Monday, January 18, 2016

Real Name: T'Challa
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #52 (July, 1966)
Fight Club Ranking: #124

Featured Fights:
- vs Super-Skrull: Fantastic Four #6 (Apr 1997)
- vs Dr. Doom: Black Panther #19 (Oct 2006)

The biggest news coming out of last week was Creed director Ryan Coogler - confirmed to helm 2018's Black Panther! The Panther will get his jumpstart into the Marvel movie universe as a feature attraction of May's Captain America: Civil War -- but it's nice to know there's somebody solid at the receiver's end to take the character forward!

With the unknown comes a great sense of attraction. In my mind, Black Panther's currently ahead in a contest of most anticipated with Doctor Strange. As noted in a prior Hero of the Week [04/01/2016]; there's a lot to be curious about in Marvel's magical expansion - but not all of it good. The positive of both is their potential to do what so many Marvel movies have struggled to: be satisfyingly different.

During the much discussed search for a creative lead, there's been a narrative of handwringing over the colour of the director's skin. It speaks to the flaw in pop culture's racial rhetoric, which so frequently overlooks the common principle that unites all Americans: barking self-interest that shows little regard or awareness for the rest of the entire planet.

The movie may be American made with a focus on American domestic markets, but it pays to remember this is a character who is not American - a hero of the world! The experience of American social politics is of very limited relevance. T'Challa calls the fictional nation of Wakanda home - an insular African country that views the petty squabbles of the outside world with considered distance.

Fortunately, Ryan Coogler brings two observable skills with him that should be of great credit to a Black Panther movie. In Creed, he's shown an ability to treat an established fictional universe with great reverence and understanding -- the Rocky spin-off is replete with warm nods to past films. That said, he also created an identity of the film's own, which is exactly what Marvel will need to get the most out of their expansion!

Of course, Creed was also close to the Rocky formula - and it's formulaic story structure that's dragged many a Marvel movie down. The more this movie invests in the unique culture of Wakanda, the more it can stand apart from other films in the franchise -- especially crown jewel Iron Man, with which the genius inventor Black Panther will be most readily compared to.

The way I see it, Reginald Hudlin's wildly underrated 2015 opening arc "Who Is The Black Panther?" has a lot of material that could perfectly transition to a superb Black Panther movie. Of course, the Panther/Captain America face-off will probably come a lot sooner - assuming it comes at all. If I can leave-off with one note about the visuals, I'd also love to see them incorporate the gold of the late 90s, Mark Texeira design into the movie costume.

Captain America: Civil War officially hits theatres - and Iron Men - May 6th. Black Panther is currently slated for a July, 2018 release. There's a very good chance there'll be fresh Cap & Panther action right here on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths later in the year, so stay tuned!

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