After a couple years of silence, marvel finally made the official news of there being a solo black panther movie in the works in 2015, with a November 2017 release, now pushed to June 2018. You may be wondering why this is such a big deal? Well for a young black man, who’s grown up watching white men in capes flying around his TV and cinema screens since his childhood, it’s nice to finally see a black hero take centre stage, not just be pushed to the side as a less important sidekick or lackey. Especially a figure such as The Black Panther, who is basically everything you’d want in a black role model. For you to get a better understanding of what I mean, here’s a little background information.
The Black panther is also known as T’challa crown prince of the fictional nation of Wakanda, he inherits the role of the Black Panther from his father when his father is murdered. Each King hands the role to his son once he passes away and it has apparently gone on for generations, showing the rich heritage you’d expect from an African nation. What I love most about the nation of Wakanda is that it’s described as one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, destroying the image western media creates of Africa, where it seems almost primitive and always in need of aid. Also Wakanda is completely secluded from the western world and has repelled all of their attempts at colonisation before the 21st Century, which makes one think of what Africa would’ve been like if the western world had never got involved. T’challa is as marvel.com describes “a brilliant tactician, strategist, scientist, tracker and a master of all forms of unarmed combat…a master planner who always thinks several steps ahead”. Most superheroes of colour, especially ones that are black are really only good at fighting. Take Luke Cage for example, other than being bulletproof and super strong there isn’t really much to him, well that’s the image the show portrayed in my opinion anyway. Intelligence wise Black Panthers is just as smart as the Tony Starks or Batman’s of the superhero universe. He’s an intelligent, cultured african man who fights for his people, coming from a strong country who fought back against any attempts at oppression and never look to or rely on “the white man” for help. If that doesn’t sound like someone you can look up to and be proud of, I don’t know who else would.
Although the number of black heroes on our screens are growing, they don’t really play any pivotal roles in terms of the core story of the shows and films they star in. Sure they have their arcs and side storylines, but in the bigger picture they’re just replaceable add ons to the main heroes story. Personally I think they’re just there to make fans happy; writers just pick and choose what extra heroes they can add in to keep the viewers locked in. To name a few, we have Storm from X-men, Falcon from the Avengers, John Diggle from Arrow, Jimmy Olsen and John the Martian from Supergirl, and many more. However all these heroes are often recycled around in their teams and replaced in later series or in later retellings. Other than the upcoming Black Panther movie the only other serialisation brought to a live action platform with a black main character is Luke Cage. Released earlier this year Luke Cage was pretty well received from pretty much everyone, with a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 79 out of 100 on Metacritic and a 91 from The A.V. Club. However, I wasn’t really a fan of the show. There were many times where I found the dialogue almost cheesy, I felt at times it tried too hard too be cool and charismatic. Even the portrayal of Luke Cage, I didn’t feel he was someone I could look up to, maybe it was due to the acting or the script but when I watched it, I wasn’t exactly moved to feel anything. Although, I do understand that at the time that the show was released in America with all the police shootings and just the general handling of the black population in the country, a show like Luke Cage was needed. Luke Cage was hero to the black American people. Which is why The Black Panther is so important, he’s a hero to the entire black population of the world. Protecting not only Africa but the western world along with it.
After 60 years since making his comic book debut in the 52nd issue of ‘Fantastic Four Vol 1’ in 1966, The Black Panther made his first big movie appearance in the second Avengers movie; here we’re given a little inkling of what’s to be expected in his solo film. Throughout the movie he comes across as strong and proud, even though he’s far away from home. He doesn’t allow anyone to look down upon him and he follows his gut from the start of the movie right to the very end, proving to be a leader of men and an all around badass. With his head held high within every room he enters, he creates an ideal image that every child should look to follow as they grow older. A hero who takes pride in his accent, his skin and his heritage. This reminds me of a conversation I was having with my barber about how culture seems to be dying out with this new generation of black youth. He was bringing up points of: how if you ask some of these new teenagers where exactly their parents are from they’ll tell you the country but know nothing else; can’t speak or understand their language; eat only western food and only really know western culture. He predicted that after two more generations, african culture will just die out with everyone imitating the western world. The youth aren’t proud of where they’re from. This is why a hero like The Black Panther is so important, hopefully after seeing such a great African figure walk around so proudly, even though he’s from a fictional nation, wouldn’t one also want to find out about their own culture? The Black Panther will make being black and being african cool again and he’ll get that message into the heads of the younger generations.
So why is the upcoming Black Panther movie so important? Because it reminds us of things we seem to be slowly forgetting. We’re a strong people, from a beautiful continent with years of heritage behind us and that we should take pride in where we’re from. Also, because your kids or future kids or grandkids finally have a hero they can dress up as, who’s just as cool, if not cooler than all the Superman and Batman’s we always see running around.
Words by Michael Ukaegbu.