This is an all-Black Panther post of the main page of Hudlin Entertainment, collecting interviews, articles, podcasts and more that I have recently done with MTV News, Barnes & Noble, The Washington Post and Vulture about the comic, the movie and more.
Black Panther Writer Reginald Hudlin on T’Challa and the Future of Black Superheroes
Photo: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Dean White/Marvel Entertainment
Twelve years before Black Panther became one of the most anticipated superhero films of all time, Reginald Hudlin was hired to pen a comic-book series that helped pave the road to T’Challa’s big-screen success. The Hollywood veteran, who directed classic ’90s films like House Party and Boomerang, found himself in a unique position after he began writing for Marvel: In the summer of 2005, he was also hired as the president of entertainment at BET, which eventually led him to produce the first and only Black Panther animated TV series.
While Christopher Priest is widely credited for making Black Panther cool, Hudlin’s run on the comic introduced major plotlines, including the landmark marriage of Black Panther and Storm, as well as the creation of T’Challa’s half-sister Princess Shuri, portrayed by Letitia Wright in the upcoming film. Meanwhile, the Black Panther animated series, which aired its sole season in 2011, drew the likes of Djimon Hounsou, Kerry Washington, Alfre Woodard, and Jill Scott into the world of Wakanda. These days, Hudlin’s life no longer revolves around the Black Panther, but he’s still immersed in comics: Since 2015, he’s been plotting the revival of Milestone Comics, the ’90s comic-book company co-founded by Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, and the late Dwayne McDuffie that introduced a diverse array of characters, including fan favorite Static Shock. And after directing Black Pantherstar Chadwick Boseman in last fall’s Marshall, the 56-year-old filmmaker is also slated to direct a Shadowman movie about the New Orleans–based hero from Valiant Comics.
Ahead of Black Panther’s release, Vulture caught up with Hudlin to talk about the origins of the animated series, his upcoming work with Milestone Media, and the future of black superheroes in film.
How did the Black Panther animated series come about?
Well, I was writing the Black Panther comic book for Marvel, and then at the same time, I was doing a deal to [become] the first-ever president of entertainment at BET. I was working with some executives and they said, “You know Reggie, we should do an animated version of your Black Panther comic book for the network.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s not a bad idea,” and kind of forgot about it. About three months later, that executive came to me and said, “Hey, we got a reel.” I was like, “Of what?” [Laughs.]
I saw the first three minutes of it, and honestly, it was incredible. Denys Cowan was my head of animation and he just did this knockout rendition of the first scene of the book. I showed it to my boss, Debra Lee, who’s the head of the network, and I said, “Well, what do you think?” And she goes, “I was wondering when we’d get to do the Black Panther animated show.”
So, we showed it to the folks at Marvel and they were like, “We’re so happy you didn’t ask us for permission to do this because we wouldn’t have believed you could do this. This is so great.” Everybody was just super excited about it. Then we did the deal to develop it as a series, and when I left the network, I said, “Okay, I will just go onboard the series as a producer full-time.” It was very once in a lifetime — I wrote the comic book as a writer, then green-lit the TV show as a head of a network, and then produced it as a producer. It’s the only way that something that unusual could have actually happened.
You wrote the marriage between Black Panther and Storm as well. What led you to bring them together?
Originally, I always wanted to write comic books because they were so important to me when I was a kid. In fact, I still have a rejection letter that I got from Marvel when I was in middle school. A couple of friends of mine, when I was at work, they said, “Look, you should actually meet with the people at Marvel.” So they called some people and ended up having a meeting with the heads of Marvel Comics and I just talked about my love of comics. I didn’t really have an agenda. At the end of the meeting, they were like, “Well, which book do you want to write?” I was like “Huh?” I was kind of thrown and so I said, “Uh, Black Panther.” And they said, “Okay, We’re gonna let you do a six-issue mini-series.” So, I left with the dream job that I didn’t even go in trying to get.
