When it comes to pop culture, it's undeniable that this is a superhero's world and we're all just living in it. But that wasn't always the case. First considered a low-brow art form, comics sprang up during the lead up to World War II and introduced heroes like Superman who were battling to restore justice in a war-torn world. Part propaganda, part entertainment, and part social justice movement, early comics focused on how people with power should work to protect the underdog — or at least how white people with power should work to protect the underdog.

Unfortunately, there weren't many characters of color appearing in the early days of comics, especially not in leading roles. But a few comic series, like those featuring Black Panther in the 1960s, did feature superheroes who allowed the writers to explore the complexities of black and brown people's lives.

The Rise of Black Superheroes: A Black History Month Celebration

In the years since, as superheroes have leaped from the comic book pages to dominate movie and TV screens, the genre has seen a big increase in representation for characters of color, perhaps most significantly for African Americans. As part of TV Guide's celebration of The Rise of the Black Superheroes, here's a look at some of the most influential black superheroes of all time. From Watchmen's Sister Night (Regina King) to Doom Patrol's Cyborg (Joivan Wade) to Spawn's titular figure (Michael Jai White), these iconic heroes helped pave the way for change on-screen, and showed that superheroes do indeed come in every hue.

Click through the gallery below to see these film and TV trailblazers.

The Greatest Black Superheroes Ever

  • The Greatest Black Superheroes of All Time

    After decades of being sidelined or ignored altogether, black superheroes are thriving on screen. It's been a long time coming, but finally classic characters like Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Luke Cage (Mike Colter) are getting the widespread recognition they deserve. Meanwhile, new additions to the caped crusader pantheon -- such as Watchmen's Sister Night (Regina King), Raising Dion's Dion (Ja'Siah Young), and The Umbrella Academy's Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) are expanding perceptions of what a black superhero can look like and leaving their own indelible marks on pop culture.

    As part of TV Guide's celebration of The Rise of Black Superheroes, we've rounded up the most memorable, influential, and all-around best black superheroes of all time. Click ahead to see these film and TV trailblazers.

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For Black History Month, TV Guide is celebrating black superheroes in TV and film. As part of The Rise of Black Superheroes, we're honoring the legacies of pioneers like Luke Cage, War Machine, and actress Eartha Kitt; examining how blackness shapes the identities of characters like Iris West, Black Lightning, and John Diggle; exploring what today's black heroes mean to kids of color; and celebrating the greatest black superheroes of all time. You can check out more content from The Rise of Black Superheroes here.

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)