Long Live the King: The Importance of Marvel’s Black Panther

April 13, 2018

 

I’m pretty sure everyone has heard about the new hero with the claws in the catsuit. It’s safe to say that T’Challa, king of Wakanda, Black Panther warrior has taken over the world. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther first appeared in Captain America: Civil War. As Black Panther, actor Chadwick Boseman won over crowds with his strong sense of justice, fierce fighting abilities, dedication to his country and people, ability to forgive, and, let’s face it, good looks.

 

Although Black Panther is relatively new to the silver screen, his comic book has a fascinating and exciting history. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (yes, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the kings of Marvel) and first appeared in July 1966. Black Panther is an important comic character because he was the very first black superhero to appear in American mainstream comics. Though many people think he was named after the Black Panther political party, his first comic appearance actually predates the party’s existence by about three months.  He’s not a villain, not a sidekick, but the main hero if his own story. And he finally has his own stand-alone.

 

The movie came to theaters February 16, 2018. The movie’s mostly black cast, full of amazing actors has drawn a lot of attention. Black Panther is played by Chadwick Boseman who is known for his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in the movie 42. Nakia is played by Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o and Okoye is played by The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira. The villain, Erik Killmonger, is portrayed by Michael B. Jordan.

 

The movie and comics have also been praised for its depiction of Wakanda, the fictional country where the movie takes place, as an advanced country in Africa. Typically, African countries are portrayed as poor and underdeveloped. You know what I’m talking about, those commercial that show poor African villages full of starving people and one room huts. Yes, there are very poor areas of Africa, but many of the countries have cities that look just like those throughout Europe and North America. For example, Lagos Nigeria is known for its beach resorts and nightlife, Nairobi Kenya brings in a ton of money through its national park tourism, and Addis Ababa Ethiopia is a cultural hub featuring national museums and cathedrals. When comparing photos of these cities with Wakanda’s comic and film design, it’s obvious the design has taken inspiration from other African cities.  Wakanda breaks the stereotypes the West has put on Africa, all while showcasing amazing characters and fantastic story.

        

                                                 Lagos, Nigeria                                                      

 

Nairobi, Kenya

 

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Wakanda’s first appearance in Fantastic Four #52

Wakanda in the Black Panther movie 2018

Black Panther has received a lot of buzz for its social justice aspects, but I’m here to focus on what the comic books contribute to the Marvel world. What sets Black Panther apart from other heros is that he is king of a fictional country called Wakanda. It’s a small nation located in North East Africa, officially known as the Kingdom of Wakanda. Its flag is also amazing and adorned with a panther--what else? Wakanda is one of the coolest countries to exist in the Marvel world. It’s even the most technologically advanced country.

 

The famous Black Panther suit, which is what T’Challa wears in his first comic appearance in Fantastic Four #52 is made of a vibranium mesh that takes away the momentum of incoming objects, which means that bullets fall to the ground after hitting it. The suit is so strong that while wearing it, Black Panther cannot be shot or stabbed. The suit can even withstand the strength of the Hulk. The Absorber, which appeared in Defenders #86 in August, 1980, absorbs all sound in its area of use. Another piece of technology from Wakanda are the Falcon’s wings, which made their first appearance in Captain America #170 in February, 1974. in the story Captain America asked T’Challa to design a set of wings for Sam Wilson. The wings are made of titanium and Mylar and are covered in thin solar power receptors. First appearing in Black Panther Vol 5 #12 in March, 2010, the Holopods are used to create illusions by the user.

 

Flag of Wakanda in Black Panther Vol 6 4

Black Panther in his suit on the cover of Fantastic Four #52

 Black Panther in his suite in the 2018 movie

The Absorber in Defenders #86

The Falcon in his wings in Captain America #170

The Holopods in Black Panther Vol 5 #12

 

In the very distant past a meteorite made of Vibranium, the strongest metal on earth, crashed into Wakanda. (Vibranium is not real, but in the comics it’s what Captain America’s shield is made from.) Wakanda is the only place on earth were Vibranium can be found, which makes it the country's most valuable trade resource. It is sold for $10,000 per gram, which makes Wakanda one of the most economically stable countries, too. Wakanda has a tribal society and the head is the Black Panther, who is King, religious leader, and commander in chief. Although this title is passed down from generation to generation it can be challenged in combat by anyone in Wakanda.

 

Education is also one of the central aspects in Wakanda. The country has the highest literacy rate on the planet. The citizens attend eleven years of primary education and then have the option to go on to attend one of the country’s free universities. They also have universal healthcare and one of the highest life expectancy rates on the planet. The sheer detail that went into the creation of Wakanda is extremely impressive, to say the least. With everything the country has to offer, who wouldn’t want to live in Wakanda?

 

Another thing that is often overlooked is Black Panther’s array of amazing supporting characters, many of whom are women. The movie features several amazing women. Okoye, who is played by The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, and her friend Nakia, played by Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, were chosen from their tribes to be wives-in-training. They were trained to be bodyguards for the king and had a chance to be the next queen. These two women are fierce warriors who are known for their strength and mastery of multiple forms of combat. These are two girls you don’t want to mess with!

 

Another amazing female character featured in the comics is Shuri, the princess of Wakanda, played by breakout actress Letitia Wright. She first appeared in Black Panther #2 which was released in May 2005. She’s King T’Challa’s little sister, but that’s probably the most boring thing about her. She’s a fierce warrior herself, but what’s most interesting is that Marvel writers have confirmed she is the most intelligent person in the entire Marvel universe. She’s a genius. Even Tony Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner pale in comparison to Shuri’s intelligence. For example, she breaks the code Hydra used to brainwash the Winter Soldier. It took Hydra over twenty years to break the Winter Soldier and brainwash him, and they kept that code in his head for fifty years. It took Shuri less than two years to break a code that took an entire organization twenty years to get in his head. Obviously, Shuri is pretty amazing!

 

Black Panther has been a staple character in the Marvel comics since the sixties. His strong personality and interesting story make him an awesome new addition to the MCU, while his country, Wakanda, is home to several spectacular characters and the most advanced technology in the Marvel world. Without Black Panther, the comic world would be severely lacking in diversity and several pieces of key technology. Black Panther represents a key character in comic history while Wakanda breaks stereotypes put on African countries and pushes technology in the Marvel world forward. Black Panther and his comic stories are some of the best Marvel has to offer! Long live the king.

 

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