© 2020 Ken Quattro
In one of those rare coincidental confluences of serendipity, I have been made aware of a recent series of articles appearing in the CHICAGO DEFENDER by Steve Carper the comic strip “Bungleton Green” and the possibility that it contained the first appearance of a Black super hero.
Carper is a popular culture historian and he brilliantly describes the circumstances surrounding a continuity sequence of Jay Jackson’s “Bungleton Green” strip featuring the main character’s transformation from a “normal” cartoonish human into a “super robot.”
Comic book fans may well notice the similarity of this transformation to the Jerry Siegel/Leo Nowak creation, “Robotman,” that first appeared in STAR SPANGLED COMICS #7 (April 1942). It is reasonable to presume that Jackson was aware of this character, but he also was well acquainted with the science fiction genre as he had illustrated many pulps previous to the 1944-1945 “Bungleton Green” sequence.
The “super” version of “Bungleton Green” ended with the revelation that it was all a dream sequence, similar to the later “St. Elsewhere” television series of the 1980s.
I hesitate to definitively state that this incarnation of “Bungleton Green” is THE first Black super hero. There is still the Bill Alexander claim that he and Gene Bilbrew created the “Brown Bomber” for the CALIFORNIA SENTINEL in the 1940s that has yet to be corroborated or refuted. Until that is fully explored, I withhold any personal judgement.
However, I encourage everyone interested to read Carper’s articles. They are historically accurate and he makes a very good case.
As you read through the strips, you will note that Jackson was concerned with far more serious issues than just providing carefree entertainment. This “super robot” was meant to be a slave and the entire sequence was an allegory to the history of Blacks in America.
Here are links to Carper’s articles: