Black Panther: It’s Been A Long Time Coming
Black Panther Movie Poster (courtesy of Marvel Cinematic Universe Instagram)
I must say that as a fan and collector of comic books since childhood, the fact that Black Panther has been made into a high quality and heavily hyped full length motion picture is literally a young Black boy’s nighttime dreams becoming reality!
We are now just about two months out from the release of Black Panther, which is directed by Ryan Coogler (most notably known for directing Fruitvale Station and Creed) and starring the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael B. Jordan, and it is not possible for me to be any more ecstatic. This film, as I alluded to, is the answer to the dreams of all Black people everywhere who are fans of this character, comic books and superheroes in general, and greater representation (not just “inclusion”) of Black African people of the diaspora in popular media platforms that project to the world.
The first appearance of Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52 in July 1966
I’ve owned a few Black Panther comics or ones that he is a featured character in, and I look forward to finally beginning the Ta-Nehisi Coates (acclaimed writer who has drawn comparisons to James Baldwin) run at the end of this month, so this is a character that I am invested in. He’s one of my favorite superheroes. And like the teenage superhero Static, most popularly known from his Static Shock television cartoon in the early 2000's, this character allowed for me to see myself in these characters in a way that the plethora of white superheroes did not. There is always something to be said about representation. Being able to see oneself in the content that you are consuming, especially as an adolescent, is vital. They helped me to see the fallacy in the white normative culture that pervades the comic book industry, which is yet another microcosm of our larger society in the United States and what is considered the west.
The cover to Black Panther # 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and
Brian Stelfreeze. (Courtesy of Marvel 2016)
Even beyond the mere representation aspect, Black Panther, although created by two white men, the legendary Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, assisted in my journey of reimagining my world. For all of its wonder (particularly seeing a Black man who when shot, has the bullets bounce off his skin) and being “Blackity Black Black” the Marvel and Netflix television show Luke Cage still only provides greater representation. We need that! But my reimagining of the world through Black Panther, was a world that is not beholden to and set a part from whiteness and western ideas and structures (at least on the surface in theory). I am not intending to compare the two, as Luke Cage represents us, but within the backdrop of western society. Black Panther represents us without the constraints of that.
Black Panther, or T’Challa, is literally the King of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Wakanda is so important to this idea because the history of the nation is that it was never colonized by European countries like most of the entire continent of Africa. It’s like Ethiopia in that regard. When you move past that point of history, you discover that Wakanda is also highly technologically advanced. In fact, Wakanda is the most technologically advanced society in the world and to ever exist! They are traditionally depicted as a reclusive, isolationist nation that doesn’t have very many dealings with the rest of the world. It is because of this that they have been able to remain under the radar, even with all of their capabilities.
What is so interesting about Wakanda never being colonized is how that relates to their technological advances. Although this is fiction, l have always wondered, “What would the people of Africa, what would the continent itself be if it were not for European invaders?”
There was an article recently published by Mic Network Inc, the online news outlet, entitled “Black Panther’ isn’t just another Marvel movie — it’s a vision of a future led by blackness.” In that article by Xavier Harding, he talks extensively about how Black Panther is an exploration of Black Futurism,“ an arts form that combines science fiction with black culture to create a future informed by blackness.”
I’m not heavily versed in Afro Futurism, but I know enough about it, while still learning, to agree with the author. A fictional timeline of an Africa unaffected by the outside world is a perfect entry point to Afrofuturism.
At the end of the day, Black Panther has captured an entire culture in anticipation and celebration, and we are still months away from its release! No other Marvel, DC, or comic book movie or concept could do that. This is more than just a film for us. Black Panther is a spiritual, emotional, cultural, and paradigm shifting experience.
Black Panther will be released in theaters February 16, 2018