February is a special month for me. In addition to it being the month of my birthday, it is also the month we celebrate Black History and in turn a very special part of American History.
To celebrate both Black History and my birthday, this year I wanted to do something a little different and fun. For this month (and possibly beyond), I’m going to making posts related to being a black geek. I’ll post (and repost) some of my favorite books, movies, comics, etc. that feature black protagonists and discuss the challenges of being a person of color in fandom and in the speculative fiction industry.
So today I will be discussing one of my all time favorite DVDs, The Black Panther.
Deep in the heart of Africa lies Wakanda, an advanced and unconquerable civilization. A family of warrior-kings possessing superior speed, strength and agility has governed this mysterious nation as long as time itself. The latest in this famed line is young King T’Challa, the great hero known worldwide as the Black Panther.
Now outsiders once again threaten to invade and plunder Wakanda. Leading this brutal assault is Klaw, a deadly assassin with the blood of T’Challa’s murdered father on his hands, who brings with him a strong army of superpowered mercenaries. Even with Wakanda’s might and his own superhuman skills, can the Black Panther prevail against this deadly invading force?
How this film rocked, let me count the ways.
Before I go any further, I should state that apologies are in order. Years ago, there was a trailer for this series and I was less than impressed to put it mildly. It was a motion comic that was being pushed as an animated film and I was outraged that the film featuring the black superhero got the short end of the stick.
What I didn’t know was that the trailer was actually originally done by one animator who presented it to film executive producer Reginald Hudlin who penned the series and the film is based on his story arc. Hudlin presented it to Marvel and they greenlit it.
But you wouldn’t know that though the way Marvel threw this film/six part animated minseries under the bus. While lesser films such as Ultimate Avengers, Iron Man and Doctor Strange were pushed and heavily promoted, Black Panther was on iTunes and then removed and the DVD has to be ordered through Amazon and its primary advertising has been through word of mouth.
The most twisted part, this was some of Marvel’s finest work.
First and foremost, the star power alone should’ve made this a fully funded feature film in theaters or at the very least on DVD: We’re talking Djimon Hounsou as the titular protagonist, Alfre Woodard, Kerry Washington, Jill Scott, and Stan Lee.
The lack of support this film has gotten is proof how the Black Panther is one of the most overlooked superheroes ever. A gifted prodigy, a world class warrior whose skills are second to none, T’Challa is arguably Marvel’s answer to Batman as Bruce Wayne and T’Challa share more than a few parallels.
The film also reminded me why I sorely miss Hudlin’s writing on the Black Panther series. He has the perfect blend of escapism, social commentary, political intrigue, satire, and fantasy escapism that is second to none. This is a story that has political intrigue, explores the bonds of family, is part revenge saga, and is action packed with more than a few laughs. Not surprising considering this is the man that gave us Birth of A Nation along with Aaron McGruder. Hudlin’s writing of the Black Panther came under fire. The primary reason, in his world, black folks don’t play second string to white characters. They are just as accomplished as their caucasian peers and for a lot of white comic book fans, that’s far more far-fetched than super-powered beings. But for those of us who have been waiting for a film that features a black superhero with RESPECT, this film has been long overdue.
While the film sticks pretty faithfully to the graphic novel, Who Is The Black Panther, there are a few changes and in my opinion for the better. Most notably, a cameo from the X-Men and Storm is brought in as a major player. While I wasn’t a fan of the execution of the Storm/T’Challa relationship, I’m always happy to see the Goddess in any series. After all, she is the First Lady of Marvel as far as I’m concerned. Mad props to Jill Scott who flawlessly delivers a beautiful African accent in her portrayal of Storm.
And if you’re not a comic book person, that’s totally okay too. This film is very self-contained and you’ll get the full story without feeling lost.
What I was really happy to hear is that the film has done immensely well. Last I heard, the Black Panther has outsold comparable X-Men and Iron Man films, both of which have had the backings of live-action films.
Of course I’m left with only one question to Marvel: WHAT THE FRAK IS WRONG WITH YOU? WHY AREN’T YOU PUSHING MORE FILMS LIKE THIS? DON’T YOU WANNA MAKE MONEY? I LIKES TO MAKE MONEY. I WANNA HELP YOU MAKE MONEY!!!!!!
Minority superheroes when handled with respect do equal financial success: Cassandra Cain run on Batgirl, Kevin Keller, Batwoman, this film here.
I implore you to check out Counting Colored Cash for further proof.
In the meantime, I’ll be Waiting For Wakanda.
And if this video here doesn’t get you hyped enough to go buy the DVD off of Amazon or get the episodes off of Youtube, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. I really don’t.
Black Panther is available now on Youtube, Amazon and wherever DVDs of AWESOME are sold.