I know, I know, you’re prolly hella hyped that Captain America: Civil War comes out tonight and you’re watching all of the trailers on repeat. It’s pretty much the same at the Timewasterz HQ but I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t know who Black Panther is or why he’s such an important character. Luckily, I spent an entire semester learning about the African King for a lengthy final paper you can read here. For those who prefer the TL;DR version….I gotchu fam. To start, Black Panther is the first mainstream black superhero! And no, there isn’t any relation to the political organization with the same name. It is more commonly thought that the name of the character and organization are both products of the civil rights age and a culture shock of black nationalism and pride. Both the political party and the character were created in 1966, which marks this year as the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic superheroes.
The Black Panther is a ceremonial title that is given to the chief of the Panther tribe that grants him authority over the other tribes within the fictional African country of Wakanda. Though this title is hereditary, it still must be earned and requires future chiefs to be trained from a very young age. Along with that title, the chief is granted a suit of armor made from Vibranium and a plant that must be consumed to enhance the body to its peak potential. Vibranium is a rare, fictional metal buried underneath the land in Wakanda. It is more commonly identified as the nearly indestructible alien metal used to make Captain America’s shield. The existence of this metal is essential to Wakanda and the Black Panther. For centuries Wakandans have mined Vibranium and sold small amounts to countries across the globe for extremely high prices. On those small exports alone, Vibranium makes Wakanda the richest nation in the world. In addition to this, the people of Wakanda are extremely intelligent and have created a society that fuses African tradition with advanced scientific technology. Black Panther’s first appearance in Fantastic Four shows the African prince using this technology to test the skills of the Fantastic Four. This depiction of Wakanda flipped the stereotypical narrative that African countries were primitive rural areas that constantly engaged in tribal warfare. Black Panther’s character also contradicts the idea that Africans are primitive and dependent upon others. As a hero, he has the ability of enhanced strength, speed, and senses almost to the point of having superpowers. He has also mastered almost every martial art known to man, is extremely talented in stealth, and possesses the ability to memorize the scent of approximately one thousand people. But Black Panther is not merely a powerful warrior, he is also a genius engineer and innovator who is ranked among the top ten most intelligent people within the Marvel Universe. These abilities and strengths mold the Black Panther into the symbolic representation of an ideal black revolutionary. While anyone from Wakanda can become the Black Panther and there have been multiple Black Panther’s in the Marvel universe, majority of the time we follow the story and adventure of T’Challa, an African prince who is forced to take the role of Black Panther after his father is killed. T’Challa’s priority has and always will be Wakanda and it has obviously been endangered for him to come spar with the Avengers in Civil War.Don’t expect him to be treated as a newbie though, this dude can go toe to toe with majority of the Avengers. Seriously, this dude has been known to join the Avengers with the sole intention to discover their weaknesses and use them against him. And before you can finish that African batman connection, let me say that he’s better…and more badass. Also he married Storm…so yeah, go T’challa. Regardless 2016 is a great year for Black Panther fans and newbies alike. In typical Marvel fashion, they’ve timed a release of the new comic (written by the highly praised Ta-Nehisi Coates), almost perfectly with the introduction of the character in the MCU with the Civil War movie coming out tonight. Since the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, there has not been a starring role for any of the black superhero characters. Black Panther is set to change that in 2018 with his debut film directed by Ryan Coogler (That boy nice. Go see Creed and Fruitvale Station if you haven’t yet). Though long overdue, it’s no surprise that T’challa will revolutionize racial diversity within superhero world for the second time and I’m excited to see the character on the big screen….breakin his foot off in Bucky’s ass.
For more info and content on our favorite African prince, be sure to be on the lookout for our impressions of the first issue of the new comic, as well as our review of Captain America: Civil War.
(All images belong to Marvel)