Black Panther tells the story of T’Challa (real name), king and protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. T’Challa possesses enhanced abilities garnered through ancient Wakandan rituals of drinking the heart-shaped herb. He also utilizes his proficiency in science, rigorous physical training, hand-to-hand combat skills, and access to wealth and advanced technology (through vibranium) to combat his enemies. The character was created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby when Kirby realized he had no blacks in his comic strip. “I came up with the Black Panther because I realized I had no blacks in my strip. I’d never drawn a black,” Kirby told the Comics Journal. “I needed a black. I suddenly discovered that I had a lot of black readers. My first friend was a black! And here I was ignoring them because I was associating with everybody else.” Kirby, though far from eloquent in his word choice, gets at an essential idea—representation and its importance in a reader’s view. They should be able to see themselves in the work.
Black Panther opened on February 16, 2018 to much fanfare and high expectations. It was the first standalone movie for the character in the Marvel cinematic universe, which includes Iron Man, Thor, Spiderman, and dozens of other superheroes. All of these prior characters’ movies have had success, but what distinguishes Black Panther is that it featured an almost entirely African-American cast—including Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Michael B. Jordan, and Angela Bassett, and a black director—Ryan Coogler (whose credits include Fruitvale Station and Creed). The storyline dives into topics of race, highlights the strengths of black women (as they are depicted as warriors, queens, and scientists in the film), and the roles and depictions of families and communities deviate from depictions in the mainstream media. These differences are particularly important as it debunks conventional wisdoms that black films and black filmmakers are unprofitable and impossible. A study done by USC concluded African Americans represented 13.6% of characters in major film projects, compared to 70.8% of white characters in 2017. Behind the camera numbers were worse, 5.6% were directors compared to their peers for the same year.
Black Panther took the box office by storm! At the time of this writing, it had smashed many previous box office records on its way to becoming the top grossing superhero film of all time in the U.S. as it passed fellow Marvel title, The Avengers. It grossed $623.4 million in 2012. To date, Black Panther has grossed $630.9 million domestic and $1.237 billion worldwide. So, why did it do so well? There are plenty of factors. Notwithstanding the outstanding cast, critically acclaimed director, and core audience of Marvel devotees, Black Panther benefited from a surge of people who don’t typically make a point to see Marvel movies. 37% of the audience were African American, followed by 35% white, and 18% Hispanic. Typically only 15% of the audience is comprised of African Americans for the Marvel movie demographic. Far and wide, African Americans treated the Black Panther premiere as a holiday. Many moviegoers dressed in traditional African attire, themed events with African drum ensembles, Afro-futuristic themed parties, and academic panel discussions sponsored by universities and churches popped up in many cities. Black Panther also benefitted from group ticket sales to schools and churches.
For some of these first-timers this was a one-off, whether it was for the political nature of the film in our current time and the hopeful agenda it could lead to, or just pure curiosity. For many, though, this could lead to a kinship to the MCU (especially since the Black Panther and company will return for future Marvel movies!). So one may ask, how can I catch up with the storyline? AMC Theaters are advertising a 31-hour epic Marvel marathon that will include 12 MCU films leading into the next venture: Avengers: Infinity War. The full list of movies that will be screened:
• Iron Man (2)
• The Incredible Hulk (3)
• Thor (5)
• Captain America: The First Avenger (1)
• Marvel’s The Avengers
• Guardians of the Galaxy (9)
• Avengers: Age of Ultron (11)
• Captain America: Civil War (13)
• Doctor Strange (14)
• Spider-Man: Homecoming (15)
• Black Panther (17)
• Avengers: Infinity War (18)
Why sit sleep-deprived in a dark theater paying high prices for concessions, when you can comfortably sit at home eating food you already paid for and watch at your own pace? GUESS WHAT? We own all of these movies listed above (except The Incredible Hulk), in addition to some notable absentees:
Thor: Ragnarok (16) released March 31! It will be available soon! The numbers beside the titles indicate their order in the cinematic universe.
Visit Lilly Library and get your MCU fix!!