Nearly four years before the debut of Marvel’s Storm in May 1975, and almost six years before DC’s Bumblebee first appeared in June 1977, there was the Butterfly, the first black female superhero.
Butterfly first appeared in a back-up feature in Hell-Rider #1, published in August 1971 by Skywald. The feature was written by Gary Friedrich (Ghost Rider), penciled by Ross Andru (The Amazing Spider-Man, Wonder Woman), and inked by Jack Abel (Superman) and Mike Esposito (The Amazing Spider-Man, Wonder Woman).
Outfitted with a jetpack and a costume laden with incredibly bright strobe lights to blind her enemies, Marian Michaels is a Las Vegas cabaret singer by night and the crime-fighting Butterfly by even later night.
Butterfly’s first feature in Hell-Rider #1 follows her as she investigates the Claw, a group of cat costume-wearing heroin dealers who are using their profits to build a fascist army out in the desert. Her second appearance in Hell-Rider #2 sees her battling the Brothers of the Crimson Cross, a fictitious white supremacist group that the issue refers to as “a gathering of sick, distorted minds such as this country has not witnessed since the Ku Klux Klan‘s rule of terror held the South in its deadly grip.” Sadly, like Lobo before it, Hell-Rider would only run for two issues.
For more on Butterfly, you can read her first appearance in its entirety at Out of this World and her feature from Hell-Rider #2 at Hero Histories.
This concludes my Black History Month Superhero Spotlight series, but I hope you’ll join me next month for the Women’s History Month Superhero Spotlight series!