Black Pan­ther be­comes sym­bol of change

The Freeman - - ENTERTAINMENT -

There’s a Black Pan­ther party go­ing on all around the coun­try.

Su­per­hero fans, movie fans and es­pe­cially con­nois­seurs of black cul­ture — Amer­i­can and African — are ea­gerly await­ing the de­but of Marvel’s “Black Pan­ther” movie star­ring comic books’ first black su­per­hero with an en­thu­si­asm not of­ten seen in Amer­i­can cinema.

“Black Pan­ther” view­ing par­ties are be­ing sched­uled around the coun­try for its Fe­bru­ary re­lease, smack dab in the mid­dle of Black His­tory Month. Cloth­ing lines are be­ing de­signed around the bright col­ors and Afro­fu­tur­ism styles of Wakanda. And Grammy-win­ning rap­per Ken­drick La­mar was just named to pro­duce the sound­track.

And peo­ple are al­ready call­ing the still-un­seen movie one of the most im­por­tant of 2018, de­spite the fact that the char­ac­ter that has only ap­peared once on the sil­ver screen and un­til now, has not oc­cu­pied the same pan­theon as stal­warts like Su­per­man, Bat­man and Spi­der­man.

But for some fans, none of that mat­ters.

“As the fa­ther of two lit­tle black boys I’m su­per ex­cited to have a su­per­hero that looks like them on screen,” said Glen Greezy of New York City, who plans to hit Times Square and see the movie on open­ing week­end along with more than 900 of his friends on Face­book.

“Other su­per­heroes are great and I see their movies too, but some­thing about hav­ing a black man as the main char­ac­ter in a su­per­hero movie is ex­tra ap­peal­ing.”

“Black Pan­ther,” star­ring Chad­wick Bose­man as the epony­mous su­per­hero, opens on Fe­bru­ary 16, pick­ing up the ad­ven­tures of the newly crowned African king and su­per­hero who de­buted in 2016’s “Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War.”

Ex­ist­ing in the same shared uni­verse as Iron Man, the Hulk, Cap­tain Amer­ica and Spi­der­man, the Pan­ther, how­ever, the Black Pan­ther’s ad­ven­tures cen­ter around his fu­tur­is­tic hid­den home­land of Wakanda, con­sid­ered to be the most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced na­tion on Marvel’s earth. In the new movie, T’Challa, the Black Pan­ther’s real name, must bat­tle long-time ad­ver­saries with the aid of his allfe­male body­guards and a CIA agent to main­tain con­trol of his coun­try and pre­vent a world war.

Di­rected by Ryan Coogler, it also has an all-star cast in­clud­ing An­gela Bas­sett, Lupita Ny­ong’o, Michael B. Jor­dan, For­est Whi­taker, Danai Gurira, Ster­ling K. Brown and more.

For many peo­ple, the Black Pan­ther movie isn’t just a movie; it’s a sym­bol of change.

“‘Black Pan­ther’ is just go­ing to be re­ally spe­cial. I don’t plug into film an­tic­i­pa­tion. But I can feel it. A lot of my friends have asked me to go to the pre­miere! Ev­ery­one in my net­work is ex­cited about it, and you can feel it when they’re not,” Daniel Kalu­uya, the “Get Out” star who also is fea­tured in “Black Pan­ther,” told The As­so­ci­ated Press re­cently.

The in­ter­net ex­plodes each time a new trailer, poster or piece of art­work de­buts from the movie, spark­ing hash­tags like #Black­Pan­therSoLit and #Wel­come­toWakanda. Twit­ter de­clared that Black Pan­ther was one of the most tweeted-about movies of 2017, and the only movie on the list that hadn’t pre­miered yet.

“Do we re­ally have to wait un­til Fe­bru­ary!” lamented El­wood L. Robin­son, chan­cel­lor of Win­ston-Salem State Univer­sity in Win­ston-Salem, North Carolina, on Twit­ter while sport­ing a Black Pan­ther T-shirt.

Groups like MA­LIK Fra­ter­nity Inc., the first col­le­giate fra­ter­nity founded on the con­cept of African fra­ter­nal­ism, in Char­lotte, North Carolina and the In­ten­tional Com­mu­nity Build­ing Col­lec­tive and Lead­ers of a Beau­ti­ful Strug­gle in Bal­ti­more, are assem­bling dis­cus­sion pan­els on the movie’s themes.

Cre­ated by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the minds be­hind Spi­der-Man, the Fan­tas­tic Four and other Marvel comics, the Black Pan­ther holds a unique po­si­tion in comic book his­tory. While not the first black comic book hero — the first black char­ac­ter to head­line his own comic book was Dell Comics’ Western hero and gun­fighter Lobo in 1965 — the Black Pan­ther is con­sid­ered the first black su­per­hero, in­tro­duced as a sup­port­ing char­ac­ter in Fan­tas­tic Four in 1966 and later fea­tured in his own book.

There has been a re­nais­sance with black su­per­heroes on tele­vi­sion as well. “Black Light­ning” de­buts on the CW on Jan­uary 16 fea­tur­ing an ed­u­ca­tor who gains elec­tri­cal pow­ers and be­comes a su­per­hero. “Luke Cage,” a tele­vi­sion show about a for­mer con­vict with su­per­hu­man strength and un­break­able skin, pre­miered on Net­flix in 2016 and will be­gin a sec­ond sea­son later this year.

Cage de­buted in a self-ti­tled comic book “Luke Cage, Hero for Hire” in 1972 with an ex­ag­ger­ated Afro and a catch­phrase “Sweet Christ­mas!” He was fol­lowed by Black Light­ning in a DC comic book in 1977.

There have been other black su­per­hero movies — Wes­ley Snipes starred as the vam­pire slayer Blade in one of the first Marvel movies, and Robert Townsend starred in a comedic par­ody of su­per­heroes in “Me­teor Man” — but their movies did not bring out the en­thu­si­asm that the Black Pan­ther is see­ing.

“What is sig­nif­i­cant now, how­ever, is that this age of con­ver­gence of film fran­chises with so­cial me­dia, a black su­per­hero movie with an al­most all­black cast con­veys power, that we have ar­rived. It’s evo­lu­tion,” said Christo­pher Cham­bers, a Ge­orge­town Univer­sity me­dia stud­ies pro­fes­sor.

This im­age re­leased by Dis­ney and Marvel Stu­dios'

shows Lupita Ny­ong'o, from left, Chad­wick Bose­man and Danai Gurira in

a scene from "Black Pan­ther," in theaters on Feb. 16, 2018.

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