Black Panther is first Black Superhero Film By Black Director with Predominantly Black Cast, truth?

I eagerly await the sequel Scream Black Panther Scream.

There are always articles on every side of every subject so I can’t deny you may have seen this. It doesn’t go with what I’ve read on the history of comics.

Remember how early in cultural terms 1966 was. Comics were finally beginning to recover from the purge of the 1950s. They were supposed to be for kids, neutral, patriotic, and non-controversial. Black heroes were next to impossible to write without implicit cultural criticism. Lee wrote in 1970 that he had wanted to introduce black characters earlier but was prevented by the powers that be. That’s why when he did Lee deliberately introduced a Sidney Poitier Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner character who was non-American and impeccably unflawed. A year before the movie. Nor was his power in any way connected to voodoo.

The Falcon, who came from Harlem, was introduced in 1969. Luke Cage, another Harlemite, was the first to have his name in the title in 1972. There was an actual Brother Voodoo who was introduced in 1973. This was after the Comics Code was revised to allow such characters. Voodoo would have been instantly censored in 1966.

That African-Americans were not a large part of the creative staff and zero part of the financial end was certainly true. Lee was a hired hand in 1966. He could have hired more black creators, but unfortunately the industry was small then and almost entirely white. Could he have done more? Certainly. Everybody could always have done more. What he did do was ahead of everybody else. That’s not a, excuse the expression, black mark.

As for Black Panther being blaxsploitation, nuts. That goes against the entire history of the term, the reason those movies came into existence, their cultural connections, and common sense.

“Next, on Exploitation Theatre…Blacula, followed by Blackenstein, and The Blunchblack of Blotre Blame!”

Ooh, Funkay!

It wasn’t created by or directed by black folks, but the seies MANTIS from 1994-5 featured a mostly black cast. Furthermore, the pilot episode celebrated the hero’s African-American identity , but they toned it down for the series:

Fox network was/is perceived as having a bigger black watcher base, so I suspect the pilot was created with that in mind, but the suits, which are always hypersensitive, saw the show as “too black” and ordered it toned down to avoid offending white folks. The Black Panther movie, obviously, didn’t do that.

All I can say is that, leaving the movie, I was really struck by the realization that I’d never an energetic, positive, moral portrayal of black characters comparable to this. It absolutely feels groundbreaking, and it’s bizarre that it feels groundbreaking because it’s such a simple and obvious thing.

I can’t think of such an engaging portrayal of Africa onscreen since Coming to America, and that’s…quite a gap.

It was first and foremost a comedy, it starred a comedian and most fighting was played for laughs. It did try to be more but that just made it a mediocre comedy instead.

If you’re implying that the character’s name references the Black Panther Party, note that Black Panther the superhero predates them by several months.

At any rate, I agree with everything Exapno said above.

You seem to be saying that a Hollywood studio whose owners are predominantly rich white guys (which, I believe, is every major Hollywood studio) should never fund a movie which appeals to a Black audience – even one with Black writers, a Black director, and a predominantly Black cast – because that’s taking money from Black people and giving it to whites.

Or is it only a problem for you because you assume (without having seen it, I gather) that the characters are stereotypes? Or because you assume that, being a superhero film, it can’t possibly be a good movie? (Overwhelming critical consensus be damned.)

I’m not sure whether Huey Freeman would have liked the movie, but he’d at least have liked it better than X-Men: Huey Freeman Only Speaks The Truth / The Boondocks
(I note that in that strip, although he transitions to discussing the X-Men movie, he appears to be reading a comic book.)

I’m not sure the book/movie distinction is even relevant there, because Storm’s portrayal in the movies is basically the same as in the comic books: Skin much lighter than typical for Africa, and long, straight white hair.

In case anyone in this thread doesn’t know, there are a lot of female characters in Black Panther, and none of them have long, straight hair. Even the one African-American woman has a bushy ponytail.

You (and everyone else who has responded to my last comment) bring up some interesting points. Bear with me, since when I find I’ve been misunderstood I try to follow up by explaining myself and comprehensively as possible, so I have a feeling this might wind up being a longish reply.

No I wasn’t implying that at all. My knowledge of comic books and history AND social engineering are all quite comprehensive. I was referring to creating a black superhero to cash in on the fact that the black community was recognized as a legitimate market force after the good Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr sacrificed his life for change at a time when it so desperately had to happen. If anything the name was probably a reference to either a battalion of black soldiers (I believe in World War II) referred to as the Black Panthers or most likely… the animal. After all, he made his first appearance in “Jungle Action” comics alongside characters like “Jungle Boy” and “Leopard Girl”, I don’t think they were really thinking outside the box when they were naming their characters.

