[nextpage title=”15 Facts You Need to Know About Marvel’s Black Panther” ]On February 16th, Black Panther will become the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be headlined by a Black superhero (read our full review here). Already, this has generated a great deal of excitement and controversy among fans. Some are celebrating the empowering message that Black Panther sends to superhero fans with its plot about an African king going toe-to-toe against the powers of colonialism, while others are, uh, trying to sabotage the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score. Black Panther is already breaking records for Marvel pre-sale tickets, however, and early buzz for the film is overwhelmingly positive. In other words, people really want to see this movie.
As a comic book character, Black Panther has a long history that predates the MCU by over 40 years. As the first Black superhero, created in the midst of the civil rights movement, that history contains a lot of politically charged commentary. Many of the cast members and creative minds behind the MCU Black Panther have spoken about the importance of the character and what an honour it is to be involved with this movie. That’s a lot of info that won’t be packed into a single film, so we’ve whittled it down to 15 Facts You Need To Know About Black Panther.[/nextpage]
[nextpage title=”The First Black Superhero” ]
15. The First Black Superhero
Marvel godfather Stan Lee and legendary artist Jack Kirby created Black Panther in 1966, and he made his debut in Fantastic Four #66. (For the record, that was a few months before the founding of the Black Panther Party.) The character was T’Challa, the king of Wakanda, who invited the Fantastic Four to his futuristic home nation in order to test himself against them and see if he had the strength to take on Ulysses Klaw, who sought to steal the nation’s supply of Vibranium.
Black Panther wasn’t the first Black superhero ever (a little-known publication called All-Negro Comics published in 1947 featured characters such as “Ace Harlem” and “Lion Man”), but he was the first Black superhero to debut in the pages of a mainstream comic book. Over the next decade, Marvel and DC added several Black characters to their roster, including Blade, Luke Cage, Storm, Black Lightning and John Stewart as the Green Lantern.
[nextpage title=”The History of Wakanda” ]
14. The History of Wakanda
T’Challa is the king of Wakanda, a fictional African country with a fascinating history. T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, was king of the nation when he discovered a vast source of Vibranium. Believing that western powers would ravage and exploit the country if they found out about the Vibranium, T’Chaka closed the country off to the world, allowing it to develop advanced technologies in complete isolation from the rest of the global community.
By the time T’Chaka opened the country up to the world again, Wakanda had become the most technologically advanced nation in the world, and you can see the futuristic aesthetics of its capital city, Birnin Zana in the trailers for Black Panther. The fictional history of Wakanda offers a vision for what an African nation might look like without the burden of colonialism.
[nextpage title=”Almost Named “The Coal Tiger”” ]
13. Almost Named “The Coal Tiger”
Black Panther is not a pseudonym in the same way that “Superman” or “Batman” are pseudonyms. Rather, it’s the official title for the chief of the Panther tribe in Wakanda, meaning that T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, was the Black Panther before him, and that the next chief will also take over the Black Panther title.
But Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original art actually called him “The Coal Tiger,” which was a term being used at the time to describe post-colonial African nations. Marvel later reused the “Coal Tiger” moniker for T’Challa’s son, Prince T’Chaka II, who could transform into a tiger-like creature in an alternate future of the Marvel timeline.
In 1972, Marvel briefly changed Black Panther’s name to “Black Leopard” to avoid associations with the controversial political party, but the name soon reverted.
[nextpage title=”Black Panther Starred in Marvel’s first “Graphic Novel”” ]
12. Black Panther Starred in Marvel’s first “Graphic Novel”
Comic book fans still get into arguments about what constitutes a “graphic novel,” but historian Jason Sacks has argued that “Panther’s Rage,” a self-contained, two-year Black Panther storyline that ran in Jungle Action from 1973 – 1975, is the first Marvel graphic novel, and a big stepping stone for the comic book industry as it matured through the decades. At the time, a Marvel line called Jungle Action was mostly devoted to white jungle heroes in the vein of Tarzan, which felt out-of-date, even for 1973.
Author Don McGregor wanted to create a storyline for Jungle Action with a Black protagonist, which brought us this highly influential storyline. “Panther’s Rage” takes T’Challa out of the Avengers (he was a member at the time) and brings him back to Wakanda, where forces are aligning to stage a revolution against their king. The story also introduces Erik Killmonger as the leader of the revolution. Killmonger blames T’Challa and his father, T’Chaka, for the death of his own father, motivating him to take the crown.
[nextpage title=”Black Panther Has Fought the Ku Klux Klan”]
11. Black Panther Has Fought the Ku Klux Klan
Following the “Panther’s Rage” storyline, Black Panther returned to the United States for a three issue showdown also written by Don McGregor. After “Panther’s Rage,” rumour has it that McGregor was pressured to include more white characters in the next storyline, so he acquiesced by making them members of a notorious hate group, the Klu Klux Klan.