I wrote my first six issues and they said, “Wow, this is really good. If you kept writing, what would you do?” And I said, “Well, he’s an African king. And one of the first things you gotta do when you’re royalty is have a family. So he’s gotta figure out who’s gonna be his queen and marry her and start a family.” We started talking about who he should marry and Storm’s name came up and I was like, “If you would let the two biggest black superheroes in the history come together, that would be the ultimate power marriage in every sense of the term.” He’s the king of a country, she’s a princess of an African nation, she’s the leader of the mutants which is a powerful minority in itself. It just seemed like a really perfect idea.
In Marvel comics, the Watcher usually shows up to witness major turning points in history. Is that why he was at their wedding?
The Watcher was there because this is a momentous marriage. The results of this marriage would be world-changing. There’s a story I never wrote called “World War Wakanda.” Basically, the Panther has taken this isolationist stance, like, “We’re not imperialist, we’re not trying to conquer other countries.” But the people are so paranoid, once he’s married to Storm and he starts this movement of helping mutants worldwide, ultimately he has to fight everybody. He is forced to take a more aggressive military stance on a global level.
That’s interesting. I really wish you got to write that.
[Laughs.] Well, you know, there’s a Black Panther Annual coming up soon. They asked me, Don McGregor, and Christopher Priest to each write a short story. So I wrote the epilogue of the “World War Wakanda” story in that book.
I need to get that. How did you feel when they annulled the marriage six years later?
That was really, I thought, a mistake. Because there was this tension between Fox and Marvel over the properties and all that stuff, they were like, “No, no, no, we just want to separate the mutants out from the characters that we hold control over.” They were caught in the crossfire of that, but obviously, to break up such a high-profile black marriage in comics had a much bigger symbolic value and was really frustrating to a lot of fans.
With Disney’s purchase of 2oth Century Fox, do you think Black Panther and Storm might get back together in the comics? Or a movie sequel?
You know, when the rumors of that merger first started happening, there was so much of the internet telling us like, “Aha!” [Laughs.] There was a lot of excitement. We’ll see what they plan on doing, but I think it would be a beautiful thing.
How did the idea of Princess Shuri come about?
It just seemed for me that, again, when you’re royalty, you’re not just gonna have one kid. You gotta have an heir and a spare, right? I thought a girl would be great because I wanted everyone who read the book to be empowered. I wanted girls who read the book to feel as empowered as boys. So, I wanted her to be smart and tough and brave and everything you think of as a Black Panther, so that eventually she would be a Black Panther as well. Basically, I wanted a Halloween costume for my son and my daughter.
That’s a good reason. You’ve relaunched Milestone as well, which has a bunch of diverse characters. How’s that coming along?
It’s coming along great. We’re revamping the classic characters, we’re developing new characters, and we’re putting together an amazing team of writers and artists. I mean, the original Milestone lineup were some of the leading writers of people of color working in the comic-book business. We’re trying to remain true to that same spirit and bring in men and women and blacks and Latinos and Asians and white folk — just put together an all-star team. It’s truly going to be a major event.
I read that you’re also developing a live-action Static Shock series. Is that still in the works?
We’ve been talking about that, but as the books have been developing, we’re taking a much broader approach. There’s a lot of ideas that were exciting to people as movies and as TV shows, so you have to think about these things. What kind of coherent universe, which characters do you want to launch under which platforms? We’re not speaking in terms of one-off. We’re thinking in terms of a much bigger picture.
You’re working on Shadowman too, right?
Yeah, we’re working on the script for that movie. We’ve got some fantastic ideas. I’m really excited about that.
Is there anything you can share about it?
Not yet. We’re still early in the process. But I’ve been working with Adam Simon, who’s the writer, and we just sit at dinner and it’s like, “Wow, wow!” If you excite yourself then you figure, “Well, if Iron Man delivered bodies who likes the stuff I like, they will probably like it too.”
That makes sense. Do you think Black Panther will open the door for other black superheroes to get movies?
I think there’s no doubt. When I was at the premiere, I brought my son and I saw so many of my friends there with their sons. Whether it was Sterling Brown, John Singleton, you know, I just thought, “Oh God, that’s gonna happen all over the world. People are going to bring their families.” They’re gonna have this transformative feeling. They’re gonna go, “Well, why is it just one?” The same way, you know, with the success with Wonder Woman. It’s like, “Yes, female superhero, that’s an obvious idea and let’s have a lot more.” I think the same absolutely is going to happen with Black Panther. It’s really a natural extension. There are so many superhero characters. If you don’t diversify, then the market kind of eats itself.
