‘Black Panther’ puts Africa at the center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
By Bob Strauss
You bet it’s political.
Marvel’s “Black Panther” movie is an almost all-African superhero spectacular, something previously unseen. It’s built around the title character, who is also known as T’Challa, leader of the mythical, secretive and super-advanced kingdom of Wakanda.
Played by American Chadwick Boseman (“42,” “Marshall”), Black Panther was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe two years ago in “Captain America: Civil War.” His standalone movie comes at a time of heightened, often race-based political acrimony, and within a month of when President Trump reportedly described some African countries with a vulgar pejorative.
The character began in comic books during an era of protests, riots and efforts to make equality a real thing, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to be the first Black superhero in 1966. Over the decades, succeeding writers and artists – 2015 National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates and best-selling essayist Roxanne Gay have written the character in recent years – have used the series to present empowering yet complex portrayals of African men and, increasingly, African women.
All of that and much more informs “Black Panther’s” script by director Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole (“American Crime Story”). A huge comic book fan since his Oakland, California youth, Coogler understood from the get-go that politics had to be at the core of the most distinctive supersaga Marvel has yet produced.
“T’Challa’s a politician first and foremost, and that’s what makes him unique in the MCU,” says Coogler, whose previous features were the racially charged, true hometown tragedy “Fruitvale Station” and the critically/commercially successful Rocky franchise reviver “Creed.” “He has to operate on Earth, you know what I mean? He’s in this fantastical place, but it’s a grounded place, and he has to operate as a politician in the world. We thought that was the most unique thing […]