In this storyline, T’Challa arrives in rural Georgia to investigate the death of Angela Lynne, his girlfriend’s sister. Angela was investigating corruption in her hometown, and as T’Challa uncovers the reasons behind her death, he ends up embroiled in a KKK conspiracy. Unfortunately, the Jungle Action line was cancelled before the storyline concluded, and it wasn’t resolved until years later.
[nextpage title=”T’Challa’s Sister, Shuri, Has Also Been Black Panther”]
10. T’Challa’s Sister, Shuri, Has Also Been Black Panther
As we mentioned previously, T’Challa isn’t the only Black Panther. The name is the official title for the leader of the panther tribe in Wakanda. When T’Challa was left comatose by the Cabal (a group of supervillains led by Doctor Doom), his half-sister Shuri was nominated by Queen Ororo to become the new Black Panther and queen of Wakanda.
But claiming the Black Panther name isn’t that simple. In order to become the Black Panther, one must be granted superpowers by the Panther God. Unfortunately for Shuri, the Panther God did not think she was a suitable replacement for T’Challa because of her jealousy toward him. Nevertheless, she earned the Panther God’s approval and became the Black Panther by sacrificing herself to stop Morlun, a sorcerer who wished to destroy Wakanda.
Shuri is played by Letitia Wright in the upcoming film. Will she take over Chadwick Boseman in the title role one day? It’s possible.
[nextpage title=”Christopher Priest Was the First Full-Time Black Writer at Marvel”]
9. Christopher Priest Was the First Full-Time Black Writer at Marvel
Christopher Priest, who wrote an influential chunk of Black Panther stories from 1998 – 2003, was the first full-time Black writer to work at either Marvel or DC Comics. Under the name “Jim Owsley,” He first entered the industry as a regular writer for Marvel in 1983, writing for series like Falcon and Power Man and Iron Fist. Then he switched over DC and wrote for various titles.
Priest’s relationships with the major publishers weren’t always smooth and he actually spent some time in self-imposed exile as a bus driver during this era, but eventually he returned to Marvel to pen Black Panther under the edgy “Marvel Knights” banner. Priest told the story from the perspective of Everett K. Ross, T’Challa’s bumbling, white diplomatic escort in New York. This idea allowed him to poke at the racial issues common to the Black Panther series from a new vantage point.
Despite leaving comics to become a pastor in 2005, Priest picked up a cult following as more readers became acquainted with his work and his stature. He returned to comics in 2014 to revive his old Quantum and Woody series, and currently serves as the writer for Justice League.
[nextpage title=”Famed American Author Ta-Nehisi Coates Is the Current Series Author”]
8. Famed American Author Ta-Nehisi Coates Is the Current Series Author
Famed political commentator and Atlantic editor Ta-Nehisi Coates is another author to take the reins of the Black Panther series. Shortly after the publication and bestselling success of Between the World and Me, a James Baldwin-inspired memoir about the struggle for Black freedom in the United States, Coates surprised his high-brow fans when Marvel announced that he would be taking over the Black Panther series.
Coates has been a long-time fan of Marvel comics, and saw fit to mold Black Panther his own way. He crafted a story, called “A Nation Under Our Feet,” that explored what would happen to Wakanda and T’Challa’s uncontested leadership, after a series of defeats on an international scale. Coates’ work on the series proved to be incredibly popular and even earned him a Hugo Award nomination.
[nextpage title=”In the MCU, Black Panther First Appeared in Captain America: Civil War“]
7. In the MCU, Black Panther First Appeared in Captain America: Civil War
Black Panther (like Spider-Man) made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Captain America: Civil War as part of the ensemble of cinematic superheroes. In case you need your memory refreshed, that film began with the Avengers heading to Vienna for a UN convention on the Sokovia Accords, an international agreement that would allow the UN to oversee the team.
During the convention, a brainwashed Bucky Barnes kills T’Chaka of Wakanda with a bomb, which gives T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) a reason to suit up and give chase along with the rest of the Avengers. The post-credits scene of Civil War also gave us our first glimpse of Wakanda, as it reveals that Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, is being held in cryogenic sleep until doctors can reverse his brainwashing.
Will Bucky Barnes show up in Black Panther? Sebastian Stan isn’t on the cast list, but it’s not beyond Marvel to throw us a curveball every once in a while.