What did you think of Black Panther?
Oh, it’s great. It’s a movie that’s ultimately about morality. And I think what really makes a person a hero is your moral stance.
What do you think about the state of black films in general? You’ve directed classics like House Party, Boomerang, and most recently Marshall. Do you think we’re doing better in bringing forward diverse films?
Yeah, I feel very bullish on the state of black cinema. I think that these things move in a 20-year cycles. When you go back to the blaxploitation movement in the ’70s, that’s a big boom, then there was a collapse in that market. But even in the collapse, you had Eddie Murphy, you had Prince making movies in the ’80s. Then in the ’90s, you had Spike Lee and myself and John Singleton and that whole movement, which was really different from what you saw in the ’70s. Then, after ten years of success, you have again a collapse. Now you have this new movement and the movies are bigger and better and more successful than ever before. History moves in lazy circles, right? But I look at the big picture of it and I go, “This is great.”
Have you read any of the newer Black Panther runs?
Honestly, I have these stacks of comics. The number one thing I do to relax myself is read comics, but this last year, I produced a movie, Burning Sands, I directed a movie, Marshall, I shot a TV series,Showtime at the Apollo, which debuts in March for Fox, and as you know, the Milestone project. And some secret stuff I can’t tell you yet. [Laughs.] So, I literally haven’t had time to read my beloved comic books. I leave my office at night and I look at that stack wistfully. I deserve some comic-book time, but I don’t know when that will be. I hope so soon.
What does it mean for a black creator to write Black Panther?
Black Panther was created by two brilliant Jewish guys, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and they created a perfect character. So I don’t think there’s a racial requirement to write the character well. But obviously, when I wrote it I knew the importance of the character for me. I wanted to write the stories I always wanted to see but never saw. I always thought, “Well, surely the black heroes get together and talk.” [Laughs.] What would Luke Cage and T’Challa say to each other? No one had ever done that, so I was dying to do that. I was dying to explore big and small things that were obvious to me. You know, one of my favorite story arcs was in response to Hurricane Katrina. The Black Panther, Cage, Blade, and a whole host of black heroes come together to help save a black city. It was just fun to do because I said, “Well, why doesn’t this happen?” Six white superheroes get together all the time and it’s not a racial issue. They just happen to be six white people. So why can’t six black people come together and save people just as well?
Is there anything you can share about what you’re working on with Milestone Media?
It’s really under wraps right now. But what we want to do is not simply pick up where they stopped 20-something years ago. How do we push the envelope way, way out? You know, how do we make people as shocked and surprised and slightly uncomfortable as they were when those books debuted the first time?
What else do you have planned for the year?
Well, Showtime at the Apollo debuting on Fox prime time with Steve Harvey. That’s actually gonna be a really great show. When I bring home episodes and watch them with my wife and my kids, we all have a great time. We’re laughing, we’re cheering, and there’s a need for family entertainment. Then there’ll be a secret project that will be launching later on this year, and the Milestone books. That’s a lot. [Laughs.] Maybe somewhere I’ll fit a nap in.
And a comic book.
And a comic! Yeah! These are not unreasonable goals.
Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.
In 2005 writer, director and producer Reginald Hudlin added comic book author to his resume, picking up the mantle of the first black superhero, the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation Black Panther. Hudlin’s run writing one of Marvel’s most iconic characters deepened and expanded the world of T’Challa’s family and kingship, and the history of his nation, Wakanda. This week, as moviegoers everywhere flock to see Black Panther make the leap from page to screen, B&N’s comics expert James Killen talks with Reginald Hudlin about his part in the history of the hottest character in comics.
