By John Fiorella
BLACK PANTHER #1, YR 2005
As a kid, I thought Black Panther was lame. I couldn’t get past the costume, which made him look like a wannabe Batman. But that all changed in 2005 when the cosmic powers of Reginald Hudlin and John Romita teamed up to reinvent the character with a remarkable blend of smarts and style.
The crowning achievement of this issue happens toward the end, when a room full of government brass argue over how to infiltrate the Black Panther’s territory. Ordinarily, this scene would feel cliché. But not here. Nope. Instead, we learn about Captain America’s attempt to enter this sacred land, which ends all too awesomely for words.
by Tambay Obenson
This is more significant than it might initially seem on the surface, given that Charles Burnett, director of Killer of Sheep – universally considered a landmark of American independent cinema – has never been formally and publicly recognized by the Academy (he’s never been nominated, nor won any Oscars, whether official or honorary); something that some would consider a travesty given his influential and celebrated body of work (which also includes significant works like To Sleep With Anger and My Brother’s Wedding), as well as what he has meant to independent cinema since his years as a member of the L.A. Rebellion film movement of the late-1960s to the late-1980s, notable for having created a Black Cinema of the period that challenged classical Hollywood depictions of working and middle-class black life.
His magnum opus, Killer of Sheep, which examines black life in Watts in the mid-1970s through the eyes of a sensitive dreamer who is growing detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse, was shot on location during a series of weekends on a budget of less than $10,000, most of which was grant money. Finished in 1977 and shown sporadically, its reputation grew until it won a prize at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival.
Since then, the Library of Congress has declared it a national treasure as one of the first fifty on the National Film Registry; and the National Society of Film Critics selected it as one of the “100 Essential Films” of all time. However, due to the expense of the music rights, the film was never shown theatrically or made available on video for years. It was only been seen on poor quality 16mm prints at few and far between museum and festival showings.
Thirty years after its debut, the film was restored and transferred from a 16mm to a 35mm print by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and Milestone Films, thanks in part to a donation from filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. It then received a limited release, with a DVD release in late 2007.
And this year (2017), Milestone celebrated the 40th anniversary of the film – still timeless, relevant and beautifully stark – giving it a theatrical run that kicked off at the IFC Center in New York City.
The Academy finally officially recognized Burnett and his contributions to cinema when the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted September 5 to present an Honorary Award to the veteran filmmaker, in a ceremony that took place on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at the Academy’s 9th Annual Governors Awards in the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood, CA.
Mr. Burnett was joined by cinematographer Owen Roizman, actor Donald Sutherland and director Agnès Varda in receiving trophies.
“This year’s Governors Awards reflect the breadth of international, independent and mainstream filmmaking, and are tributes to four great artists whose work embodies the diversity of our shared humanity,” said Academy President John Bailey.
The Honorary Award, an Oscar statuette, is given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”
I think I speak for many when I say, it’s about time, and congratulations to Charles Burnett! Although, preferably, the Governors Awards celebration would’ve been a televised event that aired nationally, introducing the honorees to audiences who aren’t already familiar with their work, as is the case with Mr. Burnett especially, who remains largely unknown outside of cineaste circles.
To honor the filmmaker during the ceremony, Reginald Hudlin and Ava DuVernay both spoke during the evening, as part of the award presentation to Honorary Award recipient Burnett. Of course the man of the hour was also on-hand to receive his Oscar statue with an acceptance speech. Thankfully, the Academy has released videos of all 3 moments which are embedded below, in chronological order as they occurred during the event:
— Reginald Hudlin.
— Ava DuVernay.
— And finally the recipient himself, Charles Burnett.
Most people haven’t seen Charles Burnett’s masterpiece KILLER OF SHEEP. You need to fix that. As I said in my comments, the work of art I compare it to the most is Ralph Ellison’s INVISIBLE MAN. Here he is being given an Oscar for his work.
#blackexcellence in full effect at the AMPAS Governor’s Awards with Richard Brooks, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Chadwick Boseman and myself celebrating Charles Burnett.
Me and the terrific Tessa Thompson at the AMPAS Governor’s Awards. If you haven’t seen her in THOR: RAGNAROK yet, get on it!
‘Black Panther by Reginald Hudlin: The Complete Collection Vol. 1’ review: Does its titular hero proud
By Robert Reed
While Christopher Priest’s run on Black Panther is often touted as the definitive run on the character, Reginald Hudlin’s take is equally important due to the prominence he brought to Black Panther. Of course, prominence doesn’t always translate to quality, and this run hasn’t always been held in high regard. The question remains: is it good?
