Origin of the Sun-Man Legend and Toy
Sun-Man was created by Yla Eason, a mother driven to provide a positive image for her son. So, in 1985, she created Sun Man, a Black American Superhero character for her son and other children like him. Eason saw the need for more relevant Black toys for the underserved Black children at play market.
Yla Eason, came up with the concept of Sun-Man after her son, Menelik Puryear, at age three, said he could not be a superhero because he was not white. Because Yla wanted to directly attack the issue of her son’s skin color as being the ‘limiting’ factor in his perception, she researched and discovered that melanin is what makes skin dark. Therefore, she decided to make that a positive characteristic and have all of Sun-Man’s powers come from his skin. She gave him the name Sun-Man to reflect that the sun has energy and exposure to it can darken your skin.
While researching the influence toys have on children’s perception of themselves and the meaning of toys in early childhood development Yla met with Dr. Kenneth Clark, who with his wife, Mamie, was famous for conducting the Black doll study that led to the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision to desegregate public schools. In that study, dolls were used to reveal that segregation caused African American children to have "a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community. " Dr. Clark helped Yla understand the psychological importance of positive representation in toys and their ability to convey significance in societal roles. He supported her belief that Black boys needed Black superhero toys to see themselves as powerful. He added that his doll study showed that a feeling of inferiority “affects the motivation of a child to learn.
Eason made sure that Sun-Man’s super-heroism was grounded in sound character, Black representation, real inclusion, and physical and emotional strength that not only fulfilled a deficit of Black toys for play, but also a toy that reflects the possibilities of greatness for Black children.
In short, Eason’s story is an essential part of the emotional narrative and nostalgic appeal to consumers. Moreover, Sun-Man is not just a Black version of a White toy. It was sculpted to reflect hair with an Afro style, skin tone, facial features, design, accessories, and comic book storyline representing a character of Royal African ancestry. It has a legacy of empowerment and makes a statement of historical significance, especially to the Black community and to society in general.
Black boys, like all children, should have the opportunity to play with toys that reflect their own experiences and identities. Images are so important, that playing with toys that looks like you helps with your fatasy of and imagination and helps Black boys see themselves as super heroes.
Congratulations to Yla Eason, creator of the Sun-Man action figure, for winning the Doll Legacy Award at the 2022 Detroit Doll Show. Her outstanding work as founder and president of Olmec Toys, Inc. continues to uplift and empower people of color and collectors throughout the world. We are excited to see the return of Sun-man your Black Action Figure in stores!
Yla Eason, who created a pioneering line of multicultural superhero toys in the 1980s, sees a toy and media trend toward fantastical storylines for Black characters this season. It’s driven in part by “Afrofuturism,’’ a science fiction genre incorporating reimagined elements of Black culture and history and popularized by the Black Panther film franchise, including Wakanda Forever, which has newly released toy lines with Hasbro and Lego.