This is a character that I originally created many years ago, it mainly began as what I thought would be a cool-sounding name. And over those years I’ve gone through several different ideas for this character’s origin and background.
Originally, the concept was that he’d be a secret agent for the U.S. Government. An American-born Muslim man (I kept switching back and forth between whether to make him Black or Arab-American), who joined the U.S. military and eventually became a covert operative for the C.I.A. His job was infiltrating Islamic terrorist groups and, when necessary, assassinating their leaders. He’d be doing this as a patriotic American while also occasionally facing discrimination at home from those who saw all Muslims as terrorists, so it was sort of a play on the “protecting a world that fears and hates them” theme of the X-Men.
The current idea I have is that he is Joshua Tyler (J.T.) Maxwell IV, a Black man from a very wealthy “old money” Black family in Atlanta. After the U.S. Civil War, his great great grandfather, the first J.T. Maxwell, was born to newly-freed ex-slaves, and during Reconstruction he was one of the first Blacks to get a college education and establish a successful business, opening one of the first Black-owned Banks in the state. Over the next couple of generations, the Maxwells continued to educate themselves and became a successful banking family, thus J.T. IV was born to privilege and wealth, among the Black elite. Attendance in private schools, memberships in exclusive private clubs, and expensive vacations were all normal facts of J.T.’s childhood.
And he grew to hate it.
J.T. had two heroes growing up: Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee. He watched tapes of all of Ali’s fights and Bruce Lee’s films over and over again. He also read multiple books about both of them. Through studying Ali’s life he came to recognize his family and their rich Black friends’ privilege and estrangement from the realities that most American Blacks face. He developed a militant Black Nationalist outlook which didn’t fit with the bourgeois materialistic lifestyle of his family and peers. But he learned early on to hide his true feelings and pretend to go along with his family’s beliefs in order to gain the knowledge and resources he would need to affect change someday.
Being his parents youngest child and only son, after four daughters, his father in particular was indulgent of J.T.’s interests. So in his desire to copy his idols, J.T. trained in both boxing and various forms of martial arts since the age of 8. Elite teachers and coaches from around the country were hired to train him, as long as J.T. kept up with his school work, which he did. Although his father did not allow him to compete in tournaments, as that wasn’t regarded as high class enough. J.T.’s lessons would take place after school and during weekends and during summer vacations. As he got older, during his summer vacations he would actually travel to both Japan and China to study with trainers in those nations. By the time he graduated high school he had earned black belts in Karate, Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do, Taekwando, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was also a skilled enough boxer that his coach thought he could turn pro.
He continued his training even during his college years (he attended Morehouse for four years, and then two years at the Wharton School of Business to get his MBA), traveling oversees during his vacations again, and added Muy Thai, Wing Chun and Wushu to his repertoire. He also studied Sunni Islam during his teen years, and then during a visit to relatives in Brooklyn he was exposed to the philosophy of the Five Percent Nation of God & Earths, which he secretly converted to (although still publicly pretending to be a Methodist, as his family is).
After graduating college, with a small inheritance from his grandfather, he opened his own hedge fund management firm, Max Capital. Within 4 years he was a billionaire. It was also at this time that he decided to adopt a costumed identity to fight for the rights of the Black community. And thus was born NINJIHAD.
My idea for Ninjihad is that he’s a comically over-the-top pro-Black activist. He’s the type who can turn any innocuous conversation into one about racism. Ask him to roller skating and he’ll launch into a 20 minute diatribe about how roller skates were invented by ancient Black Egyptians, but then the White man stole the idea. Primarily he is meant to be the leader of an all-Black superhero team that I plan to create. He uses his wealth to seek out other Black superheroes to join him and he funds the team.
Images #1 and #4 are by KEITH HOWELL
Image #2 is by JAMES MASON
Image #3 is by SAMAX AMEN