UPDATE: EW’s inside sources at Marvel say the report is entirely untrue, although studio reps decline to comment on the rumor.
The Wakanda tourism board should prepare to put in some overtime. They could soon become much more popular.
A report from the movie website Latino Review by writer El Mayimbe says Marvel Studios has committed to making one of its next projects a movie based on Black Panther, the leader of the fictional African nation and the character widely regarded as the first major black superhero.
True? False? Marvel Studios and parent company Disney did not immediately comment on the rumor, which has circulated far and wide, causing a sensation among comics fans. But now inside sources at Marvel tell EW that it’s simply not true that Black Panther will be one of their next films.
Even if it’s not happening right now, just who is the character who has created such a stir?
Black Panther is not just a cool codename, it’s the title bestowed on the Wakandan king. In the comics, T’Challa, a Wakandan prince and warrior, passed the trials necessary to ascend to his nation’s throne, thus earning the mantle of Black Panther. Coincidentally, he also fell in love with Ororo Munroe, a.k.a. the weather-controlling Storm from X-Men, during his journeys, but don’t expect her to show up in any Marvel Studios film about him. She remains a part of X-Men mythology still owned by 20th Century Fox.
Black Panther first appeared in a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four, and the name only coincidentally mirrors that of the militant civil rights political party, created that same year. (He also fought as part of The Avengers, which could factor into any sequel for that blockbuster.)
If the look of the character recalls DC Comics’ Batman, the two characters actually have similarities beyond the costume. T’Challa’s superhuman powers are his acute senses of perception and strength, but he is also a brilliant scientist, and as heir to the throne of Wakanda he is every bit as wealthy as Bruce Wayne.
Wakanda was the site of an ancient meteor crash which scattered the element vibranium throughout the land. That fictional element, of course, is one of the rarest and strongest minerals on earth, and is used in the creation of Captain America’s shield. Black Panther’s prime nemesis is Ulysses Klaw, a physicist who murders T’Challa’s father to gain access to the precious vibranium deposits, which he uses to craft a weapon that can create solid objects out of sound waves.
Being the first mainstream black superhero, there were also political elements to Black Panther’s story. In the mid-1970s, comic book story arcs sent him to the American South, where he clashed with the Ku Klux Klan. Black Panther also ventured into an Apartheid-ruled South Africa depicted in the guise of a Marvel nation called Rudyarda.
The Black Panther script was revealed last January, with documentarian Mark Bailey (The Fence, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, and Pandemic: Facing AIDS) crafting the story – an unusual choice, but not if Marvel would like to add a dose of social commentary to the action hero’s story.
If Latino Review’s report proves to be true, the next big questions are who would star and who would direct.
In breaking the scoop, Mayimbe proposed Nate Parker, who got high marks from critics for Red Tails (even if the movie itself did not) and garnered lots of praise at Sundance for a powerful turn opposite Richard Gere in the Wall Street thriller Arbitrage.
Parker’s a solid choice, but The Wire’s Idris Elba would also supply endless intensity for the character. Chiwetel Ejiofor has the kick-ass-professor vibe down, and Anthony Mackie, although a little slim physically, could build some muscle for the role. If we’re talking pure star power and charisma, Jamie Foxx could be a good choice, and will be riding high after Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained debuts this year.
In addition to listing your own suggestions in the comments, who would you like to see direct? Is it important to have a black filmmaker tell the story of this iconic black superhero?