Apparently the Black Panther had a prototypical iteration as an animated series directed, obviously, towards a black audience via BET.
The series was broadcast on the Australian children’s channel ABC3 in January 2010 and in the United States on BET in November 2011. On March 16, 2018, the entire series was released through Marvel’s YouTube channel for free as Marvel Knights Animation – Black Panther.
I haven’t seen the movie but this series (of which I have watched one episode) gives me a sense of the tone and background of the movie. The animated series undoubtedly presents the narrative explored in the comic books, beginning with Jungle Action comics in the 1970s. Had I been collecting comics back in those days, I doubt if Black Panther would be one of them. Judging from the video the comic’s depiction of Africa is too stereotypical for my taste. Having endured Tarzan’s prevalence in popular culture during my childhood, I cannot imagine myself picking up a comic book called “Jungle Action”. In addition, I was simply not interested in under powered superheros like Batman and Captain America. My heroes had to be able to bend steel, burst into flames or shoot force beams out of their eyes. Black Panther would not have been my cup of tea no matter what color he was. But apparently he had enough popularity, among blacks and college students, to be slated as a major character in the Marvel movie pantheon.
The efforts at bringing the Black Panther to the big screen has a long history dating back to Wesley Snipes’ promotion of the project.
In June 1992, Wesley Snipes announced his intention to make a film about Black Panther. Snipes wanted to highlight the majesty of Africa, which he felt was poorly portrayed in Hollywood films, saying, “I think Black Panther spoke to me because he was noble, and he was the antithesis of the stereotypes presented and portrayed about Africans, African history and the great kingdoms of Africa.”
It would have been the perfect role for Snipes, himself a true action star in the mold of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, but for some reason the project fell through. Marvel Studios, building on the enormous success of its superhero movie franchise in the new millennium, relaunched the project some 20 years later, presumably with the characters, story arc and tone of the animated series. Through the series I get some sense of the zeitgeist of the movie. And from the trailer:
The movie is too dark for me, judging from the trailer. I don’t want to strain my eyes trying to follow the action and gunfights in the darkness. Like the Batman movies, I might as well watch it on the radio. And they have the nerve to promote the movie with a song about black revolution. In actuality it is anti-revolutionary in concept. This advertisement is the movie’s initial cognitive subversion: to suggest to the anticipated audience that there is something revolutionary about the Wakandan story. In fact, according to the premise of the movie, Wakanda is politically the most conservative and isolationist African nation imaginable, completely bereft of concern for the black diaspora.
-to be continued.