Charting the rise of the world’s first black superhero
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.”