Screencap from the film's trailer showing Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa, February 14, 2018 - FilmSelect Trailer/Youtube
CAIRO – 15 February 2018: Marvel is ruling the big-screen. Since the establishment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, the company, now owned by Disney, has grown to consistently release bigger and better blockbusters.
“Black Panther”, set for a wide release in the USA on February 16, 2018, is already proving to be breaking new records. It has outsold more pre-order movie tickets than any other superhero film, according to the website Fandango, and it has also broken their record for the most pre-ordered tickets of an MCU film.
There's certainly a lot to be excited for, given the film's all-star ensemble cast of actors, ranging from Chadwick Boseman, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Michael B. Jordan, Forest Whitaker, Danai Gurira of “Walking Dead” and more. Stellar pre-release reviews have only helped the film's popularity grow across social media as well, with all of them being either ecstatic or overjoyed at the film.
But just who, or what, is the Black Panther?
It all began with the 1961 Fantastic Four #52 comic book, marking the character's first ever appearance. Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, the Black Panther was created as an answer to the lack of superheroes of color, similar to fellow Marvel hero Luke Cage. They created the hero T’Challa, hailing from the fictional and futuristic African city of Wakanda, a unique technological metropolis hidden away from the rest of humanity.
Following the death of his father, the king of Wakanda, T'Challa takes on the throne and his role as the superpowered Black Panther. However, unlike his predecessors, T'Challa decides to protect all of humanity, leaving his kingdom to go to New York City, joining other heroes, such as the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, to fend off evil.
With the rise of the Black Power movement shortly after the character's debut, Marvel aimed to distance the character from the Black Panther civil militia group in order to make it clear they weren't directly supporting them. Thus, T'Challa became the Black Leopard for a time in 1974, though his new title wasn't used for long.
The Black Panther would see his first solo adventures in the pages of “Astonishing Tales #6”, where he battles with Fantastic Four super-villain Doctor Doom after returning to Wakanda. In 1973, he finally had his own on-going storyline in “Jungle Action”. By 1976, the character's normally fantastic adventures took a more serious and realistic turn when he confronted the Ku Klux Klan, nearly being burned on a cross.
Poor sales plagued the character's stories until 1998, when Christopher Knight brought the hero into his “Marvel Knights” series, a mature political thriller that ran until 2003 and was the Black Panther's most successful appearance. He even joined with Marvel's most popular female character of color, Storm, in marriage in his titular series that ran from 2005 until 2008, though their relationship was unfortunately short-lived, terminating in a messy divorce. Now the character seems due for his grandest role yet with the upcoming “Black Panther” movie, which is expected to be one of the biggest releases of the year. An estimate from Variety gives the film's opening weekend gross at around $170 million.
Alas, not everyone has been happy with the upcoming film, given that Facebook had just closed down a Facebook group aiming to flood the film with false negative reviews, but it's done little to curb the sheer excitement being felt for this movie.
The Black Panther's importance comes from what it represents to African-Americans – a vision of Africa as a land of technological and cultural prosperity – and the film represents a chance for young African-American children to grow up with superheroes who not only look like them, but tell them that they have the potential to grow up and do great things; that the color of their skin is something that they can truly take pride in.