non-violence throughout the South. Apparently, this 16 page color comic was made to help promote that work. There were 250,000 copies printed and another 125,000 in Spanish to be used as teaching tools during the civil rights movement. A copy of the book is available to read for free here.
I hope this was interesting and helpful.
And, let me know if I missed any books.
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