Also as per the Huey Freeman thing, part of me feels like he might hate it more than X-Men, depending if he feels condescended to or not. Remember the episode of Boondocks when Obama got elected and Huey decided to fuck off to Canada with Uncle Ruckus? Aaron McGruder is a very intelligent and angry man, who gets when things look like change and pander to the community, but ultimately don’t create the change they promise. I think it ultimately would depend on whether the movie is smart enough to speak to him, and whether any of the black characters represent his identity and his aspirations. If those two criteria aren’t met, I imagine he’ll be rolling his eyes until they fall out the back of his head.

Or perhaps, like Huey and myself, he is just a hardboiled, stone-headed, insufferable cynic, who sees only the present dangers and ultimately the negative side of things that could actually be potentially good. To paraphrase Werner Herzog “this is the most depressing kid I’ve ever met in my life.”
Anyway, I relate pretty strongly to McGruder since I grew up experiencing lots of racism and now in adulthood find that I don’t even relate to the attitudes and expectations of the ethnic group I’m told that I’m supposed to belong to. (that’s as much as I’ll say about that since I never had any intention to disclose my race, my job, sexual preference or what country I live in on this message board… I just wanna share ideas and I think reason and logic should and can stand for themselves) Also since I never did anything to earn my skin colour, my gender or my nationality why should any of that stuff be a source of shame or pride to me? There was no choice far as I can see it, and if it wasn’t for the fact that it affects the way people treat me sometimes, it would all be completely moot. Like Huey I just wanna see the bullshit end. Maybe I’m misunderstanding where McGruder is coming from, but I just wanted to clarify a bit of my own experiences growing up to also advocate that maybe I’m also not misunderstanding where he’s coming from. It’s up to Aaron himself to answer that one I guess.

Now, after reading some of the responses people made to me, yeah I do think maybe I should reserve my cynicism and just see how all this plays out. My initial statement about BP being blaxploitation was intended as a throwaway comment that might make a couple folks think, but I guess now that it’s started a dialogue I have my proof that it did get folks thinking, and many of the responses also have me thinking and considering the veracity of my stance. I’m used to being a couple of beats ahead of the mainstream but maybe that has set up an expectation that choosing the difficult or unpopular stance is always the intelligent option. Perhaps there is a danger of misstepping into arrogance or speaking negatively about something that deserves praise. I’m gonna think about that.

Now I still think that “good superhero movie” is an oxymoronic statement. I don’t even like superhero comics anymore, I’m all about all the other genres of comic books (and yes there’s plenty). And I still think that [insert Spike Lee movie here] will always be more groundbreaking and uplifting to the black community (in ways that are grounded in realism and tempered by a healthy and realistic cynicism… growth comes from this). I still think that making Black Panther Ethiopian rather than ‘Wakandan’ and championing the fact that there is already an African country that fought back against the imperialists (although let’s face it, they were lucky they didn’t have to contend with the English, Spanish or Portuguese armies at that point in history… but still they fought the Italians and won) and maintained their independence and “sovereignty” would be cooler than creating a fictionalized place where a black king can lead his harem of strong but still subservient women to victory against the imperialist pigs. A king fighting imperialism makes me raise an eyebrow or two as well. So I guess my stance is more of a critique on the Marvel Universe, cinematic or otherwise. The movie suffers the inherited flaws of the comic book, there’s only so much than can be done to minimize those flaws. I’m still gonna reflect a bit more and see how everything plays out. I’ve always found the tokenism of Black Panther, Black Falcon, even Kato from the Green Hornet, unpleasant. Perhaps I’m projecting some of that baggage onto this film.

Regardless, kudos to everyone responding to me for either questioning me or disagreeing with me in a thoughtful and respectful manner. I would probably not have considered any of your points of view otherwise.:slight_smile:

Lastly tim, thanks for the Boondocks link. Any excuse to look at McGruder’s work and engage with his mind and my main man Huey is a welcome one. I can’t even begin to express how much I love McGruder’s work.
Peace. :slight_smile:

Typical for Africa? All due respect, but there is no “typical for Africa”. Her skin is darker than the typical Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Libyan or Egyptian. About the same colour as your typical Ethiopian or Somalian. Lighter than your typical Ghanaian. Lighter still than your typical Nigerian. Much lighter than your typical Sudanese, Zimbabwean, Ugandan… and don’t even get me started on South Africans, some of the darkest and whitest Africans you will ever meet are living in South Africa (yes white South Africans are African too, and an Asian-American is still an American)

The hair thing, sure if a black woman has straight hair that is a choice rather than a natural state, but white hair in Africa is a thing. Usually as a result of age. But premature greying seems to actually be more common than male pattern baldness in Africa. Then there is hair turning white through shock. Albinism. Partial albinism. Then there is the story of a girl named Ororo, who was a pickpocket on the streets of Cairo (although her skin is awfully dark for an Egyptian) and got turned into one of El Sabah Nur’s horsemen of the apocalypse and in the process her hair turned white. She eventually went on to join Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters and changed her name to Storm. Sometimes there is a logical(ish) explanation for things. Even in the X-men.

