When the rumors hit the web that Marvel Studios had given an official green light to a long-discussed Black Panther movie project, fans of the super-hero comic book hero rejoiced universally. Although a breaking report from Latino Review has not been confirmed by the heads of Marvel, it didn’t stop the snowball effect of the spreading news, with mounds of speculation still piling up. If the rumors do result in a film, what could this mean for the face of an industry that is lacking in positive Black images, especially in the realm of comic book adaptions?
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Black Panther character in 1966, with some saying that Kirby was the one who introduced the idea to Lee with an early incarnation of the character with the name “Coal Tiger,” which would have been a terrible choice. Several accounts from early Marvel employees reveal that Lee and other artists were aware of race relations within America and wanted to promote balance in their comics by featuring Black characters. This gracious gesture has spawned several Black heroes – and villains – over the course of Marvel’s long tenure in the comic biz.
Watch an episode of Black Panther here:
The story of Black Panther is a fascinating one indeed. Hailing from the African warrior country of Wakanda, known in the Marvel universe as the most technologically advanced nation in the world, Black Panther is an exceptional fighter and a valued scholar. With his birth name being T’Challa, Black Panther leads Wakanda against foes who seek to rob the secrets of his country. The nation is also where the fictional metal vibranium is forged, the same material used to fashion Captain America’s shield weapon.
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The character has made its way to the small screen, appearing in several Marvel Animation spots since 1994, including long-form animated films. In 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” the Wakanda nation is hinted about in the movie after S.H.I.E.L.D. director “Nick Fury” (played by Samuel L. Jackson) focuses his attention on the nation in gathering allies. BET also featured a short animated series based on the character, which was developed by Reginald Hudlin.
For nearly two decades, the film was promised to fans after actor Wesley Snipes spoke about making a live-action depiction. Snipes would go on to become the face of another Black Marvel hero in playing the vampire-human hybrid Blade, creating a successful franchise.
Not since Will Smith’s “Hancock” in 2008 has there been a leading Black superhero character in Hollywood. The Black Panther movie could spark a boom in changing the face of the leading man in the film industry; however, a strong character such as T’Challa/Black Panther deserves an actor of both formidable acting ability and the physicality to pull off the warrior chief’s fighting skill.
Michael Jai White, who played Black superhero Spawn in the live action version of the comic, has been a name tossed into the hat. Djimon Hounsou, who voiced the latest animated incarnation of Black Panther, has also been discussed as taking on the lead role. Even at 52 years of age, Spartacus star Peter Mensah could be a strong possibility among fans. English actor David Oyelowo has also had his name thrown in to the mix.
For now, this is all speculative until it’s truly confirmed, but the possibilities are endless. Just as President Barack Obama’s historic rise to the White House has inspired many persons of color young and old, the escapism that comics and movies provide Americans would be better served if it represented the world as it truly is. It is amazing to think of how moving it would be to see a proud Black man fighting for justice in a world that constantly seeks to portray young Black persons as lawless, carefree, and lazy.
Pull the trigger, Marvel. We’re long overdue.