Black Heroes Matter.
– David F. Walker ( Comic Book Writer, POWER MAN & IRON FIST, NIGHTHAWK, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES) #blackheroesmatter
Representation matters a great deal.
When I started All Things Geek I wrote an article in April 2013 titled “It’s Time For Black Panther On The Big Screen”
I was upset that Black Panther would be left out of the Avengers film. I tried to make a case for his inclusion, Black Panther (T’Challa) was the first mainstream black comic book character. He wasn’t a caricature or sidekick. He first appeared in Fantastic Four #52, which was published by Marvel in July 1966. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who also created Spider Man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four, were the ones created him. Black Panther was a member of the Avengers, Defenders, Fantastic Four and X-Men (all major Marvel Superhero groups). He partnered up and eventually married Storm of the X-Men. He’s got the pedigree.
I gave a little insight on some of his important stories. In Jungle Action #19-24 (Jan.-Nov. 1976), the Black Panther took on the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, not all at Marvel agreed with publishing this storyline because the Ku Klux Klan was a controversial subject at the time. But they did it, to their credit. The “Jungle Action” stories rivaled any books of the time. To wit, African-American writer-editor Dwayne McDuffie said of the “Jungle Action” Black Panther features: “This overlooked and underrated classic is arguably the most tightly written multi-part superhero epic ever”
Remember that end credit scene in Iron Man 2 (the only memorable part of that picture for me) Nick Fury recruiting Tony Stark for “The Avengers Initiative”. Well one of his “hot spots” was central Africa.
I knew eventually I’d get my Black Panther movie. I followed the production Phases 1 -3 Civil War gave me my T’Challa (Chadwick Bozeman).
Today I saw the Black Panther trailer.
Did not believe what I was seeing and hearing.
It was like I was reading an issue of Ta-Nehisi Coates recent run on Black Panther (you must read on Comixology)
Whitney Taylor’s MEDIUM essay “The Fabric of Appropriation” she gets to the heart of the issue of how cultural appropriation differs from inspiration in Marvels Hip Hop Inspired Variant Covers:
“If you don’t employ black creators, and then you purport to celebrate a black art form for profit (and props on hiring a few ferociously talented black artists for the gig!), people are going to ask why that aspect of black culture is worth celebrating but black creatives aren’t worth hiring.”
Now since Black Panther was created by two white guys, granted Lee & Kirby were great but they’ve never been black. Marvel over the years have employed black talent to write Black Panther. Giving him if not an African voice an African American voice and world view.
This enriched the stories and gave a more authentic prespective with the addition of black talent over the years building to the latest collaborative effort of Coates & Stefreeze. I can see thier vision of Wakanda throughout the trailer!
Director Ryan Kyle Coogler’s first feature film, Fruitvale Station, won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
I don’t think I will get to see another assemblage of black talent in a comic book movie again (until the sequel).
This all while soaking up a few choice minutes of Vince Staples BagBak
Starts over Vince Jones voiceover, but once Killmonger’s reveal? I got Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” stripped & remixed! An isolated remix is on the way to be sure, but here’s the original track: Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. You’re welcome.
I teared up.
It’s been so long.
This homage to the ruler of Wakanda in all it’s glory is a long time coming and due. My God, I have never seen a comic book movie like this before. I loved it! This is a high water mark for black heroes on screen!
Ironically I had written about Wonder Woman in 2014, in an article titled “The Fierce Urgency of Wonder Woman”. I stated a Wonder Woman film would break the glass ceiling of the cis white male superhero boys club forever. Guess what? Biliion + world wide box office and critical acclaim saved the DC Expanded Universe films. The luke warm reception of both typically very bankable Batman and Superman made Warner Bros. understandibly nervous. Audiences loved Gadot’s & Patty Jensens Wonder Woman so much, they’ve reshot Justice League just to beef up her role in it.
Let me ask you a question. Without google. What black heroes have headlined live action Comic Book movies?
Blade? It holds up today, but it was released in ’98. 20 ago and is rated R.
Hancock? Not a role model for kids and R rating.
Luke Cage on Netflix? I enjoyed, but the themes were adult.
Spawn? R rated
Steel. Yep. I’ll bet you’ve never seen it. Trust me, you’re better off.
So my son and daughter have had no non-sidekick or solo black live action Comic Book heroes or sheroes thier entire lives.
NO black kid has born in the last twenty years.
NO comic book heroes?
Think about that a second.
No representation in this cinematic “Age of Heroes”.
Ten Batman films, Seven Superman films.
They even made a Jonah Hex movie.
Seth Rogan was The Green goddamn Hornet?!
You feel me? You get my issue with this?
Best friends & sidekicks just aren’t good enough.
My son and daughter will see a superhero film where every major character is black, and majority black women. That’s unprecedented.
There is no shortage of strong, proud, intelligent capable white people headlining entire franchises.
I only want the same for my children that white boys have taken for granted over 75 years.
I had mentioned in my article on the new Wonder Woman “Shiledmaidens not Handmaidens” a primer on how white fragility fueled nearly 75 years of comic book white male supremacy and how this needed to stop. All this fragility occurs under the false assumption that both racism and sexism are issues rooted in personal morality rather than systemic, intentionally baked into our society for hundreds of years.