BLACK PANTHER HAS PUBLIC ENEMY AND A 2005 COMIC TO THANK FOR HIS THEATRICAL DEBUT
MTV NEWS TALKS TO WRITER REGINALD HUDLIN ABOUT HIS LANDMARK COMIC SERIES
By CHARLES HOLMES
Black Panther wasn’t always a red-hot property. Before there was a blockbuster movie or a Kendrick Lamar-led soundtrack, Panther was a floundering character. T’Challa was created to be as smart as Reed Richards and as talented a tactician as Captain America, but for more than 50 years, the character operated as the token Avenger. Worse, the king of fictional Wakanda never lived up to his commercial potential. That would all change with writer Reginald Hudlin.
Hudlin is better known for his extensive career in film and TV, producing Django Unchained, directing 1990’s House Party, and writing and producing 1992’s Bébé’s Kids. But he was ultimately the perfect man to unify Black Panther. There were excellent arcs, miniseries, and collections involving the character before Hudlin joined as a writer, but it was arguably his run that made the character’s story cinematic.
In February 2005, over the course of six issues, Hudlin made the continent of Africa his canvas and the deep tapestry of Marvel history his paintbrush. Operatic, epic, and easily digestible, Hudlin’s “Who Is the Black Panther?” series is one of the reasons we have the Ryan Coogler-directed film today.
In an interview with MTV News, Hudlin discussed how he got into comic books, the mission statement for his run, and why Black Panther means so much to us half a century later.
MTV News: Do you remember reading Black Panther as a kid?
Hudlin: Yes, I definitely remember reading Black Panther as a kid. My older brother was a big comic-book collector, and I remember his first appearance in the Fantastic Four and reading that and being blown away. I just thought this is the coolest character ever. You know, Black Panther, he’s the first black superhero. The funny thing about comics, very often the first-time characters were kind of perfect in the same way Superman is perfect or Batman is perfect and Captain America is perfect and Wonder Woman is perfect. Black Panther is a pretty perfect character.
MTV News: Through my research, I was going back and rereading Fantastic Four #52 (1966) and I didn’t realize how revolutionary it was, considering how black heroes in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s were basically illiterate servants in blackface, and really racist. Then you have this character come on the scene that totally beats the entire Fantastic Four. Do you remember what that feeling was like as a kid seeing a black character accomplish that feat?
Hudlin: Yeah, it was completely satisfying, and when you think about it in the context that the Fantastic Four had just beaten Galactus, right. So the Fantastic Four collectively beat a guy who could eat planets, and then Black Panther beat them. So when you think about the implications of how powerful that makes the Black Panther, it is especially incredible.
MTV News: Do you remember what your mission statement was for writing Black Panther, especially those first six really core issues?
Hudlin: Yes, my friend Christopher Priest had just finished a really legendary run of the book, which was really brilliant in so many ways. But it didn’t sell, and it was really crazy because he was doing this really amazing work and the audience wasn’t appreciating it. So my attitude was, I’m not even going to try to appeal to some of the core comic-book fanbase, because if they couldn’t appreciate Priest, then there is just no pleasing them. I wrote the book to please myself, please people like me, many of whom were either fans who had drifted away from comics or people who may have never read a comic, because they never saw a book like this.
So basically I wanted to write the Public Enemy version of Black Panther, and that sold like hot cakes. By not caring what the audience thinks, we plugged into exactly what the audience wanted. So it was a very rock and roll attitude.
MTV News: Your run seemed to streamline and modernize Black Panther in a way that hadn’t been done before. How did you go about updating the character for a new audience?
Hudlin: Well, part of it was writing the book so that someone who had never heard of the character before could pick up issue one and follow everything that was going on. I didn’t want to burden it with a lot of heavy continuity. The second thing was really remaining true to me some of the core principles that had been established beforehand.
I always thought it was very clear that Wakanda was a country that had never been conquered. So when you think about the implications of what that would mean, then I just wanted to really delineate that, make that clear and play through the implications of that. A lot of people freaked out, like, ‘What are you doing?’ and I’m like, no, I’m doing what [Black Panther creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby] wrote. I’m going back to the core material.
I also was very happy to use many of the innovations that Christopher Priest had done like the Dora Milaje, the female security team around the Black Panther, a lot of the technology that he had developed.
