Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes #216

(W) Cary Bates (A) Mike Grell, 1976



“The Hero Who Hated the Legion”, script by Cary Bates, art by Mike Grell; the Legion of Super-Heroes chase bad guys to an island protected by Tyroc, who tells them to leave. (Via



A quick look at my catalog of Black Comic Keys and it’s obvious there is a strong Marvel bias.  Let’s remedy that with Superboy #216 featuring the Legion of Super Heroes and the first appearance of Tyroc.  (Sidenote:  I would have just picked this up just to say I owned a comic featuring one of DC’s first Black characters.  But as my girl Tameko Patten of the Black Comic Lords always says: “Buy the Comic, Read the Comic!”  I’m so glad I took her advice.)

From the opening page, everything about the introduction of this character, one of DC’s first Black superheroes pre-dating Black Lightning (1977), is handled poorly. 

The creators of Tyroc, Cary Bates and Mike Grell, admit that introducing Tyroc was problematic from the very beginning:

According to Mike Grell, who co-created Tyroc with Cary Bates, the character of Tyroc was “sort of a sore spot with me”. He had previously tried to introduce black characters into the series, but had been prevented by then-editor Murray Boltinoff.Grell recalled: “I kept getting stalled off…and finally comes Tyroc. They might as well have named him Tyrone. Their explanation for why there were no black people [in the Legion] was that all the black people had gone to live on an island. It’s possibly the most racist concept I’ve ever heard in my life…I mean, it’s a segregationist’s dream, right? So they named him Tyroc, and gave him the world’s stupidest super-power”.  (via Wikipedia)

I’m not trying to badger the creators on these points. Frankly, their revisionist history is of no consequence to me.  What is fascinating though is how Tyroc is a critique of Marvel’s Black Panther (introduced in 1966; 10 years prior to Tyroc).  

Tyroc is the hero of a secluded island of Black folk called Marzal.  Just like The Black Panther is the hero-prince of the secluded nation of Wakanda.  Both nations are technologically advanced and fiercely independent.  

However, where the Black Panther and Wakanda are lauded for their intelligence and ingenuity, Tyroc and the Marzallians are depicted as “ungrateful”, “bitter”, and downright “hateful”.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  The pages speak for themselves.

When you look into the history of Tyroc and his creation you’ll immediately see a lot of finger pointing so it’s unclear who is responsible for what.  

What I have surmised is that DC creators were tasked with creating a Black character that rivaled the success of Marvel’s Black Panther and consequently DC creative team (Grell and Bates) didn’t care for the “Marvel way” of introducing Black superheroes.  So much so they created a parody that mocked the whole idea of a sovereign Black superhero. 


Download our FREE Beginner's Guide to Black Comic Book Collecting

In this beginner’s guide I have showcased 13 of the most important Black comics of the 1990’s.    Also included in this guide is a Collector’s Checklist that presents even more Black comics published during the 90’s.

Welcome to the Black Comix Universe!