“The only natural resource in the world that there is too much of: girls.” Because of the topic addressed, that line, uttered by the old-time Bond villain in this old-time-007-meets-Jason-Bourne flick, deserved a much more significant movie than this. At this point, the Marvel formula of drama-action-joke-repeat is irresistible to its shareholders, I’m sure, but it’s sad and a little frustrating to see such a good movie, led by a great star, subtly and not-so-subtly work against itself. When the accompanying (connected by Disney+) Simpsons short is only slightly more light than a serious, well-meaning film, it might be time for Marvel/Disney to re-assess after making the bank deposit.
The official media material says:
Black Panther earns three Oscars. Since its inception Marvel Studios’ Black Panther has provoked and stoked a wide range of interest, and now that the blockbuster film is the recipient of three Oscars the film’s acclaim extends beyond the box office.
No, it didn’t get the top prize, but it was a barrier breaker as Ruth Carter was the first black woman to ever win in the Costume Design category; and another first for a black artist when Hannah Beachler took the trophy, which she shared with Set Decorator Jay Hart, in Production Design. Additional spice arrived when Ludwig Goransson earned an Oscar for the Best Score in a Motion Picture.
These awards and other nominations for Black Panther augurs well for populist cinema that is traditionally scorned when it comes to taking home the coveted awards, particularly an Oscar, which is Marvel’s first.
It’s a good bet the honors to Black Panther will not only boost the appreciation for populist cinema, it should also enhance the appeal of a number of products and projects such as Black Panther: A Paradigm Shift or Not? the forthcoming anthology at Third World Press, edited by Haki Madhubuti and Herb Boyd. “All of the celebration and awards for the film is nothing to thumb your nose at and we at Third World Press extend all our good wishes and hope we can do as well with our publication,” said Madhubuti, the press’s publisher and founder.
The anthology, which includes more than forty writers, film critics, scholars, and activists, has a timely appearance and should be able to reap some of the renewed media attention the film has sparked. Among the contributors are Nicole Mitchell Gantt, Jelani Cobb, Brent Staples, Abdul Alkalimat, Bobby Seale, Robyn Spencer, Diane Turner, Greg Tate, Maulana Karenga, Marita Golden, and Molefi Keta Asante, et al.
As may be discerned from the contributors the anthology is a compilation of mixed views and opinions―with both praise and a critique of the film. “The film has aroused a variety of conclusions, a wellspring of differences that we felt compelled to give them a forum,” said Boyd. “Like the film, the views expressed in the book are often very provocative.”
This month not only marks the first anniversary of the release of “Black Panther,” a.k.a. The Film That Won’t Go Away. What will be little noted is that this February is also the 40th anniversary of another well-remembered African/African-American moment.
On the small screen in February 1979, James Earl Jones, fresh from his then-uncredited voice-over role as Darth Vader in the first “Star Wars,” was seen in a safari shirt and glasses on every ABC-tuned television in America, stabbing his pen into a pad, shouting the following into the then five-channel television universe: “You old African! I found you! I found you! Kunta Kinte, I found you!”
“Roots: The Next Generations,” the mammoth 1979 sequel to the groundbreaking 1977 original, ends with Haley’s (Jones’s) journey to the Gambia to search for the young ancestor who was captured when, as the Haley family legend goes, he went into the woods to make himself a drum.
The search for Haley’s fantasy-ish Juffure resonated with African-Americans (in fact, it’s partly how we eventually accepted that term for ourselves in the late 1980s), and with millions more who wanted to find out about themselves. It’s the core story, the central idea that, in 2019, spurs those Ancestry.com commercials and has given Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard Africana Studies professor, a new career in public television.
Haley’s historical novel and the vision of comicbook legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby hold more similarities that one thinks. Aren’t both the imaginary product of 1960s magazine content producers? Isn’t Killmonger just a version of Kunta Kinte who finally makes it back home and reclaims his birthname and birthright? Isn’t the Juffure showed in “Roots: The Next Generations” a low-tech Wakanda of sorts—a (relatively) unspoiled, seemingly un-interrupted Africa?