So I just kind of took all of those ideas and mainly wrote stories that I always wanted to see. You’ll never see black characters talk to one another in comic books, but I figured that the conversation between Luke Cage and Black Panther would be very interesting. I never understood why Storm didn’t date Black Panther. I just thought that there were all these kind of obvious connections that needed to happen, so I essentially made those connections.
MTV News: What do you think it is about Black Panther that resonates with people 50 years later?
Hudlin: I always saw Black Panther as the African equivalent of Captain America. Captain America represents the best of the American spirit. He’s moral. He’s strong. He’s fair. You know, he epitomizes all the beauty of the American experiment, and I felt like Black Panther is the same thing. He represents the morality, the spirituality, the legacy, the toughness, the brilliance of the African continent.
By COMIC BOOKS REVIEWS
T’Challa faces off an alien invasion and Killmonger while his sister, Shuri, learns the cost of power. Is it good?
The final volume in the set, Black Panther: The Complete Collection Vol. 3 is probably the one that fans have been waiting for, as it contains two of the best stories in the mythos: “See Wakanda and Die” and the mini “Flags of Our Fathers” which co-stars Captain America. These two stories have been collected in their own volumes before, but are now largely out of print, leaving fans to search the longboxes for the single issues. No longer.
The collection opens, however, with the story, “Back to Africa,” which sees T’Challa, Shuri, and Monica Rambeau face off against Erik Killmonger. Seeing that Killmonger is the villain in the upcoming film, it’s a nice coincidence that this collection opens with this arc. While not quite a multi-part epic like Don McGregor’s “Panther’s Rage” or Priest’s Killmonger story in the first part of his run, Reginald Hudlin’s take on T’Challa’s archnemesis is still a thrilling one and it marks the first time the two have fought while both wearing armor.
The second story is undoubtedly one of the best stories in the entire Black Panther mythos: “See Wakanda and Die.” A part of the “Secret Invasion” crossover, this story can stand isolated on its own and features an action-packed sequence where T’Challa faces a Super-Skrull on his own. This story is penned by Jason Aaron, and his take on T’Challa and Storm plays to both of their strengths in battle, while giving them a worthy opponent in a Skrull general who is looking to retire after one last mission. The art by Jefte Palo and Lee Loughridge in this story is truly beautiful, with stormy greens and heavy shadows creating heavy drama for the climactic battle between the armies of the Skrulls and Wakanda.
Feeling a bit out of place is the third story in the collection, the “Deadliest of the Species” story that began the fifth publishing volume of Black Panther. While written by Reginald Hudlin, this story – which sees Shuri take on the mantle of Black Panther after her brother sustains heavy injuries – really does feel like the start of a new era and may have been a better fit with the Black Panther: Doomwar collection that was released last year.
The final story is the miniseries Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers. Revisiting and expanding the story of Captain America’s first encounter with Wakanda, Reginald Hudlin uses this opportunity to explore the relationship between African-Americans and Africa. While Captain America and Azzuri, T’Challa’s grandfather, take up most of the action, the heart of the story is Howling Commando Gabe Jones, who finds himself confronted with an ideal home that he has only dreamed of. Capturing his longing is artist Denys Cowan, who gives the World War II story a frenetic energy. Colorist Pete Pantazis gives the story a hallowed feel, using paler tones that make the story feel like the untold epic it is.
Is It Good?
Black Panther: The Complete Collection Vol. 3 may be the best of the series. Talented art teams make sure that each story bursts with drama and excitement. While the “Deadliest of the Species” arc feels out of place, the collection doesn’t drag at any point. Having “See Wakanda and Die” and “Flags of Our Fathers” will make this a must buy for any Black Panther fan, especially as those out of print collections creep up in price.
Hudlin’s run ends on a high point as Black Panther: The Complete Collection Vol. 3 contains some of the best Black Panther stories out there.
RATING: 9 GREAT
‘Black Panther’ is a superhero — not a sidekick — worth holding out for
Chadwick Boseman, left, and Michael B. Jordan in “Black Panther.” MUST CREDIT: Matt Kennedy, Marvel Studios-Walt Disney
The cover to Black Panther # 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze. MUST CREDIT: Marvel
The crown for the world’s greatest black superhero has always been worn by the Black Panther.
