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Posted under: Blerd Opinion celebrity

#S4MBlerds: Why 'Black Panther' is already a game changer, two years before the release

Marvel, Disney, and Black Panther will make it impossible to ignore the need for more Black and PoC protagonists in the modern era of the comic book movie genre.

Photo: Giphy
Photo: Giphy
Photo: Giphy Since 2004's third installment of Wesley Snipes' portrayal of Eric Brooks in Blade: Trinity, there have been no Black lead actors in a major studio distributed comic book film. The movie received terrible reviews and didn't even double its money in the box office (they were 1.1 million dollars short). None of this takes away from the fact that the first two films performed marginally well, and that the very first Blade would go on to become a cult classic for fans of the comics and newcomers as well. After Blade: Trinity, the comic book movie boom continued, but Black leads did not. Spider-Man 2 came out the same year (so did The Incredibles) and went on to make over $783 million in the box office. The year after that Batman Begins (what is considered by many to be one of the most critically acclaimed and defining films for what superhero movies should be) released worldwide. And so on, but for some reason after Blade, the industry put away all the source material for Black heroes and heroines from their respective comic book universes. Characters that are beloved, and mean so much to us – the people that look like them – were swept under the rug and forgotten in Hollywood studio offices. Was it because the third Blade tanked? It's impossible to say, and regardless of speculative assumption or reason, the fact still holds true. They did us dirty. After that film, Hollywood treated Black superheroes like that friend you let take the fall for something you did wrong back in kindergarten when the teacher assumed it was them. The narrative that leading actors of color can't carry films globally or garner box office success, if not created by Hollywood in the first place, has certainly been perpetuated as fact without any attempt from the collective of (mostly white) professionals in the business to correct the sentiment. This ugly idea has been proven incorrect by countless studies and data analysts far smarter than me, but much sooner than later there will be a beacon of proof that can't be ignored or tucked neatly away from view.
Photo: Giphy
Photo: Giphy
Photo: Giphy

The introduction of Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe means just as much symbolically to the fight for change in Hollywood at-large, as the character means to the Black comic book fans that will see this movie.

There has not been a widely distributed superhero film with a Black lead in over a decade. The only real world equivalence, that I can think of to accurately compare the return of iconic Black lead characters to the silver screen in a blockbuster comic book film, is how the South feels when Gucci's coming home, or when Beyoncé dropped Lemonade on HBO. Not only is this film directed by a Black man, cinematographic genius in the making Ryan Coogler, but the lead actor is Black. The supporting cast, those confirmed and still yet to be confirmed, will be Black. The minor characters and extras – also Black. And the setting for the film is in the richest, (monetarily and in resource) most technologically advanced country that exists in the free world – on the continent of Africa. The cradle of civilization and home to centuries of our history. This film, though fictional in nature, is for us, by us, about us (which isn't a bad thing if you have a problem with it). Culturally, 2018's Black Panther is the hometown, Heisman trophy winning, college running back drafted first round, first pick to the home team making his first game day debut. We just want to see him win. And if there's one thing we are not shy about, it's supporting the home team. The trending topic on Twitter for most of the previous weekend #BlackPantherSoLIT (created by @ChadwicknChill) is immortal evidence of that fact. In the midst of confronting a Hollywood film industry that still thinks erasing Black and PoC characters or replacing them with white people is ok, the fact that this movie exists and seems to be keeping the integrity that fans truly deserve is a big step in the right direction. Black Panther and any other film like it to come before or after will succeed, at the very base level, because all Black and PoC comic fans have been desperately waiting for somebody to get it right. We want to see the characters and stories that made us fans in the first place treated with an integrity that shows the people in front of, and behind the lens cared about the source material. We want to see people that look like us on the silver screen controlling the narrative, not relegated to a cheap stereotype like the sidekick, a one-dimensional love interest, or any other extension of a white character that acts as the vehicle in which a PoC character follows behind passively, without any thought or depth. Every choice that Disney and Marvel have made thus far, that we can see, concerning Black Panther demonstrates that this is that film. As the casting announcements continue, production begins next year. With more bits of info surfacing, we will still continue celebrating the existence of this movie and what it means for us. This is the perfect character, with the perfect story, at the perfect time. The right people for the jobs have them (so far). The stars couldn't have aligned any better. Marvel's Black Panther in 2018 will be a celebration of Blackness in the package of a superhero film, and just like you, I can't wait to see our team win.
Photo: Giphy
Photo: Giphy
Photo: Giphy P.S. - To cap it all off, because of the overwhelming support from consumers everywhere Ta-Nehisi Coates' first issue of Black Panther, drawn by Brian Stelfreeze with colorist Laura Martin, is now reported as the number one, highest selling comic book of 2016 – which is amazing. If you bought a book, thank you for supporting the art, and the creators that work so hard to make it. And if you're just getting hip, go cop the first issue and then the second, let's keep the momentum going! 

Thanks for reading Strictly 4 My Blerds.

At the end of this month on May 26-29, I'll be at MomoCon holding it down in my Tune Squad jersey. I'd like to meet/hang with as many of you as I possibly can. Let me know if you're going to MomoCon this year, and what events and special guests you're looking forward to the most. I do this because I love the culture and the community. If you enjoyed this post let me know on Twitter and share it with the homies on Facebook. If you have any suggestions on comics I should write about, things I should write about in the column, or people I should interview, tweet me or leave a comment. Make sure you use the hashtag #S4MBlerds.

READ NEXT: #S4MBlerds: My Conversation with DC's First Black Editor of Batman

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