Black Panther—the melanistic hue variation of any big feline species. Panthera pardus—the black panthers of Asia and Africa are leopards. Panthera onca—the black panthers of the Americas are jaguars. Some of their common names are panther, back leopard, or the black jaguar. Panthers are incredibly intelligent, powerful, fearless, agile, very aggressive, scarcely seen, very quiet, and cautious. This feline became the foundational choice for the creation of the marvel character that we all have come to love—the Black Panther.
Who created Marvel’s Black Panther Character? Whenever we talk about Marvel’s Black Panther, the first name that readily comes to me is Stan Lee. As it stands, Stan Lee was only a Co-Creator of the Black Panther. The other Co-Creator was Jacob Kurtzberg, best known by his pen name, Jack Kirby (1917-1994), an American comic book artist and editor. In a 1990 interview with The Comics Journal, Groth asked Jack Kirby, “How did you come up with the Black Panther?” His answer gave me a new insight on the genesis of the Marvel superhero, Black Panther. In his response, verbatim, Kirby said: “I came up with the Black Panther because I realized I had no blacks in my strip. I’d never drawn a black. I needed a black. I suddenly discovered that I had a lot of black readers. My first friend was a black! And here I was ignoring them because I was associating with everybody else. It suddenly dawned on me — believe me, it was for human reasons — I suddenly discovered nobody was doing blacks. And here I am a leading cartoonist and I wasn’t doing a black.”
“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.” — T’Challa
Wakanda Forever! When you think about the new Black Panther movie, what comes to mind first is the picture of an all-black cast made up of influential individuals. Wakanda isn’t the standard of an all-star cast Hollywood film, not to talk of one that features a superhero. This Marvel Comics movie dared to go where no superhero has hitherto has gone. Director Ryan Coogler blew our minds in the movie and set off an advent of what may translate to a cultural revolution that will also evoke a lot of debate about various issues relating to diversity and inclusion on a global scale. The storyline dove straight into the depths of a fictional black wonderland. Presenting black people as never before captured on the screen—proud, confident and utterly awesome!
The primary plot line is simple. Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becomes king after his father’s (i.e., T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani)) death and faces the challenge of finding Ulysses “Klaw” Klaue (Andy Serkis), the madman who once stole Vibranium from Wakanda. T’challa discovers Klaw but is unable to take him back home. Meanwhile, his cousin Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), had sharpened his skills as a fearless assassin, aptly named Killmonger, who finds his way to Wakanda to challenge him for the throne. Killmonger throws T’Challa off a waterfall and gains control of the kingdom, wreaking havoc. Killmonger’s primary goal is to take advantage of Wakanda’s technological superiority and conquer the world, creating a new world where blacks are the most powerful race.
We see Erik carrying the Herculean load of pain. His father, Prince N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown), King T’Chaka’s brother, was secretly planning to arm the oppressed people (i.e., the black race) of the world with Vibranium. For this treasonous act, according to Wakandan law, T’Chaka had N’Jobu killed. Erik, growing up with this pain and loss, wanted to seek revenge for the death of his father and fulfill his father’s vision of arming the oppressed black race. Now, going off the tangent, to be honest, the black race has undergone a lot of discrimination in everyday life due to the prevalence of racism. It is safe to say that racism is abject ignorance. Those who peddle it lack the knowledge of what unites us all as the human element. They are lacking love. They are lacking God. You cannot hate your brother and claim a love for God. God is Love.
However, Erik’s idea of world domination with the black race at the helm of global leadership was in stark contrast to Wakanda’s old way of hiding away from the rest of the world. Erik’s idea of global domination by violence, in my opinion, was wrong and a little warped. Victory over the ignorance of racism against blacks, and all minorities alike, can only be won with love, knowledge, and understanding. In an ideal world, the dominance of one race should not be the goal—a unified interdependent growth should be the goal. Violence will just end up reproducing more violence. In other to make the world a better place that is devoid of hatred starts with everyone looking at themselves in the mirror. Can you honestly say that you are full of love, knowledge, and understanding? If you are, you will teach your young ones to be full of love, consciousness, and understanding—then we will have some hope of redeeming a future so that it is not full of discrimination and hatred. If we are full of love, knowledge, and understanding, there will be no racism. We are not there yet.
