On -isms: Black Panther

By | Thursday, August 18, 2016 Leave a Comment
You may have heard that Marvel will have a Black Panther movie coming out in early 2018. The character's debut in Captain America: Civil War was well-received (so I'm told -- I haven't actually seen it yet) and Chadwick Boseman will be returning as T'Challa. Joining Boseman will be Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, and Michael B. Jordan. It's also been stated that almost the entire cast will be Black.

Now, Marvel certainly isn't devoid of criticism when it comes to how race is depicted in their movies (e.g. Tilda Swinton playing the Ancient One) but Black Panther seems to be shaping up to be a fair movie in that regard. With the caveat that they haven't even started filming yet, so it could still well go south. I mean, as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's presumably going to be aimed at a general audience, as the other MCU movies have been, but if it features a predominantly Black cast, that's kind of a big deal. While it certainly wouldn't be the first movie to do so, it's enough of a rarity that it's noteworthy for that alone.

And here's what I think will be interesting: that rarity is not lost on anyone in the Black community. Any success that movie has -- critical, box office, whatever -- will resonate very loudly and strongly with them. If you talk to any Black geeks or nerds about the movie, you'll see an excitement behind their eyes. Restrained, perhaps, because they know it could all go to shit between now and the movie's release but the anticipation is there.

Do you remember back in February when Beyonce released Lemonade? Followed by her Super Bowl half-time show? Followed by Kendrick Lamar's performance at the Grammys? A lot of Black people were feeling very empowered by the end of the month.

The cynic in me says that's why Marvel opted to push Black Panther from November 2017 to February (Black History Month) 2018. To play off whatever additional Black pride that might be in the air. Regardless of the reason, though, I suspect the movie will do a lot to empower people again. Seeing a block buster action movie made for everybody, but featuring almost nothing but people that look like them? That's going to get a LOT of people VERY excited.

And Marvel's publishing arm is on point, already getting some Black Panther books into the pipeline, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, no less. I'm sure they're hoping to have at least two or three books by him out in time for the movie, and I don't doubt they'll have a ready supply of Christopher Priest's run on the title with perhaps a nice single volume collection of the Jack Kirby material. I don't know that the Don McGregor/Dwayne Turner Panther's Prey has ever been collected -- that might see a nice edition as well.

I suspect the movie will be a lot of people's first real introduction to the character. And I suspect that it will also defy typical expectations in that more of those people will go on the hunt for Black Panther comics than we usually see with comic-based movies. It will be very interesting to see how the movie sales here translate into A) general excitement from the Black community, and B) sales of existing books.
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