In the seventies, when you were black, your super hero name needed to remind us. If Captain America was black, he wouldn't have been a captain. They would have called him Blackman America and he would have only fought crime in discos. Black Manta was just "Manta" for a few seasons before the writers found out the guy in the middle of the submarine wreckage was black.

The white Super Friends all had names that described their powers. Aquaman, Batman, Hawkman, Flash... you kind of had an idea what their powers were even before they announced them outloud every time they used them. But anyone ethnic got named after the country they're from or what color they were. If Apache Chief was white, he'd be Grow Man or Large Lad. And Samurai? He wasn't a Samurai. That doesn't mean anything, it's just the only Japanese word they knew. It's like naming Batman "Cowboy" or naming Green Lantern "Baseball Player." They named the Mexican Super Friend "El Dorado." That was a city made out gold. Yeah, it sounds Mexican, but it's nonsense. If the Super Friends hired a Swiss guy, you know they'd name him Hot Chocolate. If a black guy hadn't already taken it, of course.


You Idiot, Black Vulcan
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vs. Mumbling Space Goo
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Saves the Astronauts!
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Rescued by Aquaman... SAD.
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Him & Aquaman vs. Thinking Algae
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Let's Do It!
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vs. Some Gorillas
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Black Vulcan was a little easier to understand than other 70's black heroes. Luke Cage, "Power Man," used to speak in such thick jive you couldn't tell if he was going to kick your ass or if he wanted to dance. And he bumped against you so much while he was dancing, you couldn't even tell afterwards. Black Vulcan, though, talked almost exclusively in electricity puns. "I'll electrify you with the shock of your life!" So unlike Luke Cage, we knew what he was trying to say, but we still wanted him to shut up.

He didn't show up very often, and when he did, he took Robin's job of shouting whenever something weird showed up. And no matter how many space blobs, giant monsters, or alien robots he ran into, he seemed genuinely surprised at each and every one of them. I know I would probably scream, "Great Lightning!" if I ran into something made out of lava and big enough to eat me, but Black Vulcan saw this kind of crap all day. The Super Friends couldn't even go to the drive-in without a damn creature dropping out of the sky on them. You'd think they'd get desensitized to that kind of thing after awhile. Most people are pretty scared the first time they see a snake, but I don't think the zoo-janitor at the reptile house spends his whole day going, "Great soaking mops! A venemous cobra! Got to keep from sticking my hand in the cage AND FAST!"

Black Vulcan changed his outfit more than any other superhero. And I don't mean from episode to episode. His clothes would change everytime the camera left him. I don't think it was on purpose. Maybe they ran out of brown and black markers on different days, or no one in the sweatshop could color inside the lines. Maybe his sleeves just decided to jump off, afraid that one more touch of Black Vulcan's silky skin would cause a sexual explosion. Whatever the reason, some good did come of the animators not being able to remember what his swimsuit looked like. It helped us finally answer the question: What strikes fear into evil more -- a turtleneck or a v-neck? And what about sleeves? Do they help or hinder the never-ending battle against crime?

Continue to Black Vulcan Part 2 ->