This Black History Month, we’ve looked at and discussed iconic Black superheroes like Luke Fox, Vixen, the Blood Syndicate and the entire Pierce family, but today we’re doing something a little different. For the DC Universe to truly look like the world outside our doors, compelling Black characters of all types must exist at all levels of narrative importance—from leading their own movies, TV shows and ongoing comics to effectively, memorably antagonizing a book’s hero to supporting its story just outside the spotlight.
It’s this latter type of character that we thought we might celebrate here—the “people behind the heroes.” These are the everyday people who don’t put on capes or star in their own comics. They work ordinary jobs and support our main characters with their friendship and by adding a flavor of reality to their stories. Their presence grounds our heroes, and their subplots engage us. Here are five Black supporting players who help make the DC Universe feel more like a real place.
Shondra Kinsolving is a physical therapist who was notable for being Bruce Wayne’s first African-American love interest. Dr. Kinsolving was an accomplished physician with her own private practice, a far cry from the socialites Batman dated in the Golden Age. Shondra took a unique approach to treating her patients, believing that mental health was an important part of physical rehabilitation. It was later revealed that she had metahuman healing powers, but using them caused a strain on her psychologically.
After Bane broke his back during the Knightfall saga, Bruce Wayne considered giving up his life as Batman to marry Shondra. In fact, it was Shondra who was responsible for healing Batman’s severe spine, but the incident tore her mind apart. Later comics would reveal Shondra recovered, but for the time being, she’s keeping her distance from the Bat-Family.
Recommended reading: Shondra and Bruce have their first therapy session in Batman #489.
Trevor Barnes was the field director for a United Nations program tasked with rural development. Barnes traveled the globe helping impoverished communities, and he eventually linked up with Wonder Woman’s charitable foundation. Sparks flew between him and the Amazon, but their first date was interrupted when they were transported to Skartaris and forced to fight Villainy, Inc.
Trevor struggled to find his bearings in Diana’s world of super-powered threats, while Diana tried to relate to Trevor’s family in Charlotte, North Carolina. The relationship gave Diana a new perspective on humanity and reminded Trevor that being a better person is about aspiration, not competition. In the end Trevor lost his life during a battle between Shattered God and Wonder Woman, but Zeus allowed his spirit to live in the rain. His rainfall helped groups end droughts around the globe.
Recommended reading: The Amazonian Princess adjusts to the culture shock when she spends the day with Trevor’s family in 2003’s Wonder Woman #188.
Ron Troupe is a Daily Planet reporter with six degrees and more awards than he could count. Troupe’s courage knows no bounds, as he proved when he took on the white supremacist killer Alex Trent. When Ron began dating Lois Lane’s sister Lucy, some of their relatives weren’t comfortable with the idea of an interracial relationship. Likewise, Ron’s sister didn’t like the idea of her brother dating a white woman. Perhaps most uncomfortable of all, Lucy’s father, General Sam Lane, erupted with anger when he found out Lucy was pregnant.
Despite all of this, Ron and Lucy held their heads high and got married, making Troupe Superman’s brother-in-law. Although the marriage fell apart, Ron remains a close friend to Lois and Clark, and a valued reporter for the Daily Planet.
Recommended reading: 1993’s Superman #79 is a story told from Ron’s perspective.
Tawny Young is a television reporter whose career skyrocketed when she began covering the Green Lantern Corps. While most comic book reporters wind up keeping the secrets of the heroes who romance them, Tawny Young broke the mold when she exposed John Stewart’s real identity on her news program.
Young’s confrontational style of journalism annoyed the Green Lantern Corps, and once resulted in Kilowog lightly throwing her. A version of Tawny Young can currently be seen on HBO Max’s Harley Quinn animated series, where she hosts a daytime talk show.
Recommended reading: Tawny Young publicly unmasks John Stewart in Green Lantern #188.
Dale Gunn is an old friend of the Heywood family who was tasked with looking after Hank Heywood’s bunker. When a new version of the Justice League moved in, Gunn stuck around to make sure they didn’t mess up the place, and to keep an eye on Henry Heywood III.
A man who valued his word and the trust placed in him by the Heywoods, Dale was not intimidated by the superheroes and took great joy in reminding Aquaman that he’s not everyone’s king. Gunn’s good looks also put him in the middle of a love triangle with Vixen and Zatanna. After the events of flashpoint, Gunn was reimagined as an agent of ARGUS, and a mentor to the hero Vibe.
Recommended reading: Gunn made his memorable introduction in Justice League of America Annual #2.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.