He was also the world’s first. And for more than 50 years, Marvel Comics’ African legend has been hurling a black-gloved fist to the stereotypical notion that superheroesof coloronly work as side characters.
T’Challa, the man under the mask, is a king who rules an African nation that has never been invaded, one that’s the most technologically advanced society in the Marvel universe. He’s been an Avenger, married and divorced a member of the X-Men, and helped fend off aliens. Few Marvel characters come close to matching his intelligence, and he’s traded punches with some of the greatest heroes and villains around and stood tall in the end. Heck, even his grandfather punched Captain America once.
Speaking of the Captain, that indestructible star-spangled shield? It’s made of vibranium, a metal mined only in T’Challa’s Wakanda.
The Black Panther has allowed comic book fans of color to look past the medium’s lack of diversity and take solace in an undeniable fact: He’s simply one of the coolest superheroes around. The rest of the world will probably catch up Feb. 16, when Marvel Studios releases the hotly anticipated, ecstatically reviewed “Black Panther” movie, which is expected to make at least $120 million over its opening four-day weekend.
“Sometimes the first character of a category is perfect,” said former “Black Panther” comic book writer Reginald Hudlin. “Superman is like that. Batman is like that. Wonder Woman is like that. They are perfect. And Black Panther is like that.”
In 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character to correct the lack of superhero representation – just months before the founding of the Black Panther Party. (To avoid controversy, Marvel briefly changed the name to Black Leopard but later realized that just didn’t have the same oomph.)
The pair – both white – had brought an awareness of civil rights to their work before. In 1963, they created X-Men, who, while drawn as white, faced discrimination for being mutants. Professor Xavier was seen as a Martin Luther King figure, while his friend-turned-enemy Magneto took a by-any-means-necessary, Malcolm X-like approach to prejudice.
In Black Panther’s first appearance, he defeated the Fantastic Four in their own comic. In the years since, fan-favorite runs of three black writers have come to define the character. Christopher Priest in the 1990s made him a no-nonsense hero with an elite all-female bodyguard squad, the Dora Milaje. Hudlin established Wakanda as an unrivaled kingdom in 2005. Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “Between the World and Me,” took over in 2016 by having the character confront a revolution that questions the legitimacy of Wakanda’s monarchy.
Many of the black superheroes who followed Black Panther beat him to the screen. Robert Townsend directed and starred in “Meteor Man,” a comedic superhero take in 1993. In 1998,the three-film “Blade” franchise, starring Wesley Snipes as a half-human/half-vampire, was perhaps the movie that helped Hollywood realize the box office possibilities for a Marvel character. Eartha Kitt took on the role of the villain Catwoman on the “Batman” TV show in 1967. Catwoman got her own dreadfully reviewed movie starring Halle Berry in 2004.
In recent years, more black superheroes have populated Marvel and DC films, but all in secondary parts, including Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in “Justice League,” the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in “Capain America: Civil War,” Storm (Berry) in the X-Men movies and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in “The Avengers.” As TV has gotten more superhero shows with more diverse casts, Luke Cage and Black Lightning have gotten self-titled series on Netflix and the CW, respectively.
Black Panther’s path to the screen has been rocky. There were rumors of a John Singleton- directed version starring Snipes in the ‘90s, but it stalled because of Marvel’s bankruptcy issues, its horrible box-office track record at the time, executives unable to separate the hero from the same-name political movement and a lack of modern CGI.
At one point,Hudlin – director of “Marshall” and producer of “Django Unchained” – envisioned making the film. He even read a stack of scripts. One had T’Challa growing up in the projects in America, unaware that he was African royalty.
“They were all awful,” Hudlin said. “I just read (them) and said, ‘God, this is everything the movie should not be.’ “
But after Marvel Studios cinematic universe started a decade ago and launched successful series such as “Iron Man” and “The Avengers” – while casting a bunch of white blond guys named Chris – fans knew it was bound to use its rights to the top black superhero.
