Weeks before the release of "Black Panther," presale tickets were on course to outsell all other superhero movies. It was one of the most tweeted about movies of 2017, despite not having a release date until February of this year. Host Frank Stasio takes a look at the buzz behind the movie with comic book aficionados and scholars.
He talks with Bill Young, owner of Arkham Comix, a comic book store with locations in Rocky Mount and Wilson. Young has hosted many superhero premiere events in which fans arrive in costume and enjoy freebies distributed by the production company, and this Thursday he hosts the Wilson premiere at the AMC Classic Wilson 10. Stasio also talks with Victor Lawe, a superfan who was showing up at events in full gear long before "Black Panther" was all abuzz. Lawe dives into the world of cosplay and shares why he chose the black panther character for his costume.
Stasio will then take a step back with a playwright and scholar who gives context to the historical power behind the panther. Howard Craft is an author, playwright and visiting professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Adilifu Nama is a professor at Loyola Marymount University and the author of "Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes" (University of Texas Press/ 2011).
Young, the owner of Arkham Comix, on the significance of a black superhero:
As far as the Avengers go – Ironman, Captain America things like that – they’ve been around a long time. And right now you’re seeing the first movie appearance of the first black superhero, and I think that is in itself very revolutionary. And I feel like that’s a good thing. That’s a sign of the times that we can be progressive and everyone can be excited about a black superhero. Like I said, Captain America, Spiderman, they’ve had cartoons, TV shows for a long time but now you’re seeing something that’s new to a lot of people.
Avid comic book collector, superfan and cosplayer Victor Lawe on discovering Black Panther as a child:
I was just mainly interested in the fact that there was a black superhero who was not a sidekick who was starring in his own solo series. The first story that I read was when he took on the Fantastic Four and won by himself. And I was like: Wow, that’s never been done before. And how he legitimized himself not only as the king of his country but also as costumed adventure superhero in his own right.
Go behind the scenes with Victor as he explains his costume. -VIDEO-
Howard Craft, creator of the Jade City Chronicles, on the history of the black superhero:
The black panther is an African superhero. So, you know, his backstory is in Wakanda. But you had Luke Cage, John Stewart, Black Lightning, Falcon, so there were other ones out there. But none of these superheroes out of Marvel or DC were created by African-American writers. So in some of those, particularly the earlier ones – some of the earlier Luke Cages – the language is like what someone thinks a brotha would say rather than the [reality]. And then some of them were borderline. One of his main villains was this mammy character with a rolling pin. Some of the stuff was pretty bad.
Craft on how this movie impacts his son:
I think about my son, who is 7, the only president he knew until 2016 was Barack Obama. Now he gets introduced to this African-American superhero, so his concept of what the possibilities for him – even in his imagination – are bigger than what mine were. And you know, I think that’s progress.
Adilifu Nama, the author of "Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes” on the significance of a black superhero in this moment:
For those who are invested in the Marvel brand, here was a superhero who promised to show you things that you hadn’t seen before and show them in a dynamic way. So that was one component, but the other component is a social/cultural issue. And I would argue that in the wake of a Black Lives Matter movement; in the wake of black professional NFL players kneeling in order to stand up to issues concerning community policing; in the wake of comments by the president concerning the status of African nations – that issues concerning race and racial representation become more vivid similar to the way the film "Get Out" resonated with American audiences. There’s a way in which the "Black Panther" is situated to tap into the zeitgeist of the moment where racial awareness and racial tensions are very vivid and a part of our public discourse and public imagination.