The Significance of Black Panther In The MCU & Beyond
Captain America, Iron Man, Batman, Superman & Thor. Each one of these superheroes has various similarities. Thor and Superman are physical powerhouses. Batman and Iron Man are blessed with billions to fund each of their own respective crusades. Captain America and Superman are as patriotic as it gets when it comes to nationalistic comic book characters. These shared qualities are what’s expected when discussing parallels between classic comic book heroes. There’s one similarity each one of these heroes shares, that’s often disregarded and not given a second thought: they’re all white. These definitive characters that’ve transcended the comic book panels they were bred on are all Caucasian. If you’re someone who’s sensitive to race or who just doesn’t like to get involved with matters of creed and color, don’t worry, this isn’t some racially centered piece. Mentioning the color of the aforementioned superheroes is merely a transitioning point. It’s no surprise when a white hero has billions of dollars or is a native of a far away and exotic locale. It’s become common. These blessings are victim to a distinction that’s become repetitive and old. The nationalism of Captain America is admirable but expected. The billions Batman uses are cool, but somewhat tame. We know what we are getting from these characters when it comes to their faculties. It’s not to say that it’s all bland because they’re white but, their perspective on their wealth, power and ideology is fairly similar and predictable. Tony is a rude, charming and wild playboy, but he’s also a determined and hard-nosed hero. Batman is an alteration of that as he plays the playboy façade and favors being the hero. But is he still not a playboy? What I’m trying to elaborate is the perceptions of these heroes are rudimentary and easily recycled. The white superheroes’ world and perception is one we as fans, have explored thoroughly. Diversity matters. I know it’s a tired line in the world of comic book films, but hey, DEAL WITH IT.
I stated that this article isn’t racially concentrated. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t bring it up now and again. Every feature that the above-mentioned heroes have is shared in some way with a more ethnic and exotic hero who’s about to make his big screen debut: Black Panther. Like Captain Steven Rogers, Black Panther is a patriotic superhero. He’s the leader of the entire nation of Wakanda. He lives and breathes Wakanda. Everything he does is for the country, like Cap and the USA. Wakanda is a mysterious and interesting land. Like Thor and Superman, Black Panther (T’Challa) comes from a world of wonder. He carries the weight of that world like his super powered colleagues do with theirs. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are billionaires. T’Challa is as well. What he does with his wealth differs greatly. His wealth is just as invested in his country as it is in his arsenal. I’m not saying Stark and Batman aren’t philanthropic to their cities or country, but it can argued they put more money into their gadgets. Panther has the skills of Cap, more intellect and wealth than Stark and Wayne and the regality of Thor. Black Panther is very similar to other superheroes but it’s those very similarities that expose the vast differences. Panther’s approach to being a hero is different. His approach to being a national leader as well.
Marvel Studios has a major important film coming in Black Panther. There’s no superhero like him on the silver screen right now. The pressure is on. Some individuals may believe that Marvel has to deliver with Spider-Man as he’s, most likely, the world’s most popular hero. Regardless, people will go and see Spider-Man, even if Marvel fails; he’s Spidey. Marvel OWES fans, black people, doubters and more a great Black Panther film. T’Challa is the most significant MCU character to debut ever. Here’s why:
AN AFRICAN ANOMALY
T’Challa of Wakanda isn’t a billionaire playboy who builds armored suits. He isn’t a weak kid from Brooklyn who became a super soldier with a scientific serum. Nor is he a god from another realm with thunderous abilities. He’s a humble king from Africa. He’s the face of a nation. His billions are philanthropic and for his people. His intelligence isn’t for the creation of weapons but for the conception of peace. He’s not just a poster boy for his country; he’s a diplomat and politician. Black Panther is more than just one type of hero. He’s not distinguished by one classic trait. He’s many things. He’s a king, a diplomat, a scientist and a hero. Yes, Tony stark is an armored hero who dabbles in science, but he’s defined by his suits mostly. Thor is a prince and a god, but he’s recognized mostly for being a warrior who holds Earth in higher regard than Asgard it seems (his MCU version at least). Captain America is one of my favorite characters but he is just a soldier. His ideals are refreshing and commendable but it’s defined him as a hackneyed boy scout to many (I know better). Black Prather is a hero we haven’t seen in not just the MCU, but all of comic book films. When you think of T’Challa, he’s many things and he’s defined by numerous elements. There’s the typical billionaire playboy superhero and then there’s the billionaire ambassadorial ruler of a nation.
