Imagine if you would, being an 8-year-old kid in 1988 who is pretty much confined to their home. Now not due to illness or lack of friends, but due to the fact that the violence in and around the neighborhood is SO bad that a child cannot even play in front of their home for fear of being shot. You go to school and head straight home even that is a challenge. Nintendo Entertainment System was released three years prior and the world had become hooked on Super Mario Bros, Tetris, Castlevania , Contra and many more game that would all test the human lung capacity. Of course you had one in your home. On radios blared “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, “Girl You Know It’s True”, “Straight Outta Compton”, “Dirty Diana”, “My Prerogative” the list goes on and on. All of this seems as if it would be enough, not to mention what was on television and movies on VHS to keep a child with a buddy imagination completely engaged and entertained.
But this child is not the average child with the average imagination. This is a child who dreams in color. This child is infatuated with the art they see whether it be in cartoon form or that of comic books. The beauty and detail of superheroes, extraordinary men, women, even other worldly individuals that are saving the world with amazing powers and abilities. There’s Iron Man, Batman, Superman, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Wolverine, Spider-man along with others. This child is so enamored with them that they want to recreate them and they’ve been drawing them and coloring them. There is a sense of contentment with these characters but there’s a problem. None of the main characters look like them.
This young black child doesn’t see any leaders of the team that look like them. One day while visiting their local comic shop one particular title calls out to them, THE BLACK PANTHER! Who is this hero? Where did they come from? Why is it they are covered? This just has to be another guy that looks like every other superhero he sees but just happens to don the look of a POWERFUL creature from the jungle. Curiosity is overwhelming, anticipation rising, the child opens up to a random page, “hmm the jungle. Wait a minute, what is Wakanda? What country is this supposed to be, this is not a real place? Oh my god it is in Africa. I’ve heard about it in school. It is where my ancestors are from. They are kings and queens, but this looks futuristic-like but wait, why would they have another white guy…he’s black and he’s the KING?”
Everything is different now, everyone else is secondary. THE BLACK PANTHER is not only a HERO, he’s a king and most importantly he looks like the captivated kid. Now the search is on for more and more of the comics books about this hero. Yes, there are other heroes but this one is A KING and a SUPERHERO and is IN CHARGE. So many stories, so many adventures he crosses over with the favorites this is surreal. There has to be more people who look like the child to talk excitedly about this. The other kids don’t know but now they do and the excitement is spreading in the community it’s contagious. Now playing make-believe in the hood takes a new turn. “I’m the Black Panther”, “No, I’m the Black Panther” ,“I’m T’chaka and you’re my son. I’m the first Black Panther”, “I’m the Black Panther”……”You can’t be the Black Panther, you’re a girl”….”yes, I can see right here his sister Shuri, is the Black Panther”. This is a HERO for EVERYONE in the black community.
Time passes and even as the children age into adolescence this character is still part of their lives. Having appearances in many of the Marvel cartoons and that they watch from the X-men TV series to the Fantastic Four and even Iron Man to name a few, he is still relevant and we want more. We want him at the forefront and then he gets his own animated series on BET in 2010. Now even as a grown adult this is unbelievable, we’re getting a Black Panther led cartoon set in Wakanda. The visuals are beautiful, his regality is there, the strength and poise but wait a minute… why is it coming on at 2 in the morning? What it is about this character, that does not allow it to be treated with the same respect as the other ones. These are thoughts that go around and around in the heads of many are still having that love from youth.
During this time the Avengers arrive on the big screen. We are getting Jessica Jones and in it Luke Cage another black hero on Netflix, but it’s not the same. He was a hero and no diminishing him but he is not a KING he did not at one point LEAD the Avengers in the comics. The Falcon, another black hero is introduced we feel like ground is being broke and then it happens. In comes the announcement, WE ARE GETTING A SOLO BLACK PANTHER. IS THIS REAL LIFE? IS THIS ACTUALLY GOING TO HAPPEN? Yes, but first we are going to see him in Captain America: Civil War. The trailers for the movie for everyone else may focus on Spider-man’s arrival to the Marvel Cinematic Universe but to that kid inside the adult from that rough neighborhood we know what we want to see. We see it and it is GLORIOUS Chadwick Boseman embodies the character we cannot WAIT until its release. Captain America’s third solo film hits theaters and it is another hit directed by the Russo Brothers. However, the scenes with T’Challa are AMAZING, the same poise, prowess, athleticism, strength we have come to grow up with in the pages of comic books It is happening then the post credit scene shows us just a piece of Wakanda and cue the adult tears.
We are getting it, our representation, our moment, OUR HERO in his own film. Now come the casting and directorial announcements. “Oh for real Ava Duvernay, LETS DO THIS!! …wait she can’t then who…Ryan Coogler??? BRING IT ON!!” The cast publicly is revealed, and it’s a who’s who of Black Hollywood. Angela Bassett, Forrest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, and Sterling K. Brown just to name a few it is BLACK EXCELLENCE at its peak.
June 9, 2017, a moment many will never forget. It is game four of the NBA finals and it’s a classic with the Cleveland Cavaliers taking on the Golden State Warriors. But the excitement isn’t about that, it’s about what to come, the first teaser trailer for Marvel’s The Black Panther. OH MY GOD, its Wakanda, its Africa, it’s the motherland. The beauty, the colors, the cast, the action, Run the Jewels providing the backdrop music with their instrumental to “Legend Has It”, this isn’t any other superhero film not just Marvel or DC, THIS IS OUR FILM! Fast forward a month later to San Diego Comic Con Saturday, July 22, 2017, a full trailer is shown to those in attendance and even the cast themselves who haven’t seen it and the energy coupled with emotion flow from Hall H. The world wants to see it but it’s not yet released globally only a select few are privy to this.
October 17th that would change as the full trailer is dropped and social media goes ablaze. Excitement is in almost every Facebook post, Instagram video, Tweet, everywhere. The hash tags #BlackPanther and #BlackPantherSoLit trend worldwide and it is beautiful to see. Plans are being made to go to theaters across the country mimicking the dance/wedding scene from Coming to America. Something even more amazing is happening. The conversation being had amongst the elders of the black community who have never seen the superhero films are now ready to go in droves to see this film because its historic to them. Many never believed in their lifetime that they would see a Major Motion Picture blockbuster Black Superhero film. Yes, there was Blade (which is still a classic much love to Wesley Snipes) prior, but it wasn’t set in AFRICA fictional country or not, it wasn’t a reflection of the motherland, the culture, the history.
This is historical, many connect to this film. That 8 year old child, not able to play like he wanted to due to violence, drawn into reading this character while looking for one to identify with and grow up with him is now a grown man excited as a child at Christmas. He is not alone, grown men and women, boys and girls, young and old, different shades: light to dark from communities all around the country are just as excited.
February 16, 2018, will go down as another monumental day in Black History. It will be the day OUR AVENGER takes center stage surrounded by a cast of some of the best and brightest in Hollywood. Some may try to diminish it by saying “Why so much passion for a comic book character?” But to them I say, you have characters that fully represent YOU. You have that vast unlimited number of heroes that are billionaires and the first super powered “this” or “that’ you are given time in and time again. You have that representative of your heritage and your history. Now in this moment in time WE HAVE OURS! Wakanda Forever!