The revolution has not been televised, but we’ve come as close to the revolution being projected as its ever been.
Already on a select few screens the majesty, excitement and Black power of one of Marvel Comics’ most historically relevant and still impactful characters has been projected via IMAX, Dolby Digital and conventional means. No matter how clear the color or distinct the sound, the early returns of Black Panther, the latest release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first in the game-changing series of films to feature not only a Black lead, but a primarily Black cast and a Black director, have been glowing.
Now certainly, the fact that this film has a distinct Black flavor to it has helped inflate opinion in its response. This type of high concept pop culture moment has mostly remained elusive to anything approaching Afrocentrism. In the Marvel Universe so far we’ve had to pretty much settle for certain Culture-friendly actors in key side roles such as Don Cheadle (R.I.P. Terrence Howard) as Tony Stark’s guy James Rhodes/War Machine or Anthony Mackie as Falcon, the sidekick to Captain America.
All that changed with Black Panther, or as we first saw him in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa, Prince of Wakanda. T’Challa took second fiddle to no one and his presence in the 2016 blockbuster, which turned the second phase of the MCU into its current third phase, was a breakthrough, arguably the most exciting aspect of a very exciting movie. By the end of Civil War we got our first real look at Wakanda and in that moment both the MCU and the mainstream comic book movie revolution seemed to be going to a grand new place.
Excitement over the possibilities a Black Panther movie could provide have existed for a long time among comic book enthusiasts, but with the Civil War spot the character officially became a house hold figure in the Black community and the scheduling of the movie in Black History Month 2018 marked a potential touchstone moment combining comic culture, comic movies, Blackness (real and performative) and commerce that we’ve seen fully flower in recent weeks as headlines surfaced regarding BP’s record pre-sales along with an endless announcement of parties and other Panther-related events celebrating the movie and of course, the early reviews not only putting it among the best Marvel movies ever but among the best expressions of Black pride and inventiveness we could see in film.
That’s a lot to live up to and people haven’t been shy in overstating things surrounding this movie, but its very likely that the film actually does live up to everything said about it. For one, the plaudits have pretty much been universal, coming from critics both professional and amateur, from established creatives involved in the movie (and not) to people fresh off the street.
And more than anything, we should expect Black Panther the movie to be dope because the character itself is dope. For over 50 years (52 to be exact, hence the title), BP has established itself as one of the Marvel Universe’s most interesting characters with defining story-lines available through each of its five decades of existence.
BP suffered from a more inconsistent publishing history than the likes of Spider-Man and the X-Men. Those two properties in particular spent the 1970s and 80’s with hundreds of stories that were later used to adapt into successful animated and film properties after Marvel’s great sale of content rights to stave off bankruptcy in the 90s. Meanwhile, the Panther “suffered” the same fate of many other Marvel characters, which meant it just didn’t get to be as high profile, it was maybe thought to be too narrow a character marketing-wise to be put on Saturday mornings on Fox or in megaplexes prior to the idea of “cinematic universes,” though Wesley Snipes put on a heroic effort to adapt the Panther to film before he made his own history in adapting another Black Marvel character.
Like Snipes, those who knew better in years past saw T’Challa in many Avengers-related adventures and in increasingly better series of his own, as well as more culturally relevant as more Black authors took control of the character and Wakanda as a whole, among them Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin and, most recently, Ta-Nehesi Coates and Roxanne Gay.
The Black Panther’s history is as rich and detailed as any major comic book character. That’s why this newfound appreciation of it and its worldwide exposure is a victory for comic book nerds as it is for Black nerds and Black film enthusiasts. T’Challa and Wakanda have long represented something special for a small sliver of people, a crystallization and fantasizing of very real things that Africa and Africans have always contributed to civilization.
And thus that may be how the revolution finally takes hold. In the end, we are just talking a movie here, but movies can mean a lot and that’s because stories mean a lot. From the dusty trails traveled by the African griot to the red carpets our new Marvel stars strut down, the spirit of the Panther informs and instills them with a sense of something bigger than just entertaining. In each image of Wakanda we see a vision of the future and a redemption from a broken past, just the stuff real heroes are made of.
Just in case your enthusiasm hasn’t peaked yet, here’s a list of 39 (52 minus the 13, including honorable mentions, covered in the video at the top of this page) factual and more belief-based items about the character Black Panther, its publication history and this groundbreaking movie we’re all waiting for.
14. The Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 which was produced for release in July 1966. Appearing in that series made the Panther a creation of the two most important comic book figures in the medium’s history, Stan Lee (a.k.a., the old white guy you can spot in all the Marvel movies) and Jack Kirby.
15. Took a minute though for the Panther to get his first regular series. That kicked off in January 1977 with the appropriately titled Black Panther No. 1. You can pick it up easy on Ebay today if you got a spare $165 (including shipping).
16. The best route if you want to immerse yourself in the origins of the character would probably be copping “Panther’s Rage,” a collection which includes BP’s first two appearances with the Fantastic Four and the Jungle Action series cited in the WatchMojo video as Marvel’s first graphic novel. Be mindful, you’re still reading the character as authored by white men here. If you want to start with the Christopher Priest books go here, Reginald Hudlin’s here and here’s the first edition of the Coates stories.