There are no accidents, only precedents. Racism and Sexism aren’t just ideologies but institutions. Women and Blacks are second class citzens in American society, so our heroes are also made second tier. White supremacy is a hell of a drug. It starts early. If a child sees someone that looks like them be heroic enough times? They will beliive they are heroes too. The reverse is also true. Black Panther is a welcome oasis in a vast desert of white heroes. Long live the King!
This being Trumplandia, open hostility and resistance that faced the Wonder Woman film, I also predict for Black Panther. There will be haters and detractors that bogey this film. At last weeks New York City Comic Con, comic book store proprietors at a Marvel panel were up in arms about “females” and blaming diversity for slumping sales. (Instead of 12 variant covers per book in my pull list or making Captain America a Nazi?)
One major difference however.
The Alamo Drafhouse carved out sold out “Woman Only” screenings of Wonder Woman to allow women to enjoy the film with an all female audience & staff. This of course led to cries of sexism because white men can’t be excluded from anything. THEY get to do the excluding.
In the case of Black Panther? Hahahaha! All I need to do is go to Cineplex 12 (coincidentally the theater chain owned by “Steel” star Shaquille O’Neil) on Springfield Ave. in Newark, N.J.
Trust and believe there will be ZERO mediocre white men protesting, buying up the seats or present trying to take over.
I look forward to watch this milestone with my kids in an black owned and operated theatre at least once with an all black audience during Black History Month? I can’t wait!
Much like how DC ushserd in Wonder Woman, which now in hindsight seemed like a no brainer, I predict Black Panther is due his moment to shine and if the trailer is any indication, Marvel Studios NAILS IT!
If there isn’t the black equivalent of the Bedchel Test that ensures a minimum of female character depth in film I’m adapting it. I’ll call it the “Yarde Stick” (thank you for the name brother Joseph Sneeden) If you have a minimum of three black named characters on screen male or female and they are speaking with each other and discussing something other than White People? And they aren’t criminals, junkies or domestic help? Then that film mesures up!
Guess what? This trailer passes with flying colors! See for yourself.
I got straight chills watching Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa listening to agent whomever going on about what he’s seen “Gods, Aliens & such.” He had a perfect “I don’t care” expression. When Danai Gurira’s Okoye says “We are home”. I thought oh shit! This is a powerful sister piloting a ship that makes Stark Quinjets look like broke ass crop dusters. Lupita Lupita Lupita and her Bantu Knots! Angela Basset ageless on fleek the matriarch greeting her son returning home to his troubled kingdom. Shots of Wakandan art & architecture, science & technology.
But as badass as all that was. We have the Dora Milaje.
The Dora Milaje (pronounced “dora-meh-LAH-shay”) “adored ones” the personal bodyguards of the Black Panther, recruited from every tribe of Wakanda. In addition with their protective function, they are also a pool of superior Wakandan women. An ancient tribal tradition, the Dora Milaje were assembled as potential queens for an unmarried king, maintaining the peace in Wakanda by ensuring that every tribe has the opportunity to put forward one of their daughters for the crown.
I want little black girls like mine to see them in action. I want them to believe they can be powerful. I also want them to recognize that T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letita Wright) a Queen in her own right, (she was the Black Panther in T’Challa’s absence) is chief Wakandan scientist, as intelligent as Tony Stark and developed Black Panthers impressive arsenal. I want black girls to believe thier minds can be powerful as well.
In interview with Okayplayer , Black Panther Production Designer Hannah Beachler “On ‘Black Panther,’ Her Job + Advice For Black Creatives” she speaks in depth about her choices and what it meant to work with so many black & women creatives –
When I was on Black Panther, I looked around and I actually got tears in my eyes. The DP is a female, I’m a female, the costume designer’s a female, the UPM was a female, the AD was a female, the executive producer, Victoria Alonso, is female, all of different shades, sexual orientations, and they represent all of us. So, you look around at that crew, it was a diverse crew. For the first time I looked around and I saw everybody. I saw everybody, and that was pretty awesome. That was well worth the many years of hard work. I think as a female you have to be okay with not worrying about, ‘Oh, they might not like me.’ I don’t care if they don’t like me. At the end of the day, I’m here to help as a piece of the puzzle to put the director’s vision on the screen
Drawing from such a wide variety of uniquely African art & design, religious traditions and ancient and modern African cultures from across the continent, fictional Wakanda feels grounded. The kingdoms of Mail, Timbuktu, Ghana, Egypt, Ethiopia and other African Civilzations are borrowed from and represented.
It’s as if in building Wakanda filmmakers answer the question “What if the African continent remained unconquered and wasn’t colonized by Europe? What if these kingdoms survived cultures unspoiled, not robbed of resources and population? Wakanda feels like both another character, and a possible answer to that query.
Truthfully in this climate of fear, white washing, police brutality, the public embracing of Nazis & the Klan by elected officials and the rejection of black athletes, real life heroes, protesting for the basic justice & equality due all Americans? Black Panther is a timely hero we want to see NOW! When all is said and done. It’s not only about what’s on the screen. It’s about folks who are typically on the outside looking in controlling the means of production, heading studios, green lighting projects, employing each other, writing, directing collaborating to tell stories that celebrate US!
For our daughters and sons. And, yours. It’s uplifting. Feeds our souls. Fills our hearts. Challenges and inspires our minds. That’s what films like Black Panther represent.
And representation matters a great deal.
(Possible spoiler below)
If he #takesaknee as rumored during the film? I will lose my mind.
All art – Marvel