As a self-proclaimed comic book geek, I am more than happy when I see us Black folks making dates and setting up excursions to see Marvel's Black Panther on February 16th. However, I overheard a couple of my friend state how being released on Black History Month is nothing but media hype but what many of you don't know is it's very much as a part of our history and culture than you think.
To begin, the Black Panther, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby is the FIRST BLACK SUPERHERO in comic books. He predates, Luke Cage or The Falcon and even DC Comics superheroes like Black Lightning and the Black Green Lantern John Stewart. Jack Kirby (a legend in Marvel to this day even after death and someone who helped Stan create most of the Marvel Universe) felt that Blacks weren't represented in comics and the few that were in comics weren't viewed in a positive light. So they decide to create an African Warrior in an ancient but modern nation. Then they did the unexpected.
Instead of being like a sidekick to white heroes or making him a back up character, Marvel introduced him in a major way. His first official appearance was in the Fantastic Four #52 in July of 1966 and his first official act was to defeat the Fantastic Four in an attempt to ask for their help. For those who know the group, they are hard to beat but T'Challa (Black Panther's Real Name) managed to do so. This was so awesome to new readers especially when he told his story (which I won't spoil the movie for you in case it's in it). It was unlike any origin story.
We as Blacks have to admit, yes we love Superman, we love Batman, we love the Fantastic Four but none of them looked like us. That's why he earns a place in our history. He made the way for Luke Cage who was the first Black superhero to get his own comic and Luke Cage even does things his own way. He's not a superhero in a traditional sense. He's a hero for hire. The first mercenary in comics.
I know some people had questions about the name and if it's in reference to the Black Panther Party and the answer is no. It was all a big coincidence. The superhero came first in July and the Party debuted in October of the same year. Neither one had knowledge of the name and no one really cared. Marvel was just trying to sell good books and the Black Panther Party was shaping our history. However, Marvel did consider changing T'Challa's name to the Black Leopard but by that time no one cared.
To be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is great because Black Panther had always been a key member of the Avengers for a long time and the key to a lot of their battles. The fictional country's main resource Vibranium is what Captain America's shield is made out of. So so many elements of the Marvel Universe revolve around him.
American Journalist and author of our struggle Ta-Neihisi Coates has been tapped by Marvel to write for the Black Panther comics.
The author of The Beautiful Struggle and Between the World and Me write about the same struggles went through in our past that parallels our present and future. Through his books and his essays about our struggles in his collection of essays titled, We Were Eight Years In Power about the Obama Presidency parallels African-American struggles during Reconstruction, he writes about how our struggle is unlike any other. Coates takes a lot of his lead from his father, a Vietnam Vet, a former Black Panther Party member and a Black Publisher with an equal influence from his mother who was a school teacher. It's no wonder Marvel tapped him to write for the first Black Superhero and his mythology.
Black Panther has a lot of technology and powers which makes him an upfront character.and not background. Black Panther has taken out the likes of Dr. Doom, The Red Skull and even substituted for Daredevil. He's a very skilled fighter able to keep up with the likes of Captain America and Black Widow. As awesome as Batman is with the Justice League and solo, Black Panther is even more awesome at Marvel. T'Challa isn't only the king of his own African Nation, the entire nation knows his secret identity.
If you get a chance, an animated series on BET produced by the great Reginald Hudlin played on the political side of Wakanda and did a realistic take on how America views Africans. For those who truly follow Black Panther and with the sudden acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney we may see something truly amazing. Owning 21st Century Fox means Marvel again has rights to the X-Men and what that means is T'Challa can get married to his true love which is the mutant Storm.
Storm, another strong Black character joined the X-Men in 1975 as one of the "second generation" X-Men, joining at the same time as Wolverine and other prominent members. Her story too started in Africa. Before discovering her mutant abilities, she was a pick pocket in Cairo, Egypt. As she got older and developed the powerful ability of controlling the weather. She was worshiped as goddess of the drought and was a powerful midwife which made her and Panther the ultimate power couple.
Romance Author Eric Jerome Dickey wrote a graphic novel about their love called Storm which focused on the couple rather than their superhero exploits. That's how we should approach this movie. Yes, there is action and adventure. Yes it will still lead into Avengers Infinity War which Black Panther has another huge role in. With all of that said, this is a must see on February 16th. Gather a crowd. If you want children to see superheroes that like them, see this movie.
Don't take my word for it but Marvel has put a lot of thought into this movie. Not only does this movie have a 75 percent black cast. Not only does this movie star Chadwick Boseman who is used to playing heroes from 12 Years a Slave to Marshall. This movie is now a part of a trend of Black Superheroes who are now heavy hitters for both DC and Marvel Comics. Luke Cage crashed Netflix while last Tuesday's premiere of Black Lightning (which is DC's first superhero to get his own title) opened up to great reviews.
P.S.: A funny fun fact. He makes ten times more money than Tony Stark (Iron Man).