Chadwick Boseman was cast in 2014, and the character made his first cinematic appearance in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) was in talks to direct his first solo film, but she and the studio had differences of opinion on the story. Marvel hired Ryan Coogler, acclaimed director of “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed,” and cast the star of those films, Michael B. Jordan, as the villain, Erik Killmonger.
Hudlin said he met Boseman shortly after the actor was cast, at an awards event in Los Angeles. The two caught each other’s eye, smiled, and Boseman said, “I know you want to talk about it.” Hudlin walked away from that conversation so impressed that he cast Boseman as Thurgood Marshall in his biopic.
The most important thing, Hudlin said, is that Marvel got the movie right. “Ultimately, this movie is going to be so huge, it’s going to change Hollywood. It’s going to change the perception of black films.”
If it is indeed successful, one reason will be that the Black Panther’s ethos goes beyond superheroics and offers a deeper meaning. Salim Akil, co-creator of the”Black Lightning” TV show, said that the character gets at “the connection that a lot of African-Americans want to have with Africa. We lost that part of us, so it’s great to be able to see that in the context of a superhero.”
Evan Narcisse, a writer for Io9 who also co-writes “The Rise of the Black Panther” miniseries with Coates, said T’Challa and his homeland channel a lot of unspoken desire that black readers have for how they want their collective paths to be represented.
“Wakanda represents this unbroken chain of achievement of black excellence that never got interrupted by colonialism,” Narcisse said.
Narcisse, who’s Haitian-American, writes a Black Panther series that is “filtered through my own Haitian identity.”When writing about the Wakandans’ pride in their homeland, he’s able to bring in the pride Haitians feel about achieving independence from France.
“We’re in a political moment where the president of the United States calls people from Haiti and Africa, he calls those countries ‘s—holes,’ “ Narcisse said. “If you’re a young person hearing that … you need to see a superhero that’s smart, cunning and noble who also looks like you. Granted, it’s fiction, but superheroes have always had an aspirational aspect to them.”
Another writer, Roye Okupe, grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and after graduating from George Washington University in 2009, he created YouNeek Studios, a self-published line of African superhero graphic novels, including “E.X.O.” and “Malika: Warrior Queen.” Okupe said “Black Panther” has an opportunity to show mainstream viewers that there are ways Africa can be portrayed aside from the usual war and corruption. He said he hopes that after its success, “people around the world writing stories like this about Afro-futurism, high- concept fantasy stories based on African culture and African mythology, can be given an opportunity to pitch to movie studios, pitch to TV networks.
“It’s not just about shoving African-ness into your face. It’s showing the different side of a culture that you don’t necessarily get to see all the time.”
As for hardcore fans on Black Twitter, they made the hashtag #blackpanthersolit trend before the movie was even in production. In recent months, many have tweeted GIFs and viewed trailers repeatedly, and watched as the cast – which also includes Angela Bassett, Sterling K. Brown, Lupita Nyong’o and Forest Whitaker – tweet images of their characters.
Marvel sees “the impact of Black Twitter, and they’re using that to their advantage by creating this mass marketing machine around it,” said Jamie Broadnax, founder of the geek culture site Black Girl Nerds.
“Black Panther” is on pace to sell more advance tickets than any superhero film in Fandango’s 18-year history. Actress Octavia Spencer is planning to buy out a theater in Mississippi for kids of color, and ESPN journalist Jemele Hill is organizing a screening for 200 students in Detroit.
Broadnax said the reason for the hype is simple.
“I truly believe that most people in this world want to see diversity in their entertainment,” she says. “I think there’s a large contingent of folks out there that actually want to see a different kind of superhero.”
‘Black Panther’ fully embraces its blackness — and that’s what makes it unforgettable
By David Betancourt
Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa, King of Wakanda, in “Black Panther.” (Marvel Studios)
“Black Panther” is a stunning visual and cultural achievement that takes superhero cinema where it’s never gone before by not being afraid to embrace its blackness.
That may seem like stating the obvious for a movie that features an all-black cast and tells the tale of an African king ruling over a never-conquered nation, but it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the film’s layers.