Wakanda is a spectacular and exotic African nation. It’s technologically advanced, culturally rich and visually stunning. Have we seen this before in the MCU? Yes. Asgard is an intriguing REALM. The key word is realm. As you can tell by my capitalization of it. Asgard is one of a number of other worlds that been experienced in the MCU and comic book films in general. Asgard has been showcased, but not to the degree it should be. Wakanda, although fictional, contains actual depictions of African culture. A culture on Earth. It will be refreshing to visit a place of wonder that’s not billions of light years away. Wakanda isn’t only an interesting country in terms of visuals and culture, but nationalism. Captain America’s heart beats for America. We’ve seen that time and time again. Witnessing another heroes’ nationalistic pride will be something original; especially when that hero isn’t from the good old’ USA. Black Panther’s stomping ground offers new and exciting benefits in more than one way.
YES I’M MENTIONING DIVERSITY
Sam Wilson and Rhodey have got to feel a little lonely in the MCU. I’m not trying to go against both military men having white best friends who are top dog; or how they’re the only coffee colored characters in the MCU. That sounds a little antagonistic. What I’m focusing on is the fact that Falcon and Rhodey are secondary characters? Yes both are badass. I know they are both Avengers now (CONGRATS), but their BFFS will be the center of attention in that upcoming Civil War that’s brewing. Isn’t it time for a black perspective on things in the MCU that’s supremely significant and rivals that of the other cream colored Avengers? A perspective that will solidify itself amongst all black superheroes in all comic book films? Black Panther’s philosophy, opinions and thoughts will be equal to that, or more important, than the Avengers. Panther is a king and an intellectual. And he’s black. His skin color and African identity allows for a viewpoint that new and welcome, if you ask me. I’m a black male and I can’t wait to see a black superhero who isn’t the best friend or relative partner.
Marvel rarely hits subject matter that’s sensitive or influential on society. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is probably the only film to really explore a significant societal topic: drone warfare and the military industrial complex. But, there phase three films seem to aiming towards that. Captain Marvel has a chance to be a strong voice for females. Black Panther can really delve into race and identify on the silver screen. Rarely, is a black person a headliner in a major film. Seldom, is a cast of a major blockbuster all black. Also, I feel as if many people focus on African Americans benefiting form a Black Panther film. How about Africans? This is films that can represent the best of Africa’s wonderful culture and showcase it on the world stage. Those third world African countries are, unfortunately, the first thought that comes to people’s minds when they think of the large continent. Black Panther can change all that as it ca show the splendid, strong and beautiful side of Africa.
Once T’Challa arrives on the scene, Nick Fury will express a great sigh of relief and happiness.
I’m Not From Around Here
The visitor from another land in a comic book film is either alien or some eastern European villain. It’s a cliché. Thor was a fish out of water for a short time. His unawareness of Earth culture certainly fits a more comedic tone. The immigrant villain is often the same and is distinct because of their homelands harsh atmosphere (looking at you Whiplash). Black Widow is a master spy; she’s used to acclimating to different locales and personas. She’s obviously not that much of a foreigner, as her Russian history is touched upon, but not heavily. Black Panther’s foreign identity can’t be ignored or turned into some comedic bits. His African national identity means something. It’s a large part of who he is. He takes it very seriously. When he leaves his homeland, he’s bringing Wakanda with him and he wants you to know it. Not to mention, his choices when not on Wakandan soil, are important as he is a political dignitary and a king. He can’t make the same decisions as the Avengers do. If he drops a city from the sky, there’s going to be a problem for his country.
There’s no hiding where he’s from. There’s no shame in where he comes from. You’re going to hear the accent (Black Widow what’s up). T’Challa is going to express his African ideology on someone even if he’s not in his homeland. He’s going to tell you he’s from the land of Vibranium. And if you come to his nation, you’re in HIS NATION. His rules are the only rules. Wakanda’s customs will be appreciated. He’s not going to change the beat of his drum when he’s in the United States. He’s Wakanda, born and bred.
THIS IS WAKANDA!
In the film 300, Leonidas belted out the name of his warrior nation as he vehemently kicked a threatening visitor into a black and endless pit. This visitor meant to bring harm to his people and as a protective king, Leonidas wasn’t having it. T’Challa has no limits when it comes to his people. He will fight for them, kill for them and die for them. Many have tried to conquer T’Challa’s great nation and none have succeeded. Some have come close, such as the Skrulls, but none have fully triumphed. The lengths Panther will go for his home is astounding. It’s something we’ve never seen in the MCU. Thor has protected the Earth numerous times. That’s not to say he hasn’t protected Asgard, but never with a conviction like Black Panther. Most heroes care about saving the world. Black Panther only cares about saving his country. He has such a huge responsibility on his hands. We, as audience, should see how great a burden T’Challa carries ruling an entire nation; and how that burden only motivates him to protect Wakanda at all costs.
