“Whatever you think of Marvel’s Luke Cage, you can’t say it’s not literate. A bevy of books are either seen or name-checked throughout the latest Netflix superhero series, and one that gets a particularly bright place in the spotlight is Little Green, a novel by one of the most prolific and acclaimed living crime-fiction writers, Walter Mosley.
In the second episode, two of the leads debate the comparative merits of Mosley and fellow African-American crime novelist Donald Goines — and the one going to bat for Mosley is none other than the title character. As it turns out, the feeling of respect is mutual: Mosley is a longtime superhero-comics geek and grew up reading Luke’s initial comic-book adventures in the early 1970s. We caught up with the author to talk respectability politics, the thorny issue of colorism, and why he thinks Spider-Man was the first black superhero.
You were a big Marvel Comics fan growing up, right?
Listen, I bought Luke Cage No. 1 in the store. So, yes. I also bought X-Men No. 1 and ConanNo. 1. I didn’t quite get Avengers No. 1 — but close.
X-Men No. 1 came out in 1963, so we’re talking the mid-’60s, here?
Way back. ’63, maybe ’62. I had been reading DC [Comics] before, but I gave up.
Why’d you give up on DC?
In DC, everybody looked alike. Everybody looked white. Marvel, way back in the beginning, had a black character, in Sgt. Fury, Gabe Jones. Everybody’s powers were so funnily designed that it didn’t feel real. Marvel had things I hadn’t even thought of, like hero-villains. You had somebody like the Sub-Mariner, who is a hero to his people, but an enemy to ours. Or the Hulk, who’s a pure being, but his emotions make him a villain or a threat. And you kinda go, Damn, that’s real…”