This Is The Black Panther
At this point, Black Panther is almost a rallying cry for comic book geeks looking for diversity. Already, one of the oldest, most revered, powerful, and important superheroes of color (SOC) ever created, Black Panther is the creation of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, two of the most prolific and revered creators in the medium. For the uninitiated, that’s like if Jesus and John the Baptist started the legend of Santa Claus.
The Panther is a scientist warrior king who runs the rich, technologically advanced, and magical African country of Wakanda. As the pontiff of his own tribal cult, he doesn’t have to bother answering to anyone’s idea of morality but his own. Panther is richer than Tony Stark and tracks better than Wolverine. He’s as smart as Reed Richards, and can kick Batman’s ass. Yeah I said it. Your bat fetishism has no place in the jungle.
The Set Up
Marvel Studios has announced Phase 3 of their master plan to rule blockbuster film forever. While we’re all excited for new Thor and Captain America, the real stars of the show are all-new franchises that address the growing concern of a lack of diversity in, well ”pretty much all” film. We have Captain Marvel (who is a white lady), The Inhumans (who can kind of be anybody) and of course The Black Panther. We even get a whole different diversity in Doctor Strange who is a freaking wizard in a universe full of aliens and superheroes. Strange is pretty much what you’d get if Dr. House and Gandalf started the legend of… well The Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange.
Marvel has been playing their future plans close to the vest and pretty much lying their asses off anytime someone asks how they plan to address the whitewashed and tragic maleness of the majority of their main characters. While The Avengers gave us a Dark Savior in Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury and a well done (if pretty by the numbers) Femme Fatale in Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, there is still the insidious fact that none of the characters with superpowers were people of color or women.
Luckily, Marvel’s been jerking our chains. They’re known for the meticulous planning that allows them to have a shared universe of over 20 hours of multiple films in the can, a weekly network television show, announcements for four 12 episode Netflix series’ and 20 more hours of film in the SAME universe on the way. Each of the movies produced annually are planed for years in advance before any announcements or trailers. When Wakanda was said to be too difficult to film or that they were too busy to do a female led superhero film, they were essentially setting up for the punchline they casually dropped yesterday about Phase 3. A movie studio would have to be insane to release a slate of 8 films without a half decade of planning out-of-the-way… Wouldn’t they Warner Bros/DC?
We’re lucky in the 21st century. We get a Black Panther movie and the shot of adrenaline toward equality it brings. Wesley Snipes wanted to do it as far back as 1993, but was called to the mission as the vampire hunter Blade who in a way started this high quality comic book film boom back in 1997. Now Chadwick Boseman gets his chance to play what in a way is the Jackie Robinson of superheroes. He better bring some of that 42 magic over with him, and help Marvel make the stars align and produce get something respectful of the character and spectacular for the masses.
We’ll never know if it was the pressure by fans, times changing, or the right creators making all this diversity at Marvel happen, but it really doesn’t matter. We can’t let up. We have to keep supporting what we want with our dollars and attention, then going out there and MAKING what we want whenever Marvel, DC, Disney, Fox and whoever else won’t. Black Panther was created in 1966. He’s one of the best comic book characters ever made. It will have taken almost 51 years before his film is released. For reference, Howard the Duck made it to the silver screen in only 13. In other words, don’t trust people with your dreams. Don’t trust people with your representation. Don’t even trust them with your entertainment. Make them work for it every single time.