Black Kid Superhero Costume

Comics, Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Black Hair: How They Work Together to Empower Our Youth

The word representation often gets tossed around when examining media. Marginalized people of all ages want to see their stories and experiences expressed respectfully and authentically through art. However, representation is perhaps even more vital for the next generation of young Black entertainment consumers. Their ideals about their worth, importance, attractiveness, and self-image are heavily shaped by what they see, which entertainment plays a large role in. Think about it. A little Black girl watches a Disney princess film and wants to spin around in a dress and toss her hair so she can be beautiful and magical like the protagonist. But, if images of Rapunzel and Elsa are the majority of what she’s seeing, then what message does that send her about her own skin and hair? 

We all know our hair is a vital part of our experiences, culture, and self-image. Our locs, Afros, coils, braids, lace fronts, and everything in between represent just how diverse and incredibly dope we are as a people. Unfortunately, the general standard of what’s considered to be beautiful, “acceptable,” or professional often hinges on hair that closely resembles our white counterparts. Our hairstyles only become “fashionable” when non-Black people appropriate our styles. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to expose Black kids to entertainment that celebrates and validates them in every way, including the hair (or lack thereof) on their young crowns. 

There’s perhaps no better (and entertaining) way to do this than through fantasy stories. Comics, sci-fi, and superhero adventures not only spark kids’ natural curiosity and imagination, they also showcase a wide variety of styles that can help kids feel confident about their looks. Black kids need their heroes and protagonists to not only make them dream bigger but to also be a reflection of their reality. 

Today’s kids are growing up at an optimal time where films like Black Panther are a part of their norm. The groundbreaking Marvel movie, which offers entertainment for most ages and genders, celebrates Black excellence in a major way with a fictional country where we thrive. But the characters’ hair also reflects the variety within our own, from Killmonger’s stylish locs to Princess Shuri’s braids to the Dora Milaje’s beautiful baldness. The film also showcases comb coils, bantu knots, and so much more to foster pride in our hair’s versatility. It’s heartwarming to imagine a young girl who does not have hair for whatever reason light up at an entire army of bald Black women warriors. 

This is a well-known example of Black hair representation but there’s far more diversity in the comic, TV, and film space than most people know. The following suggestions offer a little something for all age groups. As always, parents must use their own boundaries and judgement about what is appropriate for their child(ren). 


All Ages Are Welcome

Marvel comic character Lunella “Moon Girl” Lafayette, is not only the smartest person in her universe, but also rocks her hair in one (or two) large puffs billowing on top of her head. This 9-year-old’s adventures are the perfect gateway for girls to see their intelligence as a superpower. And, Moon Girl is set for her own Disney+ animated series in 2022. This means girls of all ages can sit in front of their TV and watch Lunella make being nerdy super cool while wanting to emulate her hairstyles. 

Moon Girl Marvel

Marvel Comics/Natacha Bustos

Outside of major comics and their TV shows, indie comics and graphic novels have their fair share of Black hair representation. For example, Micheline Hess’ Malice in Ovenland takes an Afro puffed tween girl on an unreal (and sometimes gross) mission into the depths of her dirty oven. Lily Brown’s life-changing journey will strike a chord with middle school ages but can certainly entertain younger readers as well. 

And, there’s nothing wrong with throwing it back a bit with shows like Codename: Kids Next Door (TV-Y7) featuring Numbuh 5 with her long, thick braided ponytails. 

Tween and Teen Heroines Rule the Universe (11-17)

Marvel also boasts Riri “Ironheart” Williams, a teen genius who creates her own suit of armor that rivals Ironman’s infamous tech. Versions of Riri include everything from a large Afro to a shorter, curly style as she embarks on journeys that will thrill tween and teen girls. Like Moon Girl, Ironheart is also coming to Disney’s streaming service; however, her show will be live-action. 

Jennifer Lightning Pierce and Anissa Thunder Pierce

The CW

Black Lightning’s (TV-14) superheroine sister duo Jennifer “Lightning” Pierce and Anissa “Thunder” Pierce rock everything – braids, straight locks, curly hair, and even a short natural ‘do – while saving their community. Their hair is a part of their self-expression and a validation that all types of Black hair is beautiful. The CW show, currently available on Netflix, is currently in its final season so now is a great time for a marathon watch. 

Many comic books and graphic novels offer options for older girls, including Amandla Stenberg’s Niobe: She is Life. The titular Black elf protagonist rocks thick, long locs and goes on a coming of age journey of love and sacrifice. Anime offers less kid-friendly Black hair rep, but Hunter x Hunter’s (TV-14) Canary has one of the coolest hairstyles ever. Her large puff ponytails with hair ties at the end show off a creative twist on Black hair. 


The Youngest Heroes Among Us

Make no mistake – there’s hair representation for boys, too. Milestone Media’s Virgil “Static Shock” Hawkins is a teen comic superhero with locs and some pretty cool powers. His early 2000s TV show gives boys of all ages a relatable hero to read about and see in action. 

And, there will be an updated version of Static Shock thanks to Michael B. Jordan, who will produce a movie about one of his favorite characters. It is not clear at this time whether the film will be appropriate for all ages considering most superhero centric offerings tend to mix in some adult or sensitive topics. 

Of course, there’s the lovable Miles Morales of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse fame. The 2018 film gave young Black boys a hero to look up to whose lined-up Afro, Nike’s, and hoodie resemble how they dress and look. 

In indie print, books like Quincredible and Jerry Craft’s New Kid/Class Act have slightly older Black boy protagonists, but their stories can easily resonate with elementary aged kids. 

The Coming-of-Age (aStories (11-17) 

The CW’s Cloak & Dagger (TV-14) isn’t airing anymore, but it’s certainly worth a stream on Hulu because of its teenage lead, Tyrone Johnson. Not only is this Marvel character’s hair cut into a dope hi-top fade but his story is also an excellent gateway to discuss police brutality, negative self-image, and other major issues that Black children face. 

Tyrone Johnson - teenage lead of the CW’s Cloak & Dagger

Alfonso Bresciani/Freeform

The aforementioned Black Lightning also includes Khalil/Painkiller, who has teetered from a good guy to a villain and gone on a hair journey from locs to a fade. He’s equipped with cool abilities and preparing to take off for his own series as Black Lightning nears its end. 

Netflix films like Vampires vs. the Bronx (PG-13), centers on a trio of Black boys on a scary coming-of-age adventure to save their neighborhood. They look like any typical group of friends, from their casual clothing to their mini-Afros. 

Of course, there’s always the classic fade. John Stewart’s Green Lantern, Cyborg, and most recently Marvel’s Falcon all have the perfect hairlines for a crispy cut. Sometimes, there’s a little left on top for some waves and other times it's cut as close as possible. 

Falcon Winter Soldier Sam Wilson


Either way, it shows Black boys that you don’t have to necessarily have locs or an intricate hi-top fade to be awesome. Girls certainly go through their own specific hair journey, but boys’ hairstyles matter just as much to them. 

These stories are just a drop in a well of examples of Black hair representation in media. They can be the gateway to fostering a child’s positive self-image with characters who are complex, relatable, yet magical, and reflect the beauty within their own lives. 

Tai Gooden is a writer, editor, and author who covers all things pop culture and entertainment in the geek/nerd space and beyond. Her bylines include Nerdist, Syfy Fangrrls, Vice, Bustle, The Learned Fangirl, Geek & Sundry, The Guardian, and more. When she's not working, she's watching horror films, reading indie comics and fanfiction, listening to podcasts, and waiting on the TARDIS to sweep her across space and time.

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