Although “Roots” was created for television as an American family tale, it nevertheless brought home the central tenets of Black Power and Afrocentrism—that we are an African people. ABC broke through with a depiction of Africa that defied the “Tarzan” movies from the 1930s through the 1950s that were a staple of Saturday afternoon viewing on local television channels. For a people that had recently abandoned “Afro-American” for Black, the contrast was jarring. I was 9-years-old when the first “Roots” miniseries aired, and it shook me to the core. But not completely: I still loved those Tarzan films, watching them for years afterward, but I began to wonder why I couldn’t understand the Africans, and why they kept dying consistently.
What happened between “Roots” and “Black Panther?” More knowledge. Africana Studies—now in its 50th year, struggling to survive, but back then growing and expanding as a discipline. Sci-Fi-era technology that allows us to see Africa and converse with Africans every day. World travel not being a big deal anymore. A growing Afro-futurism movement that is including all people of African descent, regardless of geography, gender or gender orientation. So “Panther” came right on time, as a production of visual African/Black nationalism, a visual sense of Black/African victory, to counter the white nationalism of Trump and Brexit.
The very idea that the African Union has set out to create a Wakanda shows that even Africans are searching for the Africa they see in their own minds. Imagination serving its highest role—as inspiration. (I hope and pray that the AU, thus inspired, will turn down requests for the Chinese to build it.)
For better or worse, Black History Month now has an imaginary element. We have merged with Kunta Kinte, and have turbo-charged his drum with Vibranium. Using American mid-20th century fantasy, we have gone in our minds from victims of colonization to superheroes forging our own destiny. In 2019, we have checked our DNA, and know more fact than fiction about ourselves. Of course we are of African descent, we now say, confused how anyone could think otherwise.
Whether “Black Panther” wins any Oscars later this month is much less important than this truth that might double as fact: Ryan Coogler, T’Challa, Okoye and Shuri have killed Tarzan, for real this time.
…..Dr. Jared Ball, for his success with “Academics In Cars!” I was proud to be in the first one.
#theblackpanther #blackpanther #WakandaForever #BlackPantherLive #Reginald Hudlin #WhatWakandaMeansToMe
THE BOOK WILL BE RELEASED THIS WEEK! I WILL UPDATE WHEN IT IS ON AMAZON!
FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS, THE BLACK PANTHER WAS ONCE ONE OF THE MOST OBSCURE OF MARVEL’S CHARACTERS.
THEN, FOR THE FIRST TIME, HIS BLACK COMICBOOK WRITERS TOOK OVER.
Now, a new book tells the history from the perspective of its Black and white writers.
MARVEL’S BLACK PANTHER: A COMIC BOOK BIOGRAPHY, FROM STAN LEE TO TA-NEHISI COATES (Diasporic Africa Press) is a collection of chronological thoughts about the 52 years this character has existed.
The first, in-depth examination of the first Black superhero to appear in American mainstream comics, it is a group of chronological essays—a “biography” of a comicbook character—exploring what writer Todd Steven Burroughs thinks about how this Black/African hero character has been shaped: first by white liberal American men—Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas and Don McGregor—then by a Black American liberal man, Christopher J. Priest, and even later by American neo-Black-nationalists Reginald Hudlin and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
It is about race, mainstream superhero comics and the Black American imagination within the backdrop of American history and world history. It’s about the limitations of white liberalism and the power of Black-centered but white-controlled American popular culture; ultimately, it’s how 20th century white liberalism had to yield to the 21st century multicultural reality.
This book, a new addition to the growing scholarly literature on the growing literature on Black American comic books, shows how Black writers developed the version of The Black Panther now seen and beloved on movie screens throughout the world.
BEFORE HIS BLACK WRITERS TOOK OVER, THE BLACK PANTHER HAD FADED FROM THE LEE-KIRBY BAD-ASS WHO HAD TRAPPED THE FANTASTIC FOUR IN MINUTES TO, FIRST, A SIDNEY POITIER HARLEM TEACHER AND, LATER, A GUY WHO TOOK FOUR PAGES TO FREE HIMSELF FROM A BEAR TRAP.