[nextpage title=”Not the First Black Superhero Film”]
6. Not the First Black Superhero Film
Black Panther isn’t the first Black superhero to appear on the big screen. He’s not even Marvel’s first Black superhero to have his own film. That would be Blade, the half-vampire vigilante played by Wesley Snipes who hunts down his vampire foes across three films. There are also a handful of Black superheroes in the MCU, including Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
But there are a few other Black superhero films, and some of them are playing at a BAMcinématek series in Brooklyn called “Fight the Power: Black Superheroes on Film.” BAM is taking a broad approach to the word “superhero” (the series includes Blaxploitation films like Shaft and even cult classic horror film Candyman), but the series does includes more conventional superhero films like Spawn, and, uh, Catwoman. The Shaquille O’Neal DC vehicle Steel, however, did not make the cut.
[nextpage title=”Black Panther has a Black Crew Behind the Camera and In Front” ]
5. Black Panther has a Black Crew Behind the Camera and In Front
One thing that differentiates Black Panther from other superhero movies with Black characters in them is the fact that this film features several Black collaborators both in front of and behind the camera. Black Panther is directed by Ryan Coogler, who previously made the fan-favourite Creed<, proving that he can handle franchise material, as well as the critical darling Fruitvale Station. The screenplay was co-written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, who was a writer and producer on the critically acclaimed American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson.
In front of the camera, Boseman is the star, but Coogler also reteams with Creed and Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan. The poster also features Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya and several other Black actors. Furthermore, critics are impressed that this film is being treated as an “event” film for all audiences. Disney gave this film a real budget and an enormous marketing push, and so far it seems to be paying off.
[nextpage title=”Haters are Trying To Sabotage the Movie’s Rotten Tomatoes Score” ]
4. Haters are Trying To Sabotage the Movie’s Rotten Tomatoes Score
Earlier this month, an “alt-right” Facebook group called “Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys” announced its plans to sabotage the Rotten Tomatoes audience score for Black Panther before its release. The group also claimed responsibility for the relatively low audience score that Star Wars: The Last Jedi received in December and announced plans to do the same thing to the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story. Using some pretty offensive language, the moderator of the Facebook page told HuffPost that he was upset by the increasing diversity of Star Wars franchise.
The campaign, which has been widely condemned, doesn’t seem to have harmed the film all that much. Facebook removed the group a few days after their campaign was announced. For his part, director Ryan Coogler says he’s not worried about the trolls.
[nextpage title=”Black Panther’s Accent is a Commentary on Colonialism” ]
3. Black Panther’s Accent is a Commentary on Colonialism
In a recent interview, Chadwick Boseman was asked why he chose to give the character an “African” accent. After all, wouldn’t the wealthy prince of an African nation be educated in English, the language of commerce and diplomacy? Wouldn’t T’Challa have spent his college years in London or New York or some other urban playground for the rich?
Boseman responded that he gave his character an accent to change perceptions about Africa that were formed because of colonialism:
“Colonialism in Africa would have it that, in order to be a ruler, his education comes from Europe. I wanted to be completely sure that we didn’t convey that idea because that would be counter to everything that Wakanda is about. It’s supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. If it’s supposed to not have been conquered — which means that advancement has happened without colonialism tainting it, poisoning the well of it, without stopping it or disrupting it — then there’s no way he would speak with a European accent.”
[nextpage title=”He Will be Fighting Against Ulysses Klaue (Klaw) and Killmonger” ]
2. He Will be Fighting Against Ulysses Klaue (Klaw) and Killmonger
In Black Panther, it looks like T’Challa will be facing off against both of his arch-nemeses from the comic books. Ulysses Klaue (Klaw in the comics) already made his debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron, portrayed by Andy Serkis. In that film, Klaue had enslaved Wakandans to mine Vibranium for him, which he then sold to Ultron, who later sliced off his hand during a fit of rage. In the comics, “Klaw” has a sonic emitter on his arm that he uses as a weapon, which seems likely to make an appearance here.
The film will also mark the MCU debut of Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). In Black Panther, Killmonger will be a former American black-ops soldier who returns to his native Wakanda for some kind of revenge against T’Challa. From the trailers, it looks like he’ll be teaming up against T’Challa at some point. In the comics, Killmonger blames T’Challa for his father’s death at the hands of Klaw, and leads a coup d’état while the Black Panther is in America.
[nextpage title=”He Was Once Married To Storm from the X-Men” ]
1. He Was Once Married To Storm from the X-Men
In the comics, T’Challa was once married to another popular Black superhero. That would be Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, the weather-changing X-Man. The wedding, portrayed in an issue of Black Panther in 2006, attracted a who’s who of Marvel superheroes to Wakanda for the day of bliss, and Storm became Queen Ororo of Wakanda.
With the news that Disney will be buying 21st Century Fox, along with its existing Marvel properties, it’s likely that the X-Men will soon be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Does this mean the film franchise could give us a union of these two beloved characters? Only time will tell, but Chadwick Boseman says that it probably won’t be happening soon.
The marriage itself didn’t last long in the comics, so perhaps that’s for the best.
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