For the record and because it’s relevant to the cynicism I’ve always felt towards Black Panther as a character (and probably because Storm was created in the 80s rather than the 60s or 70s) I always found Storm to be the least racist-stereotype black character in almost all of comics and definitely in Marvel and DC Comics. Plus she’s a badass. Plus before Wolverine dies he puts her in charge of the x-men and tells her she’s been the spiritual leader of the group all along and it’s time she takes her rightful position front and center. (I know all of this cause I really liked superhero comics when I was a kid) Storm has been quietly chipping away at race and gender issues in comic books for a long time and nobody with the exception of Wolverine and a few diehard X-Men fans really gives her the credit she deserves. Maybe cause she hangs out with too many honkeys, but I think she’s one of the best things in the Marvel Universe. Combined with the fact that Wolverine is a fair man and an equal opportunity man who (despite his bravado and macho exterior) expects nothing less of his female teammates than he does of his male teammates (what they do is a matter of life and death after all), and you have one of the most uplifting and engaging social dynamics in the history of superhero comics. I still think Storm is really important, no matter how big a shadow Black Panther is casting over her at the present moment. If I had created Storm, would I have given her straight white hair? No I wouldn’t. Would I have given her white dreadlocks down to her ankles. Hmmm, maybe. Would I have given her a giant white Angela Davis afro? Oh hell yeah! That look would kill. But regardless of the iffy hair design, I personally think that for the most part Storm is one of Marvel’s least problematic characters. Now just try not to think about Halle Berry and everything will be alright.:stuck_out_tongue:

I think you’re conflating several things into a false memory.

First, and most importantly however, the Black Panther debuted in Fantastic Four in 1966, two years before King was killed, so they couldn’t possibly be reacting to his “sacrifice.”

Jungle Action was the name of Marvel’s 1972 comic, which the the Black Panther took over starting with issue #6, Sept. 1973. There were six issues of a 1954 comic of the same name which had “Jungle Boy” and “Leopard Girl” features, but not a Black Panther character.

The name Black Panther had been used for one-shot characters at least twice, in Stars & Stripes #3, July 1941, and Airboy Comics #4, May 1952. Not surprisingly, both characters were white.

Lee might have remembered those characters and certainly Black Panther would be on a short list for any black superhero. But the plot of Fantastic Four #52 is an obvious rip-off of Moby Dick. Jack Kirby in fact said “the white whale is the black panther.” I don’t think the origins of the name need much further investigation.

That’s a problem with the Internet. A comment may spark response because it leads to interesting debate. Or it might spark numerous rejoinders because it’s flat wrong. It’s critical to be able to determine between those.

Just to correct the record, his first appearance was not in Jungle Action #5 in 1973, but 8 years earlier in Fantastic Four #52–53 in 1965. Which is also 3 years before Doctor Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. As to the name, Stan Lee said he got the idea from a Pulp Magazine where a hero had a black panther as a companion. I do not know if that is true but using an animal name was not at all unusual for him as arguably his most well known character Spiderman demonstrates. It might be true he was created to appeal to a certain demographic, but implying that the name had something to with the comic book title in which he appeared, especially since that did not happen for a number of years later is incorrect.

Also, in regards to Jungle Action it was a comic book series that originally ran for six issues from 1954-1955 and was then restarted by Marvel in 1972 (7 years after Blank Panther first appeared) reprinting the original stories which did have the characters you mentioned Leopard Girl and Jungle Boy. But it changed significantly in tone once the Blank Panther was the starring feature and was critically well-received as well as pioneering the use of the multi-issue story arc.

dang…i’ve been ninja’d!


Oh yeah man, that is entirely within the realms of possibility, maybe even probability. I’m sometimes too eager to get the post out of the way and attempt to economize my words and not spend a lifetime typing, that I might not look up something I should and I could easily conflate things into a false memory by doing that. I’ll be the first to admit such a thing.

Now before I say anything else bear in mind when I say “sacrificed his life” I mean in the long run. He sacrificed his life years before he died. A good ten or so years before he died he made a commitment to his fellow men and women and gave every ounce of his being to that cause, a cause that would eventually result in his assassination. I think it’s important to explain that turn of phrase before I go on to deal with my ‘first appearance’ gaff.

Something that can often happen to me, especially when I’m tired, is that I might half write something, change what I decide I want the sentence to say and miss something in the revision that creates an error. I also have a tendency to try and explain myself so thoroughly that my posts get reeeaaally long as it is. So in the interest of word economy sometimes I delete and contract sentences or entire paragraphs and accidentally phrase things in a way that I look back on and think “how did I wind up saying that?” But yes, you are very correct. I wasn’t talking specifically about the first appearance of Black Panther, I was talking about him gaining traction and being rolled out as the main protagonist in his own story. Wolverine turning up in the Hulk is different from Wolverine being an X-Man but really the X-Men stuff is more important to talk about because that’s when we start seeing Wolverine on the regular. That’s what I think anyway.

