Abar, the First Black Superman is sort of like Soul Vengeance minus the phallic asphyxiation: it’s not really horror, but it features a supernatural element that, combined with a Blaxploitation militancy and rigid acting, generates a true camp spectacle. In the case of Abar, the supernatural aspect is man-made: a serum developed by black doctor Ken Kincade (J. Walter Smith) that renders a person indestructible. The guinea pig is John Abar (Tobar Mayo), a young urban revolutionary whose militant group, the Black Front of Unity (BFU!) comes to the aid of the doctor’s family after they move into a hostile white suburb.
When the family’s cat turns up hanging from a noose in their doorway, they figure that either it was clinically depressed or they need a full-time bodyguard. So Abar moves in — although he doesn’t yet become a “superman.” He’s too busy imparting his wisdom on anyone within earshot, ironically agreeing with the racist neighbors that the doc should move back to the ghetto — in order to help “our less fortunate sisters and brothers.”
Just when he starts to win the doc over, though, little Tommie Kincade (Tony Rumford) is run over by a local racist. In the racist’s defense, though, the kid finds him trying to plant a bomb outside the Kincade’s house and when he flees, Tommie yells after him, “You better run, you jive honkey!” Awfully big words from a kid who can’t stop a ’74 Cadillac with his face.
Pushed over the edge, the doc decides to go ahead and test his elixir on a human subject. He shoots a rabbit in front of Abar to show him that the bullet has no effect — of course, now we’re left with the dilemma of an immortal rabbit — but Abar is still reluctant. Only after a jive honkey takes a pot shot at him does he go ahead and drink the liquid. However, by that time, Dr. Kincade’s had a change of heart. Even though Abar doesn’t pack heat, the doc thinks his personality is too volatile to trust with such power. But, like Frankenstein‘s monster, Abar busts out of the doc’s lab and lumbers off into the night to stick a foot up the ass of The Man!
Sadly for the bloodlusting viewing audience, his vigilante justice is decidedly non-violent and inspired by some fellow named King. When he happens upon some cops who just shot a defenseless black man and planted a gun on him, they chase him to the Watts Towers, where he uses some newly acquired mental mojo to…make them argue with one another? Next, he spots a Barry White-looking pimp slapping around a ho (as if he’s not supposed to do that) and mentally imparts to her the ability to kung-fu kick his ass. Later, he walks by noted “Uncle Tom” Dudley’s house just as Dudley exclaims, “To hell with the blacks in the ghetto!” and uses his mind to turn his pasta dinner into earthworms. Boo-yaa! I’ll practical joke you into social consciousness!
When Abar returns to the doc’s pad, he explains in highfalutin mumbo-jumbo-speak what’s happened to him: “You see, the potion released from my soul an ancient wisdom…My powers are of a divine origin…I’m only a tool, a mirror reflecting man onto himself. By controlling the mind, I can hasten the retributive forces lodged in his unconscious mind.” He then proceeds to let loose a mini set of biblical plagues on the white suburbs, unleashing lightning and thunder, rats, snakes and bees and finally sweeps the racist honkies under the rug with…wind?
As campy as it is, Abar tackles real issues — from corrupt government aid programs to crooked cops, urban blight, even lending discrimination — in a testy post-Civil Rights era struggling with heightened integration, all the while maintaining an admirable (if not particularly entertaining) non-violent stance that would be undermined in 1990 when the film was re-released on VHS as In Your Face with this inexplicable artwork:
Just in time for Christmas: the Abar Black Superman action figure! With six interchangeable outfits!