As a young child, I remember reading comics that were piled high in my great grandmother’s attic. It was large enough to ride a tricycle from one end to the other, and a great place from which to devour her rich, homemade, date-filled cookies. Afterwards we would romp through Grammie Barnes’ yard and pick fresh raspberries from behind the garage; decades later, the smell of those sweet, red berries is still firmly implanted in my mind. At that time, comics were a large part of my small universe and, since comics promoted reading, we were never pulled away from them by adults. What joy!
Today, comics are not just child’s play. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the highest ever grossing movie franchise in the world, and reported total worldwide box office revenue of $26.6 billion in June 2022. Disney purchased MCU for $4 billion in 2009. It has done very nicely ever since, expanding beyond Walt Disney’s family-friendly focus to reach a much broader market.
On Friday, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will be released. It is the sequel to “Black Panther” (2018) and the 30th film in the MCU.
Created by writer-editor Stan (The Man) Lee and artist-copywriter Jack (King) Kirby, the “Black Panther” aka T’Challa, first appeared in comic book format in “Fantastic Four #52” (1966). He was the first ever superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics.
“I wasn’t thinking of civil rights. I had a lot of friends who were black, and we had artists who were black. So, it occurred to me … why aren’t there any black heroes?” (Stan Lee, Marvel)
Unfortunately, we will not be treated to a repeat performance by Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, who tragically died from colon cancer at age 43 in August 2020. Out of respect for the actor, Marvel chose not to recast his role and rewrote the screenplay for the sequel.
Raking in more than $1 billion, “Black Panther” was a Hollywood game-changer with its all-black cast, setting the stage for a quantum leap in the way people of color are depicted onscreen and the opportunities that are afforded to them. This important and long-overdue racial evolution continues on Friday. Let’s get out there and support change.
With superb talent, including repeat performances by Letitia Wright, Nyong’o and Gurira, among others, I am looking forward to 161 minutes of solid superhero entertainment.
Mr. Boseman, I know you will be watching from above.
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