As someone who's not a comic book fan, even I'm excited about this movie.
What do you think about when you hear the word “Africa”? The image you have in your mind about what the continent is like is closely related to the books you read and the movies you watched growing up. If you grew up outside of Africa (like I did), you were probably exposed to many film and TV representations that depicted it as a hopeless wasteland where there was only poverty, famine, and violence. However, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie brilliantly put it in her talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” this is a misconception that can be easily solved by doing one simple thing: looking beyond this “single story” of a sad and ruined continent, and seeking out more stories that show the reality of Africa in all its richness and diversity.
Source: Den of Geek
The Black Panther movie is one of those stories we can go to in order to get a different perspective on Africa. Of course, it’s a fantasy movie based on a comic book series, so it won’t teach viewers anything about the “real” Africa, but it does aim towards a goal that’s not too different from that: introducing moviegoers from all over world (young and old, black or not) to a fictional African universe that is just as beautiful, complex, and rich as the real one. So, before you watch it, here are 5 things you should know that will help you understand the story better.
1. The Black Panther is a first.
The main character, T’Challa, is the first black superhero created by Marvel. The first time that he appeared in a comic book was on the 52nd number of the Fantastic Four, written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966. In other words, he didn’t have his own series yet, but he was the first black hero to have super powers.
2. This Black Panther has nothing to do with The Black Panthers.
The first time I heard that there was a comic superhero called the Black Panther, the first thing that came to mind was the group that became famous during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. I thought it was impossible that it was only a coincidence. Apparently, it is, though. The 52nd number of the Fantastic Four came out in July 1966, three months before the Black Panther organization was founded in Oakland, California. In this way, the timeline is clear, and there’s no way that the superhero was inspired by the organization. So, how do we explain the shared name? Most likely, it all boils down to the imagery: a panther is a strong, beautiful, and impressive feline, so it’s the perfect symbol for black power and resistance.
3. Who is the Black Panther?
The Black Panther is T’Challa, the king of a fictional East African country called Wakanda. Wakanda is unique among African countries because it has never been conquered by outside forces, and it’s also the most technologically advanced human country in Marvel’s universe. As king, T’Challa rules over all Wakandans and is also in charge of protecting the country, which has been kept in isolation from the rest of the world since forever. However, T’Challa wants things to change in Wakanda, so when he becomes king after the death of his father, he decides to open up the country to the rest of the world, and has to rely on his intelligence, strength, and leadership to ensure it keeps thriving.
4. So, what will the movie be about?
Directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station), and starring Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the movie is an introduction to the Black Panther’s universe. When his father dies, he needs to return to Wakanda to take his place and protect his people. However, outside forces as well as inner factions put his leadership to the test, and he has to rely on himself and his all-female army, the Dora Milaje, to bring peace to Wakanda and prevent a world war.
5. The comic book’s author went from writer to bus driver to preacher.
Although the Black Panther character has been written by various authors throughout its history, the definitive take on this superhero belongs to Christopher Priest, who started writing the series in 1998. Priest grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, devouring every comic book he could get his hands on. As a result, he became the first ever black intern at Marvel, and rose up the ranks until he became an editor in his early twenties. He has always been passionate about writing, but not so much about the publishing world, so he has gone through periods where he disappears and then comes back to write something new, which explains the years he spent as a bus driver. As of now, he serves as a Baptist minister in Chicago.
Are you excited to watch the movie already? From the trailer alone, I just know that it will be a lot of fun and also a turning point for superhero movies.
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