Now bearing in mind that even if I was talking ‘first appearance’ (which is actually word for word what I posted:smack:) in '66 the civil rights movement was well underway, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, had been arrested for protests I believe as early as '61. So change was happening and Stan was adapting to it and the fact that his target audience was growing up and that teenagers and college students were still reading comics also was a factor, so you can’t underestimate the effect the movement and man had on the American cultural landscape right down to the comics. Even if I did mean ‘first appearance’ (as opposed to the first run of Black Panther serials) the relevance of the cultural impact and the beginnings of the African American community being taken seriously both as a cultural entity and as a market force is still apt. Still, there were more African characters than African American characters in comics and the African characters were mostly found in “Jungle” books (possibly legitimized by the popularity of Phantom comics and the exotification of Africa and the Jungle, as opposed to Detroit and the General Motors factory), which until the Black Panther movie was slated for release has always been seen as problematic. Now not so much for whatever reason.

Nitpicking the dates doesn’t diminish that, but I appreciate being kept accountable to my errors. If anything I’m hungry for it. Which is why like all people I can be “flat wrong” sometimes, but I don’t stay that way as long as some folks do. So thank you for demanding full accuracy from me. :smiley:

Anyway, looking at what I typed in the post you quoted I feel like the phrase “first appearance” is something I meant to change to “first run of stories” but it’s too late to avoid that error now, so I guess I’ll just take this one on the chin.

Also just in case it’s not clear I wasn’t suggesting that Black Panther was created or named in line or accordance with pre existing Jungle Action characters, just saying that when compared to them you see a pattern in how Marvel and Stan decide to name characters. I could have easily referenced The Lizard, Rhino, Black Cat or Wolverine to illustrate Stan’s character naming strategies, and in retrospect I should have.

Do I think that I made a post with some unfortunate errors and poorly phrased arguments? Yes, sure I do. Do I think I need sleep and am beyond over tired? Yes, oh my god yes. Do I think that the point I made is negated by the first appearance fact checking… not unless Black Panther first appeared before the Albany arrest… and not unless his first run of stories occurred somewhere other than Jungle Action and before Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr died in 1968. See if I meant first appearance the impact of the civil rights movement is still an influencing factor in the emergence of black characters in American comics and still a cause that Dr King sacrificed his life to. If I meant “first run of serials” (which I did) then the impact of King’s actual assassination (and the efforts continued by Bobby Kennedy) also comes strongly into focus.

Anyway I gotta go finish some real work and then maybe take a nap.


Storm was introduced in Giant Sized X-Men #1 in 1975 according to the great and mighty Google. I knew it was the 70s, because I read a few of the early Claremont era. And didn’t like them as much as the old 60s ones, to be honest. Though that was many years ago (in the 90s, I think), and I remember very little of either.

Storm’s not Egyptian. She was born in Harlem, to an African American father and a Kenyan mother. While very young, her parents decided to move back to Africa, but were stuck in Cairo during the Suez crisis, and her parents were killed when a jet fighter crashed into the house they were staying at. She survived for a few years on the streets as a pickpocket, before wandering out into the desert where she ended up being worshipped as a weather goddess, until Charles Xavier found her and recruited her into the X-Men. She spent some time as a child under the influence of the Shadow King, but has not, to my knowledge, ever been a Horseman for Apocalypse. Her hair’s always been straight and white; it’s a side effect of her mutation, not because of any interaction she had with a super villain.

While I’m at it, Wolverine didn’t “put her in charge” of the X-Men. She took over the team after beating Cyclops in a duel in the Danger Room. Nobody at the time particularly cared about getting Logan’s opinion, much less permission, for the leadership change.

I agree that Storm’s a great character, although I’m not personally a fan of her being paired off with Logan or T’Challa, though. Storm and Callisto ftw.

[/Nerd Rage]

Not the first, but Black Lightning beat Black Panther, with a mostly Black cast (IIRC, there’s only one white regular), Black creators (the TV show), and a Black director in the opening episode.

I haven’t seen the movie yet but it’s probably better than the TV show, but the TV show is pretty good, especially because it avoids being Just Another Superhero Show.

Of Storm’s subtextual affections from the 80’s I think Yukio is ahead of Callisto. Storm didn’t shave most of her head for Callisto…

Besides, Callisto is way too serious.

Just in case anyone here missed this one:

Martin Freeman, who played Bilbo Baggins, and Andy Serkis, who played Gollum, are the only two major roles by white actors in Black Panther. They’re the Tolkien white guys.