Black History Month: Sunshine Superman and the Love Syndicate!
In Animal Man No.23, published in 1990, we get an early concept of what an African American Superman might be like. Created by the team of Grant Morrison, and penciler Chaz Truog, Sunshine Superman was born on a parallel Earth. He is the counterpart to Superman for that universe, having all the same powers and abilities. To that end, he is a black version of Superman sporting an Afro in a world very similar to that of the late sixties and early seventies. He was a member of the Love Syndicate, which was the Justice League of that universe.
Seems simple enough, right?
Not so much. Grant Morrison is involved. See…during the first crisis, Sunshine Superman’s world was destroyed. The Psycho-pirate would later “revive” him. That is to say that Sunshine Superman was one of a multitude of strange beings who manifested from the mask of Psycho-Pirate, a refugee from one of the thousands of alternate Earths destroyed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. When he showed up in Animal Man’s “Crisis II” story, he was complaining about having been erased from continuity. Not that he had ever been seen as part of it before, of course. He was later erased from reality, which seems a more drastic step.
Sunshine Superman’s strange journey was not done though.
Years later, when the monstrous hypermoth form (seriously) of Mister Mind went on a feeding frenzy through the Multiverse, Sunshine Superman was apparently reborn, and later joined the Supermen of the Multiverse during the “Final Crisis.” On a pretty important continuity level, Morrison cemented Sunshine Superman’s place in the DC Multiverse with a cameo in Final Crisis No. 7, at least pre-Flashpoint.
Even in the “New 52” continuity, Sunshine Superman has had appearances. Now, he is born on the alternate Earth classified as “Earth-47” in the new multiverse system, established in Grant Morrison’s “Muliversity.” Earth-47 is home to the psychedelic champions called the Love Syndicate of Dreamworld…thus providing the text for the protagonist’s speech balloon. Sunshine Superman is the leader of the Love Syndicate which now includes The Shooting Star, Speed Freak (pictured), Magic Lantern (who our hero is a stand in for) and Brother Power, the Geek. The team is financed by the immortal teen-aged President Prez Rickard, according to the “Multiversity Guidebook”, published in 2015.
Unlike Val-Zod, or President Superman…or even John Henry Irons (I need to do a post about him) Sunshine Superman is a character with only a handful of appearances, and not as a central element. Still, he predates all three of those characters, as well as the Earth-D Superman (also African American) who debuted in 1999, and had only one appearance in “Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
In other words…in a very real sense, Sunshine Superman is the first real attempt by DC Comics to publish an African American Superman, as powerful and competent as the usual white version. To some extent, that commands some real respect, despite the silliness of a character and setting entirely derived from a Donovan song, published in the mid sixties.
She might be uncomfortable announcing herself as a member of the the “Love Syndicate of Dreamworld” (really…try saying that out loud), but you can bet that the protagonist is cool rolling out to do superhero stuff with Sunshine Superman.
Next Issue: Klingons!