In case, by some freak of nature and you haven’t heard the news, Marvel Entertainment just premiered it latest superhero movie, Black Panther in the now wildly acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s Thursday night premiere was highly anticipated by many people; fans of Marvel Comics, fans of the MCU, as well as fans of the actors and actresses in the movie. The earliest reports are already pointing to it being one of, if not the biggest hit in the MCU to date. The numbers are showing, by its $25.2 Million opening night. While all of this boasts a big nod to Marvel Entertainment, I want to look at another point of fact. With the release of Marvel’s Black Panther movie, Stan Lee and Marvel Entertainment have single-handedly saved Black History Month.
This won’t be your typical movie review filled with spoilers and talks about hidden Easter eggs. I want to point out a few things about Marvel’s Black Panther movie that many may not have considered, as it makes and breaks cinematic history and box office records.
Those familiar with Marvel Comics and Black Panther will already know that the character has been around since 1966. It even predates the existence of the Black Panther Party that was launched during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
Marvel has been known for taking risks throughout its history. I credit Stan Lee and Marvel Entertainment for literally saving Black History Month because, in case you haven’t noticed, there has been little, if any talk about it lately. I don’t know if it’s because of all the attention being given to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, the continued protesting of our current president Donald Trump, or what even else it could be. What I do know is that during a month that is supposed to be filled with celebration of African American Heritage and History, there seems to be almost none taking place.
Granted, I realize that I currently live in the South. However, I don’t recall any national attention being made in televised or radio media, not to mention social media. We used to be able to count on even McDonald’s commercials to highlight contributions of African Americans during the month of February. I don’t even recall any announcements for the UNCF telethon once hosted by the late Lou Rawls.
The release of the Black Panther movie has brought African Americans out in droves to the movies, not just because it’s another link in the chain of superhero films that is interconnected to the Avengers; although for many, that is the case. This movie, is as historic for African Americans, because it features Africans and African Americans in the greatest light, that has never, and I mean ever before on the big screen.
It’s true that this is not the first all-black cast movie. Yes, there have been great films like Glory, Selma, and others that have had an all-black cast. However, no other all-black cast has ever raised the African and the African American to such heights as to imagine them as heroic, a regal and royal race, void of many stereotypes. While you may have noticed that many people, with great humor strutted their way into theaters on last night, decked out in their “Coming to America” finest. Don’t let that humor shadow the reality that this epic film pays homage to a rich truth that has historically been covered by traditional “American” history, as taught in public schools.
Prior to going to the movies yesterday, my wife because astutely aware that black history had somehow been something that did not seem to be a focus for our children in school, and we spent some quality time just reviewing a brief history of how there came to be African Americans.
People often forget that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby AKA Stanley Martin Lieber and Jacob Kurtzberg were the Jewish co-creators of Black Panther. They could have done anything they wanted. They didn’t have to create the Black Panther as a character or expand him into his own comic. Yet, as many in their day, they challenged both stereotypes and the status-quo; including what it looks like to be a strong black man with a strong history.
Who could have imagined that 52 years after they inked the first imaginings of this character, he’d be seen by million on the big screen and be celebrated. Black Panther is well treated as a film, on any standard. As a Black film, it exceeds many boundaries by being positive, portraying a strong and royal family, a rich home and a commitment to one’s people. Oh, did I mention that the costume designs were the creative works of Ruth E. Carter? The geo/global political undertones do not go unnoticed but underline the message of protecting and preserving that richness, stewarding it well, and remembering not to forsake the less fortunate.
In highlighting the African continent, its wealth, the reminding the world that it is an epicenter of technology, science and where all of the world was birthed, Stan Lee and his band of storytellers have raised the bar of expectations for all future film-makers. It reminds Black America that Our Lives Matter. That we can be more, can be better, can imagine and do greater, because we have always been great and come from greatness.
Say what you want about Black Panther being a fictional story but most fictional stories are based in a little bit of truth. Roots, written by Alex Haley was a novel (fiction) based on historical truth. What separates Black Panther from Haley’s Roots is that the latter was a story about the struggle of the African Man who was ripped away from his homeland to build America. It even differs from the Netflix series Luke Cage, which tells of a black man dealing with life in the age of a new Harlem Renaissance. Black Panther is a story about a many tribal nation, entrusted to preserve their way of life and work towards moving it forward, while imagining that they can be better and do more for their brothers, and their neighbors.
I expect that many African Americans will look forward to seeing Black Panther in the theaters. What I expect more, is that there will be greater desire by African Americans to demand strong stories of us, that don’t demean or belittle who we are or pander to stereotypes. Stan Lee and crew have raised the bar for themselves. They’ll have to raise it further for the future of Black Panther. It’s my hope that all who have seen it or will see it will alo step up to raise it even further.
There are so many directions I could have gone in while doing this review, but in telling you how I believe Stan Lee and Marvel Entertainment have saved Black History Month, I hope that many will realize that there needs to be more done positively to remind Black America how great it is and to focus more on making Black America Great by any means necessary.
QUESTION: If you’ve seen Black Panther already, what were your thoughts? If not, but you plan to go, what are your expectations?