POLITICAL INTRIGUE WITH A SIDE OF DIPLOMACY
When you’re the king of an isolated country with indestructible alien metal as your main weapon, political matters are abound. I’m sure Tony stark would be very interested in acquiring some Vibranium armor. The United States government would be interested as well. With Civil War coming, and Age of Ultron showcasing the power of Vibranium, The Accords (the government registration) may be interested in registering T’Challa and obtaining some of his nation’s weaponry. Black Panther will not only fight for his country physically, but also politically. He is a diplomat after all. Black Panther is the outsider looking in. He’s witnessed the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the outside. He’s seen how the Avengers dropped a city from the sky. He’s watched the world be rocked by political conspiracies’, weapons and Avengers. Can he trust a nation like the U.S., whose government was infiltrated by a rogue Nazi organization? Can he trust a man like Tony Stark who created a malevolent robot bent on the world’s destruction? Finally, can he trust a team of individuals who cause as much as chaos as peace?
“The fight for freedom needs no more martyrs — it needs victory — it needs no more atrocities to stir our blood — it is stirred! “ –Black Panther
With all of the power T’Challa has ruling his country, there are outsiders that will try to usurp his throne or power and they won’t all be super villains. Some may be political figureheads, military dignitaries or even Avengers. His countries’ prized ore was used for malicious endeavors. Who’s to say the powers that be don’t use the Registration Act to overthrow T’Challa. Heroes who are beholden to the government could very well be used to invade Wakanda and pilfer Vibranium; it’s time for the world to hear T’Challa speak. His political influence is important for Civil War. Fists aren’t the only thing that can hurt the Avengers. His words and allegiance could damage the Avengers just as hard as any punch or kick will.
NOT AFRICAN BATMAN
Black Panther isn’t concerned with crime or general events; he mostly gets involved in “big picture” type situations, but otherwise mostly acts re-actively for his country. Batman and Black Panther do share the enigmatic, shadowy personification. I get the whole “similar suit and great fighter” thing, but there’s more to superheroes than appearance. Batman is an insane agent of vengeance. Panther is an agent of Wakanda. He’s not about vengeance but about protection and inspiration. There’s a deeper importance to the character. He’s not seeded in darkness. His costume may be dark but his heart is bright. He comes from a warm and lively nation. Gotham is a gloomy and squalid locale that Batman loves, but still uses. He manipulates the darker qualities of the city to his advantage. Black Panther may have comparable skills and wealth, but his ideology and purpose are vastly different. Also, to be real, Black Panther is way wealthier than the Caped Crusader.
2018 is the year drastic change comes to comic book films. Blade has been dormant for years. Cyborg won’t hit big screen for another five years. Who knows if John Stewart will appear in Green Lantern. Black Panther will be, in my opinion, the most momentous black lead superhero to debut. He’s a king; a black male in power. He’s not a superhero first but a ruler, benefactor and protector of a nation. His world is one of international conflict, national security, religion; politics etc. His heroism is most important at home. There’s no fear of secret identifies and juggling a day to day job. There’s Wakanda and only that. His decision, each one, affects an entire country. He’s not your average superhero. Marvel has a chance to be the first to change the game when it comes to layered superheroes on the big screen. They’re delving into territory where the heroes are more and their responsibilities aren’t as cliché as saving the world.
“It is not for nothing that I am called the Black Panther!”
LET IT MARINATE!
Thanks for the read!!! Always open to critique!
Awesome piece, I havent read many comics so I dont know much about T’Challa. But I learned alot and will have to read again to make sure it all sinks in.
It can only be a good thing that the MCU will be diversifying and giving them roles of significance!
This is the best post on this general topic that I have read. Well done.
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Great post, and very good points! Thanks for putting them all together here.
I must have missed that there’s a Cyborg movie coming out…not sure what to think of that, honestly; will have to look more into it.
I totally agree that most people have the wrong image of Africa. This movie could change all that. But if they add too much American ideology in the movie (it is a Hollywood movie) they might not represent Africa in the African way, if you can follow my train of thought.