Entertainment

Marvel's Iconic Black Panther May Be Coming to a Theater Near You


In 1966, when race relations in America had reached a boiling point, Marvel’s Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Black Panther, the first black comic book hero. He made his debut in Fantastic Four No. 52, shortly before the official founding of the Black Panther Party. “Out of costume, the Black Panther was an African prince named T’Challa who led the fictional country of Wakanda,” wrote Sean Howe in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. “Not a Dark Continent noble savage, but a scientific genius who impressed even the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards.”

For years now, comics fans have clamored for the Black Panther to star in his own movie, and Marvel has acknowledged it needs a more diverse lineup of heroes. Earlier this month, Chadwick Boseman, the lead actor in James Brown biopic Get On Up, seemed to suggest that a Black Panther movie was finally in the works. Asked at a promotional event if he might play Marvel’s iconic black superhero in a forthcoming movie, Boseman said, “Ahhh, I don’t know anything about that … until the contract is signed, I don’t know.”

This set the geek blogosphere ablaze. Marvel has yet to confirm that it is making a Black Panther film. Now it seemed that Boseman had broken both the news of its existence and its star. It was an exciting day for Marvel fans, particularly those who hunger for a movie about the first mass-marketed black superhero. There are also rumors that the Black Panther may make his debut in next summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

There was more Panther-related excitement yesterday when Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios (DIS), discussed a possible Black Panther film. In an interview with ING, Feige guardedly acknowledged that Marvel was exploring both a potential Black Panther film and a movie about the female incarnation of Captain Marvel:

“They’re both characters that we like, that development work has been done, it’s continuing to be done on, and certainly it’s the question I get asked more than anything else, more than Iron Man 4, more than Avengers 3. That’s sort of the first time that’s really happened to us, so I think that makes a difference. I think that’s something we have to pay attention to.”

It’s certainly time for a film about a Marvel super heroine, and the company already seems to be positioning The Avengers’ Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) for her own vehicle. Marvel could also make a movie about a female Thor; the company is planning a comic about a flaxen-haired female hero who wields Thor’s hammer this fall. Captain Marvel, who made her debut as a masculine member of the alien Kree species, can probably wait a little bit for her screen debut.

There’s more pent-up demand for a Marvel movie featuring a black hero, and not some backbencher like Blade. The success of Guardians of the Galaxy has proven that the Marvel can pretty much make a film with any of its characters and draw an audience. We’re looking forward to a Black Widow film. Now it’s time for the people involved in the Black Panther movie to stop teasing fans and get it into the theaters where it belongs.

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Leonard is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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