It could have been easy to embrace the “super” aspects of this world. This is a Marvel Studios movie after all, and the primary objective of each tale in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is to continue the ongoing, connected narrative. The film could have just been all panther suits and bad guys with cannons for arms, fighting over a rare metal that is the most indestructible element on earth. That would have been the “Hollywood” thing to do. But “Black Panther” had a much bigger responsibility than that. “Black Panther” had to do it for the culture.
At the heart of the story is Africa, and specifically Wakanda, the fictional Marvel Comics-created land, and its relationship with the world. Wakanda and the Black Panther/King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) must take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves if keeping their existence a secret has kept the world safer (it keeps the nation’s technological advancements out of the hands of those who would use them for harm), or if they are guilty of ignoring the black suffering that has been endured across the planet by those who descend from the African motherland.
Black rage is front and center in the film, and exuded in a spellbinding performance by Michael B. Jordan as classic comics villain Erik Killmonger. Jordan’s Killmonger uses the pain of a tragedy from his childhood as fuel as he embarks on a mission to become a one-man killing machine, powerful enough to challenge the legendary Black Panther in direct combat. As seen in the trailers for the film, Jordan eventually becomes a gold-plated Black Panther of his own, hellbent on collecting reparations from a world that hasn’t been fair to those who look like him.
Michael B. Jordan stars as “Black Panther” villain Erik Killmonger. (Marvel Studios)
Standing in his way is a heroic stand by Boseman as the titular hero.
Boseman is a prince turned king who learns the hard way that weary is the head that wears the crown. With his royal ascension, T’Challa is given access to Wakanda’s secrets — the good, the bad and the ugly — and puts it upon himself to try to find the best path forward for his people’s future and their connection to the world from which they hide.
Boseman takes command of the role. No longer a supporting character as he was in his debut in “Captain America: Civil War,” he is instead a charismatic leading man who clenches his fist when he must and inspires always. Boseman has handled portraying real-life black legends before: Jackie Robinson. James Brown. Thurgood Marshall. And while the Black Panther is fictional, his influence on black, geek-culture fandom knows no bounds and his followers are fanboyishly passionate. This isn’t just any black superhero. He’s the black superhero. And Boseman makes the part his own.
At his side is Lupita Nyong’o, who is more than convincing as the Black Panther’s ex-girlfriend, Nakia, and the one person who can make him “freeze,” or stop in his tracks. One can only hope this is the beginning of more roles like this for the Academy Award-winning actress, a beyond-talented performer who deserves a shot at action, romance, comedy and whatever else Hollywood can throw at her. For too long, dark-skinned black actresses like Nyong’o have been limited in the types of roles they play because they don’t fit the one-dimensional template of what Hollywood thinks a leading lady should look like. Nyong’o throws punches, shoots guns and steals hearts in a role she seems born for. Sure, she’s no stranger to major pop-culture movie events — she’s a part of the “Star Wars” franchise and she’s been in “Jungle Book” — but the announcements of her casting in those movies were often dulled in the eyes of her fans because she played CGI characters. Part of the black girl magic of her performance in “Black Panther” is that we can actually see her the way she was meant to be seen.
Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia must balance duty for country with what she feels is truly best for her native Wakanda. (Marvel Studios)
In creating a new kind of superhero movie, “Black Panther” also loyally embraces its own heritage — specifically the three black writers who have left an indelible mark on the character in the pages of the comic books. The Dora Milaje, the Black Panther’s elite all-female bodyguards, are movingly led by actress Danai Gurira (who plays Okoye) and breathtaking in their dominance when protecting their king, a nod to the ’90s run of writer Christopher Priest. Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s little sister, created by Reginald Hudlin and artist John Romita Jr., is a scene-stealer. (If Hudlin’s writing has any influence in the future, she might become a Black Panther herself.) And the revolutionary uprising that questions Wakanda’s monarchy, recently written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is on full display and led by Jordan’s unforgettable role.
Even the Black Panther’s purple-energy, kinetically charged suit is a nod to the recent illustrations of artist Brian Stelfreeze.
It’s all there in a movie that is a one-of-a-kind experience: undeniably bold, black and beautiful.
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