A Look Again on the Largely Unseen Gem That’s Robert Townsend’s ‘Meteor Man’

2018’s Black Panther was Marvel Studios’ first movie with a Black director and a predominantly Black solid, which turned a cultural occasion relatively than a high-budget superhero movie. However earlier than MCU’s mega-hit, starring the late Chadwick Boseman, managed to rake in these MCU billions that the DCEU and Warner Bros have been fantasizing about, we have been launched to a number of comic-book diversifications of common Black superheroes.

Beginning with Wesley Snipes’ Blade from 1998, adopted by the same-name tv sequence that ran for one season in 2006, Luke Cage that went on tv for 2 seasons between 2016 and 2018, and The CW’s Black Lightning that ran for 4 seasons between 2018–2021, the elevated variety of Black superheroes showing within the media highlight was clearly rising. Whereas Blade would possibly’ve been the primary superhero movie to interrupt the field workplace, it wasn’t fairly the one movie that paved the best way for Boseman’s T’Challa or Mike Colter’s Cage. That title really belongs to Robert Townsend and his self-directed 1993 Cult Basic The Meteor Man. And in accordance with many, Robert Townsend needed to fly in order that Boseman might purr. Right here’s a glance again on the largely unseen gem that was Townsend’s The Meteor Man.

1993’s The Meteor Man is an American superhero sci-fi comedy movie written, directed, co-produced, and starring Robert Townsend, with supporting roles by Marla Gibbs, Eddie Griffin, Robert Guillaume, and James Earl Jones. The Meteor Man performed nicely into the superhero style, depicting sci-fi adventures that have been rooted in some real-life issues. Because it often occurs with superhero movies, our protagonist is an underdog in each side. In The Meteor Man, the superhero-to-be is definitely a mild-mannered schoolteacher, Jefferson Reed (portrayed by Townsend), who positive factors superpowers from a mysterious inexperienced meteor that crash landed in his neighborhood.

The movie’s antagonist, or on this case antagonists, aren’t superpowered people hellbent on world domination. As a substitute, they’re concerned in gang violence and drug dealing that’s threatening our hero’s neighborhood, and Meteor Man has to resolve how far he’s prepared to go to assist clear up the neighborhood and battle the growing rise of gang violence. Fairly normal stuff by all superhero-movie fare, which solely reveals that the superhero style’s core construction actually hasn’t modified all that a lot all through the years, other than the actors and particular results after all.

Regardless, The Meteor Man didn’t go over all that nicely on the silver display, because it solely earned $8 million at a home field workplace, towards a $20 million price range. Nonetheless, it carried out marvelously on small screens and has since gathered a cult following, extra as a comedy movie than a superhero flick. It had all the appropriate substances for a superhero movie, together with the mild-mannered protagonist, boastful antagonist, an origin story of the primary character, and relatable solid of actors. And whereas it didn’t succeed as a superhero movie, The Meteor Man‘s legacy stands as a quiet monument in Black cinema — a Black superhero movie, the place Black kids might really see their mothers, dads, uncles, aunts, and most of all themselves.

So, whereas the world is celebrating “firsts” for Black superheroes showing “en masse” after Black Panther supposedly broke the mainstream ice, it’s actually essential to recollect this largely unseen gem and keep in mind its legacy because the first-ever Black superhero movie. Townsend all the time needed to play a superhero, as he was very a lot a fan of Superman and Batman as a toddler. So, after he had completed The 5 Heartbeats, one among his best-known works, Townsend flew to Chicago proper round Halloween time. Throughout a household pastime, he requested his nephew what he’d prefer to be for Halloween: Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, or every other common superhero of the time. A lot to Townsend’s shock, his nephew, solely 5 or 6 years outdated, responded that he couldn’t be any of these heroes as a result of they’re white. So, he turned the primary African-American superhero for all the youngsters of shade to name their very own, conceptualizing the world and the dangerous guys the youngsters hadn’t seen earlier than. However Robert Townsend had one other good thought.

As a substitute of making interstellar battles and preventing dangerous guys among the many stars, Townsend tied the battle to the interior metropolis — to a spot all too acquainted and all too forgotten by these in energy. So, what adults noticed as a comedic piece with common results and kids noticed as a superhero movie as a complete really carried a extra essential social message of empowerment when one man decides to face up for what’s proper.

Ultimately, Robert Townsend managed to create an exquisite world the place a Black man may very well be bulletproof, hyper-intelligent, and able to something — and he chooses to return to his neighborhood and alter a damaged system. It might depart kids with a way of playfulness and enjoyable, however it most positively leaves adults questioning their actions concerning the neighborhood they reside in, begging the query every one among us ought to ask: have I accomplished sufficient?

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