Black Panther by Reginald Hudlin: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 opens with the “Who is the Black Panther?” arc that serves as a fantastic introduction to the character and the mythos. The arc was initially part of the Marvel Knights banner and outside of the regular continuity before being retroactively folded in, and so while there are some basic changes (eg, Everett K. Ross no longer serves as an ally to T’Challa, T’Chaka’s death at the hands of Klaw is reworked from the original story by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee), this opening arc gets at the heart of Hudlin’s take on the character. The story is quickly paced, and draws on a number of characters from Marvel’s pantheon (something that remains true for the rest of the book) and shows just why the Black Panther is cool.
John Romita Jr.’s artwork is fantastic, providing stunning visuals of both ancient and modern Wakanda and some awesome fight sequences (including a two page spread covering Captain America’s WWII encounter with Wakanda). His T’Challa is handsome and intellectual, creating a visually interesting lead for the reader to follow.
Reginald Hudlin is great at balancing the emotionally powerful with the humorous, never falling into the pitfall of self-seriousness. The writing has a bit of self awareness to go along with its swagger.
Beyond this opening arc though, the collection takes a minute to find its groove. The crossover with X-Men (written by Peter Milligan with art by Salvador Larroca) and House of M are entertaining distractions, but they feel like interruptions before the book gets back on course with the “Two the Hard Way” arc.
Here, Hudlin begins to really shine, using Luke Cage’s experienced point of view to shine a greater light onto Black Panther. When one superhero admires and learns from another, it causes greater admiration for both heroes in the eye of the reader and Hudlin understands and utilizes that fact with great aplomb.
The climax of this collection, and indeed, its running throughline, is built around Black Panther finding a bride. And while marketing during the time may have led to a mystery around who that bride would be, Hudlin never hides the fact that Black Panther’s true love is Storm. This puts the X-Men crossover in context, while Black Panther and Storm had been connected to one another romantically as far back as Chris Claremont’s Marvel Team-Up #100, the relationship had only seen flashes of daylight since, such as in Priest’s Black Panther. To help the marriage seem “valid” in the eyes of fans, bringing Storm into the book earlier makes sense.
Hudlin also adds an unexpected layer of depth, highlighting that for T’Challa this isn’t only a romantic pursuit. It can’t be. He is a king and a king needs legitimate heirs to the throne. Hudlin does a fantastic job fleshing out both T’Challa and Storm (and what it means for a mutant to potentially be the Queen of a nation with as much political weight as Wakanda) and their relationship, and it gives the last third of the book a romance-adventure tone that isn’t often seen in superhero comics.
This lighter tone may not be to everyone’s liking, especially if you’re coming directly off of Priest’s take on the character, which was grittier and had more intricate storytelling. Hudlin’s run tonally feels similar to the older James Bond films, focusing on T’Challa from within his own head, as opposed to the use of a proxy. The politics aren’t absent in this volume, but they are more direct, unafraid of offending with their straightforwardness. United States officials refer to the Wakandans as “jungle bunnies” and the comic doesn’t flinch from the racial factors as to why the rest of the world continually underestimates Wakanda.
While John Romita Jr. and Salvador Larroca carry the front half of the book, the second half is largely handled by artist Scot Eaton. Eaton’s linework is incredibly detailed, and the thicker line weights he uses give inker Klaus Janson a lot to work with. The end result is a book that can change its look depending on the situation. Vampires in the Louisiana Bayou? Thick shadows, and rougher figures. A royal wedding? Beautiful detailing and smooth lines that make everything immaculate. Aiding in all of this is colorist Dean White who provides a visual consistency throughout the book. White uses warmer hues that give the book a heroic feeling, and uses deep blues and purples for sultry night scenes. In the final issue, Kaare Andrews makes a guest appearance for a supernatural sequence, and that transition between the styles of Eaton and Andrews really sells the other-worldliness.
The collection itself is printed well, and the dark blue of the volume serves as a distinctive visual indicator that this is different from the Priest run, so if you find yourself reaching for it on the shelf you can easily pick it out. For supplemental materials, the collection includes an article by Reginald Hudlin that was originally printed in the Who is the Black Panther? trade paperback, an article about the design of Storm’s wedding dress from The Bride as well as images of some of the cover sketches.
Is It Good?
More Sean Connery than Daniel Craig, Black Panther by Reginald Hudlin: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 is swaggering swashbuckling at its finest. Unapologetically black, it presents its titular hero and his kingdom of Wakanda at their highest point, blending afrofuturism, political intrigue, and adventure. There are some hiccups, and the lighter tone may not fit everyone’s tastes, but this is a solid collection that does its titular character proud.
Rating: 8.5 GREAT
Black Panther by Reginald Hudlin: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 is out now at comic shops and will be available at major retailers including Amazon on November 14th.