Why’d They Do Black Panther Like That?

Originally posted on Ebony.com

What was meant to be a celebratory moment for (Black) comic book fans turned out offensive. This week’s Entertainment Weekly turned the highly anticipated reveal of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s interpretation of the first Black superhero into a fiasco of epic proportions. T’Challa, king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda (also known as the hero Black Panther), got sonned by EW.


Ever since it was announced that Chadwick Boseman was donning the ceremonial garb of the Panther, the Internet was set aflame. This would be one of a handful of times that a Black superhero would be depicted on the big screen. Halle Berry in the X-Men films is universally panned for her portrayal of the weather-manipulating mutant, Storm. Michael B. Jordan’s charismatic rendering of the Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm was wasted in this year’s lackluster reboot. Anthony Mackie’s Falcon has appeared in Marvel films — but he’s fourth or fifth tier until he takes up the Captain America mantle. Wesley Snipes hasn’t been Blade for 11 years.

There’s been a dearth of cinematic superheroic blackness that the Black Panther is meant to rectify. There have been other Black heroes in the movies, but none are as iconic as the Black Panther. So when EW decided to dehumanize and emasculate him, the Black culture-sphere let out a collective roar of hell no!

Some would argue that this is too much energy and thought given to a fictional character. With all of the real and true to life negativity Black folks worldwide face on the daily, why take this on? It isn’t so much about the Panther himself, but of Hollywood’s (and affiliated industries’) routine abuse, omission and erasure of the Black image. Coupled with this is the manipulation of encoded Blackness and symbology.

The Black Panther leapt into the public consciousness in July 1966, in the pages of Marvel Comics’ flagship title Fantastic Four, in issue #52. This was a full three months earlier than Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton’s launch of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in Oakland, California. The comic character and the political movement had nothing to do with each other, but over time, they became conflated under the banner of resisting oppression and as Black cultural touchstones.

In the comics, Wakanda (T’Challa’s home nation and several surrounding nation states) is an African territory that has never been conquered by the likes of France or Britain — one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, as well as being the most technologically advanced. Their wealth and technological sophistication stem from the mining and refining of the fictional metal vibranium, a metal that can absorb all vibration and kinetic energy. (Geekspeak: If you saw Avengers: Age of Ultron, this metal is what the sentient machine Ultron was looking for to build a better body for himself.)

What was bothersome in that Avengers sequence was that Wakanda was barely mentioned; just some passing reference to “Africa” and the prominent feature of one of the Panther’s major nemeses, Ulysses Klaue (a.k.a. Klaw). But not even a hint of who ruled the land that was being destroyed by super-powered battles. (Like the ruler of this kind of nation wouldn’t have jumped in to confront the interlopers himself. More omission.)

As depicted in the comics, Black Panther is handsome, assured, possessing of a genius level intellect, an Olympic level athlete, a world leader, and can hold his own in any boardroom, lecture hall, consulate or laboratory. He even married Storm. So to have him on the cover of Entertainment Weekly behind Chris Evans’s Captain America and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, face fully masked (the two White dudes went barefaced) with a diminutive “meow” by his head — not to mention their quip that he “has claws that a Real Housewife would envy” — is not only an insult to the character. It’s an insult to the Panther’s legacy as a symbol for Black excellence, resistance to oppression, and the hard fought visibility of Black characters in comic books and genre film.

Black Panther makes his cinematic debut May 6, 2016 in Captain America: Civil War. July 6, 2018 marks the date Black Panther hits silver screens nationwide. Here’s hoping they do right by him.

5 thoughts on “Why’d They Do Black Panther Like That?

  1. EW is no better than Wizard magazine. I’m glad I don’t read them anymore. They’re a glorified fanzine.

    But did they say that the Hulkbuster fight was in Wakanda? There’s also the fact that ship breaking yard is actually in Bangladesh, so where Klaw was based is pretty suspect.

    Personally I’m glad they didn’t say exactly where it was. I read one person say the battle was shot in Cape Town, which would invited lots of jokes. We’d have seen that state’s entire police force in that scene – less than twenty cops. Not something I’d like to tell the audience about South Africa. And no – it wasn’t shot in Cape Town.

    Furthermore, I’m sick of these western heroes having their battles outside of America. It’s more of their propaganda to show the world they need the U.S.A. to save them, even when there’s no clear enemy to rally against. I couldn’t care if WB has more destruction in their superhero films if they keep it in their backyard. The rest of the planet has its own problems.

  2. Yeah, I think it was brought up in another post that the Hulk is constantly tearing up spaces with PoC i nthem. In the Avengers, he mentioned breaking Harlem and then in Ultron we see him tear up yet another Black space in Africa. In the first Avengers movie, we catch him living in India, another space with people of color so when he Hulks out, he could potentially harm the people least able to recover from one of the Hulk’s attacks. I know there were a few people who found his behavior suspect.

    I stopped reading EW some time ago. I just grew very dissatisfied with its coverage of the movies I liked.
    Also dont feel this is a bad cover, but I wouldnt be quite so insulted if both Tony and Steve had gotten funny word balloons, too. As for the Desperate Housewife comment: Bleah! Totally not funny.

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