17. “If not for Black Panther and Daredevil, we may never have gotten pivotal early 2000’s Marvel books like Ultimate Spider-Man and New X-Men, and Marvel may never have recovered the momentum it lost after the industry crash.” — Between The Panels: How Black Panther Redeemed Marvel Comics
18. The Panther’s first meaningful appearance in animation was, like in comics, with the Fantastic Four on their self-titled syndicated series in 1994, you can see a so-so version of it below.
19. Improvements were made by 2010 and the series Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. This episode first featuring T’Challa is arguably the best long-form adaptation of any Panther story prior to the release of the Panther film.
22. “Dog, I hope this movie never ends. Like, they should give all black folks the password to the protected four-hour version I read about.” — Panama Jackson.
25. Still imagining what that Panther movie with Wesley Snipes could have been? Well, at the time the rights to a Panther movie were held by Columbia Studios, Marvel would have had little to anything to do with the actual production, but Stan Lee gave the project his blessing.
26. “John (Singleton) wanted to take the character and put him in the civil rights movement. And I’m like, ‘Dude! Where’s the toys?! They are highly technically advanced, and it will be fantastic to see Africa in this light opposed to how Africa is typically portrayed.’ I wanted to see the glory and the beautiful Africa. The jewel Africa.” — Snipes to the Hollywood Reporter.
27. “Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if Snipes got his way. Plus, if they made the movie in the mid-90s it’d be about time to re-boot it anyway.” — Me
28. Just cause. Don’t have anything really to do with the Panther beyond being a part of its massive marketing campaign via the “soundtrack” and the Killmonger shout-out, but the song bangs and props to TDE for really trying to bring creativity back to rap videos.
30. Among T’Challa’s powers as Black Panther: divine empowerment, superhuman acute senses, and peak strength, speed, stamina, durability, healing, agility and reflexes. He’s also pretty damn smart, having earned a Ph.D in Physics from Oxford University among degrees in Engineering, Economics, Political Science and Psychology. Essentially you’d hate him if he were a real person.
32. What you need to know about Erik Killmonger, the character played by Michael B. Jordan.
33. “In a very literal way, Killmonger is the embodiment of the pain and anguish that comes along with being a black American who is unable to trace their familial roots back more than a few generations.” — Charles Pulliam-Moore
34. What you need to know about the Dora Milaje, the female bodyguard squad tasked with protecting the Black Panther. What a life.
35. More representation could have been possible in the movie had they stuck with the comic story-line of a lesbian couple in the Dora Milaje, but Disney likely wasn’t going for that. This is another barrier that the MCU would be smart to break down sooner rather than later.
36. For all y’all trying to locate it, Wakanda is generally located in East Africa, it has at one point been located between Sudan and the Congo but it may have used technology to shift to a more recent location near the nations of ““Nyanza” (Lake Victoria) to the East…surrounded by the nations of Mohannda to the north, Niganda to the south east, Azania to the south west and Canaan to the west.”
37. “It’s as if everyone enlisted to bring the project to life understood the magnitude of what Black Panther, the first comic-based studio movie with a black hero at the center since 1998’s Blade, would represent… An opportunity to tell a story about black lives, which matter and are not defined by their pain but, instead, by their glory. An answer to a culture’s question, ‘When will it be our time in the sun?’” — Marc Bernardin.
40. Apparently we aren’t joking
41. “If you roll up seven minutes after the movie starts, leaking nacho sauce in my hair as you shuffle to your seat during an important T’Challa monologue, we’re liable to start scrapping and everyone is gonna suffer.” — Dustin Seibert
42. Prior to Black Panther, probably the most famous Black comic book character was Storm of the X-Men. Interestingly enough, T’Challa and Storm spent a time in comics as a married couple. There was no way Storm could have been included in this Black Panther movie, but some hold out hope for an appearance in a later installment.
43. Another classic character that could be included in the World of Wakanda, if director Ryan Coogler has it, is Kraven The Hunter. Kraven has famously battled Spider-Man, but Coogler makes a good argument for making the hunter another foe for the Panther.
44. “…Mr. Coogler’s directing strengths are more intimate. There are sequences in “Black Panther” that may make you cry because of where they go and what they say, but also because of the sensitivity he brings to them. He makes some savvy story choices too.” — Manohla Dargis
45. A definition of afro-futurism: “a way of looking at the future — or alternate realities — which references African cultures or cultures in the African diaspora. It is [an] intersection between black culture, the imagination, liberation, technology and mysticism. You see it a lot in art, artistic visions, artistic aesthetics; but it’s also a way of looking at the world as well.” — Ytash Womack via Polygon.
46. The head of Black Panther’s hair department, Camille Friend, says no hair was styled in a relaxed fashion in the movie. “That was one of the things that I really was firm about. I requested that people come with their natural hair,” she told thecut.com.
47. For those who want 12 inches of Chadwick Boseman after seeing the movie (hey, now), you can buy this lifelike action figure for $260 after its release in early 2019.
49. Take a look at T’Challa’s family tree, which includes a white adopted brother and two other siblings from two other mothers. Not the cleanest of royal family lines, but plenty identifiable.
51. “An epic that doesn’t walk, talk or kick ass like any other Marvel movie — an exhilarating triumph on every level from writing, directing, acting, production design, costumes, music, special effects to you name it. For children (and adults) of color who have longed forever to see a superhero who looks like them, Marvel’s first black-superhero film is an answered prayer, a landmark adventure and a new film classic.” — Peter Travers
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