Chart­ing the rise of the world’s first black su­per­hero

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Weekend Magazine -

un­spo­ken de­sire that black read­ers have for how they want their col­lec­tive paths to be rep­re­sented.

“Wakanda rep­re­sents this un­bro­ken chain of achieve­ment of black ex­cel­lence that never got in­ter­rupted by colo­nial­ism,” he said.

Mr. Nar­cisse, who’s Haitian-Amer­i­can, writes a Black Pan­ther se­ries that is “fil­tered through my own Haitian iden­tity.” When writ­ing about the Wakan­dans’ pride in their home­land, he’s able to bring in the pride Haitians feel about achiev­ing in­de­pen­dence from France.

“We’re in a po­lit­i­cal mo­ment where the pres­i­dent of the United States calls peo­ple from Haiti and Africa, he calls those coun­tries ‘s---holes,’” Mr. Nar­cisse said. “If you’re a young per­son hear­ing that ... you need to see a su­per­hero that’s smart, cun­ning and noble who also looks like you. Granted, it’s fic­tion, but su­per­heroes have al­ways had an as­pi­ra­tionalaspect to them.”

An­other writer, Roye Okupe, grew up in La­gos, Nige­ria, and af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Ge­orge Washington Univer­sity in 2009, he cre­ated YouNeek Stu­dios, a self-pub­lished line of African su­per­hero graphic nov­els, in­clud­ing “E.X.O.” and “Ma­lika: War­rior Queen.” Mr. Okupe said “Black Pan­ther” has an op­por­tu­nity to show main­stream view­ers that there are ways Africa can be por­trayed aside from the usual war and cor­rup­tion. He said he hopes that af­ter its suc­cess, “peo­ple around the world writ­ing stories like this about Afro-fu­tur­ism, high­con­cept fan­tasy stories based on African cul­ture and African mythol­ogy, can be given an op­por­tu­nity to pitch to movie stu­dios, pitch to TV net­works.

“It’s not just about shov­ing African-ness into your face. It’s show­ing the dif­fer­ent side of a cul­ture that you don’t nec­es­sar­ily get to see all the time.”

As for hard­core fans on Black Twit­ter, they made the hash­tag #black­pan­ther­solit trend be­fore the movie was even in pro­duc­tion. In re­cent months, many have tweeted GIFs and viewed trail­ers re­peat­edly, and watched as the cast — which also in­cludes Angela Bas­sett, Ster­ling K. Brown, Lupita Ny­ong’o and For­est Whi­taker — tweet images of their char­ac­ters.

Mar­vel sees “the im­pact of Black Twit­ter, and they’re us­ing that to their ad­van­tage by cre­at­ing this mass mar­ket­ing ma­chine around it,” said Jamie Broad­nax, founder of the geek cul­ture site Black Girl Nerds.

“Black Pan­ther” is on pace to sell more ad­vance tick­ets than any su­per­hero film in Fan­dango’s 18-year his­tory. Ac­tress Oc­tavia Spencer is plan­ning to buy out a theater in Mississippi for kids of color, and ESPN jour­nal­ist Jemele Hill is or­ga­niz­ing a screen­ing for 200 stu­dents in Detroit.

Ms. Broad­nax said the rea­son for the hype is sim­ple.

“I truly be­lieve that most peo­ple in this world want to see di­ver­sity in their en­ter­tain­ment,” she says. “I think there’s a large con­tin­gent of folks out there that ac­tu­ally want to see a dif­fer­ent kind of su­per­hero.”

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