Where do Black Panther fans go from here?????
Where did your Black Panther Journey Begin?
How far back does your love for Black Panther go? Did 2018’s cinematic feature immerse you like you woke up in another country? Were you a casual fan who enjoyed the occasional video game, or animated appearances of the mysterious king? Or maybe you’ve been here for over a decade, regularly going toe-to-toe in superhero match-up forums online? Whatever your level of fan-hood, the last five years have brought a seismic tidal wave of attention to the shores of the fictional nation. Finally, long-time fans would be joined by millions of others in their love for the African champion-king-trillionaire, T’Challa, the Black Panther. He who has bested many in hand-to-hand combat. He who has invented his own area of physics. He who put the knife where it belonged, on a few occasions. We hoped that we would get enough Black Panther projects to rival almost any Avenger.
The opening weekend had audiences chanting in drum lines, dressed in African-inspired garments, and saluting each other with the iconic Wakanda pose. Blogs were cranking out articles like 20th-centur
y newspaper factories. Think-pieces covering topics that justified Killmonger’s actions or fawned over the sheer badassery of the women warriors called Dora Milaje. Let’s not forget how a superhero film claimed Academy Awards for Best Original Score, Production, and Costume Design, a feat no Marvel, let alone superhero films at all, had ever done. Some people immediately capitalized on the opportunity, like Chicago’s very first, and successful, Wakandacon. Some projects took a more educational route, like Buffalo’s Wakanda Alliance Program, where the comics are used to create lessons on African Diaspora.
A father and daughter read Shuri (2018) together at The Wakanda Alliance Program.
The momentum ran like a maglev train, becoming the most widely talked about film in world history. That is, until Avengers: Infinity War literally snapped on us, putting us all in panic mode, we watched beloved heroes turn to dust one by one. The collective shock of that theater seeing T’Challa, played by the legendary icon, Chadwick Boseman, blow away in the wind echoes in my mind. The future of our home from home, Wakanda, was unsure. If AMC had pitchforks on sale, they would have sold out at every screening. Though, if they sold air horns during Endgame, those same audiences would have erupted when T’Challa made his heroic return, as many comic fans expected.
A scene we deserved.
Then, tragedy struck again in a way no one could predict. The world mourned when our brother Chadwick transitioned to the astral plane, truly leaving the future of Wakanda a mystery. Months later, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced that the cinematic role of T’Challa would not be recast for the foreseeable future. A great rift amassed in the Panther fan-hood, as people debated the respectability of Marvel’s decision to both T’Challa and Boseman’s legacy. #RecastTchalla ran like a rhino through Reddit and Twitter. Fans who waited decades for the portrayal of the most famous Black superhero felt betrayed that his 60 year-run boiled down to 70 minutes of screen time. To put that in perspective, T’Challa has been on screen less than Star-Lord, Jane Foster, and even Loki’s female counterpart, Slyvie.
A popular image that suggests many Black actors could fulfill the role of T’Challa in any Marvel film.
One could argue the short screen time is complimented by a truly stacked dream team cast featuring Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, and Letitia Wright. Such a cast could very well carry a movie by themselves until a new T’Challa was cast. That became the case with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, less Kaluuya, and adding Tenoch Huerta, Dominque Thorne, and Michaela Coel. All delivered spectacular performances, although, controversy remained over a few creative decisions director Ryan Coogler made, including the death of Queen Mother Ramonda and the (air-quote) “T’Challa” casting in the form of an adorable prince named Toussaint. Even the idea that the most technologically advanced nation on Earth took a gigantic ship into enemy territory, but only put weapons on the bottom. I really hate to say it but, colonizers would have done better y’all. Why not a giant toaster to immobilize the water-bound enemy? If I were building the Wakandaverse, I’d have ended the film where an astral Queen Ramonda found her son in another dimension, or that there was a way to resurrect the original. Honestly, is that a reach at this point?
Stares in Wakandan.
Cinematic Wakanda is in a position that is both interesting and unpredictable. Shuri didn’t become Black Panther until 40 years into T’Challa’s reign, and her rogues gallery is generally shared with her brother’s. And Prince Toussaint is an entirely new character altogether and will be quite young, even by the time we get a second sequel. Perhaps Shuri will take on comic T’Challa’s adversaries, such as Dr. Doom or Tetu. But is that like She-Hulk doing the same for Banner’s Hulk? Would people rather see the enraged powerhouse smash with little abandon or…She-Hulk break the fourth wall? While many on the Avengers roster seem to be entering a transition, it feels too soon for T’Challa, who’s only had one solo film and three co-star appearances. Additionally, there remains no other media centered on T’Challa, except for the upcoming comic series written by Eve Ewing.
Black Panther (2023) art by Chris Allen.
The comic, set to release this June, follows a story, though written by Oscar-award-winning author, John Ridley, left many fans dredging through each issue to finish, if they did at all. The series of events leaves T’Challa removed from the Avengers and exiled from Wakanda. Though he remains the Black Panther, King of the Dead, Bast’s Chosen One, and my favorite – The Most Dangerous Man Alive. Whether that includes being the Intergalactic Emperor of Wakanda remains to be acknowledged since Ridley’s run practically ignored that whole saga.
There also remain no Black Panther-titled video games or animated series. Fans are left wondering why a film that has broken world records for Marvel doesn’t get the same production package as say, Guardians of the Galaxy, who received Christmas specials, animated shorts, and an entire video game. Of all the Marvel films since 2008, Black Panther grossed 1.3 billion worldwide, while Guardians Vol. 2 only hit 863 million at six places behind. A Black Panther video game was announced in Fall 2022, set to take place during World War II, and includes Black Panther, a Dora Milaje, a Black American soldier, and Captain America as playable heroes. The hope is that it’s released in 2024, and functions far better than the letdown that was Marvel’s Avengers.
As much as Disney and Marvel boast their initiatives for ethnic diversification, there doesn’t seem to be as much equity for the African super-nation as fans desire. While most major projects remain unknown, Wakanda can still be enjoyed in the various and creative expansions, like the newly released Wakanda Atlas, Protectors of Wakanda, a Wakanda cookbook, and the widely underappreciated anthology called “Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda“.
Tales of Wakanda, an anthology which makes a FANTASTIC audiobook!
So us Panther fans have a little something to enjoy, but there are massive opportunities being overlooked. If the Black Panther is involved, how can anything fail?