“People die every day. That’s just part of life around here.” — Erik Killmonger
After the fight between Killmonger and Prince T’Challa, Erik orders that the Heart-Shaped Herb Garden be burnt after he performs the burial ritual of becoming the Black Panther. Luckily, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), a Wakandan spy, T’Challa’s lover and a member of the War Dogs, stole one of the Heart-Shaped Herb, before the herb garden was burnt. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), T’challa’s mother, and sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), make their way to the mountains to seek help from general M’baku (Derek Jacobi) of the Jabari tribe. It was the palace of M’baku that he reveals T’challa’s unconscious body to them, and they revive him with the Heart-Shaped Herb that Nakia stole before the garden was burnt. T’challa’s body had been picked up by one of the natives of M’baku’s kingdom. T’challa then returns to defeat Killmonger and takes back his throne.
Generally, the film was well researched and directed. The creators derived the languages and fashion styles from several existing African tribes. There are elements of Kenyan, South African, and Nigerian culture in the fictional world. Also, interestingly, the museum scene featured some treasured masks and art pieces from Ancient Africa, sparking conversations about lost African art. The depiction of Shuri, T’challa’s sister, a teenage black girl, as a capable scientist, taking the helm of the nation’s technological advancement is also a thing of pride for the womenfolk. Other female characters such as Okoye (Danai Gurira), Leader of The Dora Milaje, and Nakia also held their own and created a fantastic blend of male and female characters, all strong and capable, helping each other in their areas of weakness.
“I’ve seen too many in need just to turn a blind eye. I can’t be happy here knowing that there’s people out there who have nothing.” — Nakia to T’Challa
The metaphorical link between Wakanda and Africa cannot be missed. Wakanda’s alignment with its culture and natural habitat despite enormous technological advancement reflect how magical and beautiful Africa could have been if centuries of exploitation from external forces had not eroded her resources and culture. Is this an accurate picture of an untainted Africa or a case of wishful thinking? We may never know. However, Africans must arise to redefine their status in the community of nations. Continual blame on the contrary effects of colonization should not be an excuse to remain in perpetual poverty and staying under-developed. African governments and the African people must tuck away the self-indulgent notions of seeking wealth for themselves and begin thinking collectively and looking for ways to change the status quo and advance themselves. The utopian Wakanda in the movie, Black Panther, could become a reality and the “Future-Africa” that the continent could experience, ceteris paribus.
Perhaps the most robust theme explored in the movie is the relationship between continental blacks and African Americans. Even in the film, we can see the differences in the worldview based on the unique experiences both groups have had to face. For T’challa who grew up with the love of his family, without suffering the daily threat of racial prejudice—he has an optimistic and sincere approach to life. For Killmonger, who lost his father at an early age and grew up in the ghetto, his viewpoint is a lot more cynical, and this feeds his motivations. While his mission to use Vibranium technology to conquer the world seems unfair, the reality is that a world power more or less oversees every civilization. From the times of the Greeks to the Romans, Persians, English and now the Americans, all who have become dominant on the global scene have done so by using superior technological might. It seems that the world has always operated on a principle that the strongest must still rule. On a flip side of the debate of dominance, ‘If that is the case, then why should Wakanda hold back?’ Let’s talk about this.
This revolutionary film can be rated FIVE STARS not just because of its ‘Blackish’ characteristic but for the message, it tells the world (This is who we are—Africans!), and for the “Hope,” it presents to the Black race world over.
We can say Africa Forever! in one voice.
- Marvels. (2018). Black Panther – Embed Code. Retrieved from https://www.marvel.com/movies/black-panther