Who is The Black Panther? Road to the Big Screen

Jordan Samuel Jordan Samuel
Expert Contributor
January 10th, 2018

Content Editor, Film Critic and Writer for ComiConverse.com, the Founder and co-host of the official Nerdcast Network Podcast

Who is The Black Panther? Road to the Big Screen
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Who is The Black Panther? Road to the Big Screen

Marvel

With the eagerly anticipated Black Panther hitting screens in the next couple weeks, ComiConverse gives you a lesson on his history and impact on pop culture. We discuss how vital his big-screen adaptation is for followers and newcomers to his adventures.

Black Panther was a result of having no black superheroes in the 1960’s, as nobody wanted to embrace the African culture instead of focusing on side characters with no powers or personalities. Being the chief of Wakanda, Panthers eat unique Heart-Shaped Herps which help connect their spirits to a Wakandan Panther God. A being who grants superhuman senses, speed, strength, agility, stamina, durability, healing and reflexes. Various comics have reinvented the powers but share similarities. Including the obscure single-issue, All-Negro Comics #1 (1947) who started in Marvel’s predecessor Atlas Comic’s Jungle Tales. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s T’Challa first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 (1966) but under a different name Black Leopard, which avoided any similarities with the real-life party.

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Stan Lee was so fond of the character; he placed him in The Avengers #52 (1968) for a reasonable amount of time. Pushing him into the big leagues and becoming an icon for Black America, showing changes in the medium. Resulting in Jungle Action #23 (1976), which gave the character his backstory and became very popular with students across the country despite having mediocre sales. He then returned in Fantastic Four Annual #5 (1967) and with Captain America in Tales of Suspense #97–99 (Jan.–March 1968). Even fighting Doctor Doom in Astonishing Tales #6–7 (June & Aug. 1971), in that supervillain's short-lived starring feature. Placing him in the ranks of Marvel’s most powerful superhero, standing up against Captain America and Spider-Man. All eyes were on Black Panther to pick up the mantle.

The black public ate Black Panther up and all he represents in a time full of racist hate, with his fight for Africa being at the forefront. Marvel relaunched the Black Panther into his titular series after Jack Kirby returned from a role at the rival comic book company D.C. (Detective Comics) and redesigned T’Challa for new audiences. It was a short print, which delivered some of the best moments and fleshed out Wakanda in the Marvel Universe.

Marvel

Black Panther’s primary focus on character development, meaningful relationships, and striking visuals all made for a beautifully interconnected series. Jack Kirby’s Alien designs for African customs were inspiring, reinventing traditional wares with a sci-fi overtone. The art was unseen from various circles, as the famous superheroes never had such diverse cultures. Pushing away from African-American and Western stereotypes as T’Challa was the wealthiest man in the universe, with Wakanda’s vibranium.

Black Panther didn’t come without controversy as “Panther vs. the Klan", which had Black Panther battled the Ku Klux Klan with the Marvel offices fighting, due to creative differences from staff members. It was a striking portrayal of modern-day America, these stories pushed boundaries and sent political messages to comic books fans across the country. A drastic move which was rare for Marvel, these comics may not have aged well - but was the beginning of charged and adult comics from the Panther. The Black Panther is a ceremonial title given to the chief of Panther tribes, of high tech Wakandan societies who conquer and control the African region. The Panther’s help in diplomatic missions protecting Wakanda from all of the pains and torment multiple villains have brought to the table. These ideas made the character standout, from the super-powered and overused New York-based origins.

Christopher Priest redefined the character in the 1998 series The Black Panther vol. 3 introducing the Panther Rage, which utilized Erik Killmonger as the main villain. It bridged the gaps between African culture and predominantly white readers, but after this issue, Black Panther went into hiding. Only to return in 2005, Black Panther vol. 4, which ran for over 41 points as Reginald Hudlin took inspiration from the Batman and Spike Lee giving new life to an iconic Marvel superhero. A new series based on Black Panther was released in 2016, bringing T'Challa into modern audiences. It was written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and drawn by Brian Stelfreeze.

After the downfall of Marvel Comics in the 80's, all the potential assets including Spider-Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four were sold to multiple studios. Including the King of Wakanda, Black Panther to Columbia Pictures and was set to played by Demolition Man star, Wesley Snipes. Development was halted and by January 1996 got canceled, due to Lee not being pleased with the script. It would have been the first black superhero to grace Hollywood, but that title was given to Steel.

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Marvel

In July 1997, the Black Panther project was listed in the Marvel Comic’s film state with Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti working on scripts. Snipes was set to be in the titular role but eventually dropped from the adaptation due to commitments in the ongoing Blade series. It went into development hell soon after, as various studios passed on the idea. But in September 2005, Marvel CEO Avi Arad announced the film would be developed into a significant budget IP. Kevin Feige was set to produce, but eventfully got delayed due to the success of Iron Man and other superhero properties.

Marvel Studios hired filmmaker Mark Bailey to write the script for a Black Panther adaptation, set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and focused on the Wakandan nation's vibranium resource. Leading in Chadwick Boseman being cast as T'Challa, the Black Panther for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War and his film. Ava DuVernay was in the running to direct Black Panther but dropped out due to creative differences, while F. Gary Gary left talks due to Fast and Furious 8. It landed with Ryan Coogler, who created some of the best films of the 21st Century with Fruitvale Station being a highlight. Ryan strong emphasis on character development and the serious subject matter was the ideal choice for Black Panther.

Black Panther is being hailed as the most important link to Avengers: Infinity War and sequels, with Marvel Studios planning to launch a series. Feige describes Black Panther as "a big geopolitical action adventure that focuses on the family and royal struggle of T'Challa in Wakanda, and what it means to be a king", with Coogler being influenced by The Godfather. Black Panther also is going to be the first Marvel Studios production, to feature a "primarily African-American cast". Breaking all the boundaries set out from his creation, Black Panther is a historic event for not only African-Americans but the entire industry. A big deal for future generations, and Marvel's legacy: marking a needed change in the superhero genre. All eyes are on Black Panther, to be one of the greatest films of our lives: with hype building.

The King is here for the Throne!

 

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