Strange Fruit: The Peculiar Covers of the Bronze Era of Comics (1970-1985)

I was recently congratulating a fellow collector on their pick up of All Star Squadron #38 (1984).  The cover depicted Amazing Man chained to a burning cross.  A hooded villain dressed like a patriotic Ku Klux Klan member stands in the forground saying: “This is what happens when one of HIS kind talks back to a Real American.”

Sadly, the cover wasn’t all that shocking to me.  I’ve seen several comic book covers like this.  Typically from the Bronze age.  That’s when it occurred to me that each of our most popular Black superheroes introduced in the 70’s were subjected to “lynching” of some fashion.

Some are bound or chained to burning crosses in a more traditional fashion.  Like Black Panther in issue 21 (1972) and Green Lantern: Mosaic #12, (1993).

Black Panther #21 (1972)

All-Star Squadron #38 (1984)



Green Lantern: Mosaic #12



During my research, I assumed that our most street-wise heroes may have escaped the trend but unfortunately I found covers of both Luke Cage and Black Lightning depicted in more subtle, urban lynching scenes.  On the covers of Luke Cage, Powerman #23 (1975) and Batman and the Outsiders #10 (1993), respectively.

Also, several of my friends thought that Falcon wouldn’t be worth the trouble of lynching as a “b-list” character.  Although he isn’t lynched on the cover of Captain America and Falcon #195, he and Cap are being attacked by a lynch mob with a foreboding hangman’s noose in the background.


Luke Cage, Powerman #23 (1975)

Batman and the Outsiders #10 (1984)

Captain America and Falcon #195 (1976)

Spawn, who happens to be the most popular, Black superhero of the modern era, who debuted in the early 90’s, has one of the most jarring lynch covers of all.

On the cover of issue #30, Spawn is portrayed swinging by the neck from a hangman’s noose.  Now, THIS cover gave me pause.

One of the last comics that I can recall featuring a lynch cover happens to be created by an all Black creative team.  Issue #2 of Black (2016) another horrifically jarring lynch scene illustrated by Khary Randolph.

Spawn #30 (1995)

Black #2 (2016)




I don’t claim to know for certain why a publisher would choose to depict such scenes.

I speculate that such covers, since they were created so often in the Bronze Era, didn’t negatively affect these publishers’ bottom line.  In fact they may have been given a economic jolt by such books.

I suspect Black readers enjoyed seeing their hero thwart “real life” villains such as the KKK. Much like Americans enjoyed Captain America fighting the Nazis.

Also, it’s possible covers like this reflected how African-American readers viewed their current circumstances.

Conversely, I also believe lynch covers may have appealed to racist comic fans as well.  Even though their “hero” may have been defeated it doesn’t mean they weren’t rooting for him.

Much like current TV anti-heroes like Homelander from The Boys and Peacemaker appeal to today’s alt-right audiences.

I compare this phenomenon to football fans who religiously root for their team even though they may have been historically bad for decades.

Taking this into consideration, I believe lynch covers are an attempt to pull money out of the darkest corners of our society.


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