“Marvel’s Black Panther: A Comic Book Biography, From Stan Lee To Ta-Nehisi Coates” shows the character’s growth under Priest, Hudlin and Coates, writers who understood that The Black Panther was at least as cool as Batman. Both Priest and Hudlin turned The Black Panther, a character known primarily for leaping around, into a literal Dark Knight; Marvel finally had a character that imitated and matched Batman’s powerful aura.
Christopher Priest brought him back to his first, dangerous Lee-Kirby Fantastic Four 1966 appearance, and
Reginald Hudlin then followed up by bringing him out of the comicbook store into the larger 21st century Black popular-culture world.
Ta-Nehisi Coates put him in the complex world of 21st century African domestic politics.
By doing so, Marvel now had the Batman-like character it had long wanted, and Black comicbook readers, Afrofuturists and Black fantasy-lovers had essentially a brand-new, culturally-relevant version of an established Marvel superhero.
Thanks to Priest, Hudlin and Coates, one of Marvel’s greatest Hollywood blockbuster film superheroes in 2016, 2018 and beyond is an unapologetic Black Cat.
The book answers the following questions:
• Which Black Panther writer created Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan?
• What is The Black Panther’s complex relationship with The Avengers?
• When was The Black Panther ever female? When was the Black Panther a half-Jewish New York City police officer?
• Who are the secret LGBT characters a Panther writer slipped into the 1970s comic book?
• How does Ta-Nehisi Coates’ first Panther storyarc thematically compare with his acclaimed full-length essay book, “Between The World and Me”?
The book’s Foreword is written by Makani Themba, chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies based in Jackson, Mississippi. A social justice innovator and pioneer in the field of change communications and narrative strategy, she has spent more than 20 years supporting organizations, coalitions and philanthropic institutions in developing high impact change initiatives.
The book’s Afterword is written by Greg Carr, Ph.D., J.D., chair of the Black Studies Department of Howard University.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
FOREWORD— Makani Themba, community activist/strategist, Higher Ground Change Strategies, Jackson, Mississippi
INTRODUCTION—Black Panther vs. White Panther
CHAPTER ONE— From Patrice Lumumba to Sidney Poitier: Early Fantastic Four and Avengers Appearances
CHAPTER TWO— The Jungle Book: Don McGregor Creates His Own Africa
CHAPTER THREE— The Finished Man: Don McGregor (Almost) Completes His ‘Panther Novel’
CHAPTER FOUR— The Return of the Kings: The Amazing and Wacky Adventures of Jack Kirby’s Panther
CHAPTER FIVE—The Client Was a Man of Remarkable Focus: A Panther and a Priest
CHAPTER SIX—The Spy King: How Christopher Priest’s Version of The Panther Forever Shook Up The Avengers
CHAPTER SEVEN—’Bad Mutha’: Reginald Hudlin’s Uncompromised Royal Black (Super-)Man and the Unbridled Black Imagination
CHAPTER EIGHT—Side-Swipes: The New York Ghost Cop and the Wakandan Princess As ‘Replacement’ Panthers
CHAPTER NINE—The (Black) Man Without Fear: That Time Panther Briefly Replaced Daredevil
CHAPTER TEN—Between the World and Him: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Panther
CONCLUSION—Panther Slices Through Captain America: Civil War
AFTERWORD—Greg Carr, Chairperson, Africana Studies, Howard University
DC finally found its superhero alchemist formula. In this particular case: take the best parts of 2011 Marvel Films’ “Captain America,” but make them five times better. Wrap in a Greek mythological mosaic photographed like a fable and, in the World War I scenes, very old war footage. Add a thrilling, fun, full story–a war film with great characters and dialogue. Don’t try to hide from the racial/sexual dynamics. Mix until it explodes on-screen. Then flip the bird to Marvel Films. 🙂
“Wonder Woman” is the equal of “The Dark Knight,” arguably the greatest Hollywood superhero film ever made. That’s the highest compliment I can give this film. If this fall’s “Justice League” is just three-quarters as good as “Wonder Woman,” DC will have represented itself well.