Comics / February 15th 2018

Rise of the King

By:Dwight Thomas Jr

                                We’re within a few days of the release of the next Marvel Cinematic Universe entry “Black Panther”. I couldn’t be anymore hyped for this movie for multiple reasons and feel it could be one of the finest if not THE finest addition to the MCU yet. Much to my excitement, momentum has stayed consistent over the last few months as BP presale tickets have set a new record. During the first 24 hours of availability, the amount of presale tickets sold were the most ever for a Marvel movie, surpassing the last record holding MCU title, Captain America: Civil War. It seems the promotion is paying off, and I for one fully support this. Not only do we have the trailers revealing just enough to stoke the fire of curiosity I’m seeing plenty of great in-depth discussion about what will happen in the movie and how it’ll further the overall MCU plotline, which could be ending soon anyway. All of these things have me confident that this movie will not only make waves, but spark change as well on many fronts.

Looking at the character over the years, I feel he has finally come full circle. If you were to ask my younger self if I thought Marvel would back a Black Panther movie, I would have honestly told you I don’t see it. Examples of my reasoning included his rogue’s gallery not being the overly popular and the character himself possibly alienating non people of color. I’ve always felt he was under appreciated and never got the credit he deserved. I also felt the race of the character did play a part as well as him not taking off like I wanted. If I’m wrong or not, it appears stances have softened, allowing Black Panthers popularity to gradually build. With that building, it was only a matter of time until he acquired some feats in the public eye to his credit. One vehicle I believe got his foot in the door so to speak was his time on Avengers: Mightiest Heroes the cartoon. On there, he was seen fighting and actually holding his own versus a few of the Avengers including Captain America, Iron Man, Ant-Man, etc. I think once people saw how intelligent he was as well as not being a pushover that opinions began to change and newer fans interest started to pique. Though the show ended before it should have, it was a gigantic step in the right direction showing the character had the staying power to hold his own next to the rest of the Avengers respectively. Unfortunately, though some fans more so on the casual side lump Black Panther into the group of Batman like characters while refusing to look deeper. Being compared to one of DC’s most beloved and successful heroes could do wonders for popularity as people would probably research to see why that comparison is being made. I myself haven’t endorsed such sentiments because they have just as many similarities as differences if you ask me. I’ve seen it mentioned more than once in discussions on various forums how Black Panther is at heart a fake Batman. Now, I am a Batman fan myself, as a Batman comic was the first comic-book I ever owned. Batman played a significant role in my childhood, starting and cultivating my passion for heroes and comics alike. So, with no bias to levy against the narrative, I’ll say the comparison is utterly offensive because people who like Batman tend to think he is the only character in all of comics who plans for fights, is intelligent, and is rich. Now, T’challa and Bruce Wayne have similarities but they never struck me as the same character or knock off of each other. I always viewed Moon Knight and Nighthawk as the closest to Batman from a character perspective. I say that goes double for Nighthawk, as he at times is part of the Squadron Supreme who are very similar to DC’s Justice League. The characters motivations, goals, and the weight they carry on their respective shoulders couldn’t be more different and I like Black Panther based on what he stands for. I think when we look at those motivations and what he protects that will go a long way with the audiences as it will be different than what they’ve been exposed to thus far from a protagonist perspective. I, being a black man myself, want more black heroes on screen, and feel the King to the most technologically advanced nations on the planet is a good start for the well-established MCU. We all probably grew up being taught that America was the foremost Superpower of the world, unless you lived abroad while young. But in the comics, the land of Wakanda gives America pause and thus is handled on equal footing at a minimum. I also like to see an African nation being treated with such respect by the nation who spends more than everyone else combined on National Defense. That peer to peer respect shows us how dangerous Black Panther and Wakanda could be in a war like scenario. As for the character himself, he has grown over the course of many solo and team involved outings due to looking within and seeking guidance when necessary. T’challa has made errors in judgement but still wants the respect and approval of his people. He demonstrates this in one of his more recent comic runs. When discussing politics and social status with a prisoner of war, he apologizes to him for failing him as a King. A leader willing to say he is wrong is an admirable trait and makes Black Panther humble when dealing with his people. Many of us can’t relate as far as wealth and lineage are concerned, but the highs and the eventual lows of being a leader of some type I think people can relate to and hope such a bridge gets crossed in this upcoming release. He has the affairs of an entire nation to look after and must juggle that with other commitments like when he was a part of the Avengers and the Ultimates respectively. I think that is also a relatable situation as life pushes us in many directions as adults and we can’t always give everything or everyone the attention they deserve, which could lead to problems in some of those areas. I can understand that as I’ve been there and have had to take that criticism.

On the subject of representation I would like to congratulate DC on the success of Wonder Woman which kicked down doors of its own. To me, it was easily one of the best movies in the DCU, setting records and propelling Gal to much deserved superstardom. She did a magnificent job in the starring role and served as a beacon for fans of both genders as it pulled in a ton of new fans. Some may call it pandering, or some other non PC buzzword making the rounds, but I don’t agree at all. I see no problem being inclusive while inviting women into the fold. If you’re a true fan of Diana, that shouldn’t have really bothered you anyways, because you’d know about the character and what she means to them. Even on TV, things are slowly changing around again with the release of Black Lightning. Though it’s a CW show, which will limit somethings, the pilot appears to be well received; so here’s hoping the rest of the season is solid. Other movies stacked with Black talent have surprised audiences and critics recently and I predict this upcoming release to do the same. Movies like Hidden Figures, Get Out, and Moonlight were critical successes with a rich talented pool of black actors and actresses, which only enhanced the overall experience. The cast signed up already know what’s at stake and are fired up about this opportunity. DC made strides with Wonder Woman’s release as I alluded to earlier, and Marvel is taking an even riskier gamble. It’s a bold move, but with the talent already onboard, such as Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, in addition to the title character ensure this movie will reach for new heights. I mentioned the cast knowing what’s at stake with this mostly black production but I believe this same challenge extends to folks behind the scenes as well. Ryan Coogler will sink or swim along with the rest of them but he seems up to the task and hasn’t backed down yet. A movie like this I feel will need to appease the long time comic fan as well as the casual movie goer. It can surely do both, like many of the MCU movies as of late, and if backed by Marvel like it should be, I see no reason why it can hit every target it aims for. Among the strongest selling points in the film will be the fact that it will be filled with African culture for us all to behold. That is purely in line with the character and where he comes from, so nobody should be surprised. I’m excited to see what they do to give us Africa, to give us the Wakanda we deserve. The trailers showcased some hip-hop music fused into the soundtrack which just works for me. Rapper Kendrick Lamar was trusted to do songs for the film, which should only enhance the appeal. The reviews will have to be stellar because I already know some critics on the more edgy side will complain about the representation shown in the film. I’m going to try and also prepare for this movie to be nitpicked unlike any MCU product before it and encourage everyone else to do the same. We’re at a critical point in movie history, most specifically comic movie history. I want this to work, I want it to succeed with everything in me and I truly think it will. This could be the dawn of a new era if this works out, and we might even be looking at a sequel or two, and hopefully more comic movies with black leads. Regardless of what happens, we’ve come too far and will ride this momentum wherever it takes us. I have faith in the King and you should too.

Dwight Thomas Jr. is a contributor for the GoG and serves in our nations military