Black Panther showcases need for diversity in film

Marvel Studios 'BLACK PANTHER' Courtesy Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

Matthew Reichard

Staff Writer 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a large family of movies full of diverse characters
made by tons of different people. The newest movie to join the MCU is “Black Panther.” The
MCU focuses on being diverse and keeping films unique by doing so. “Black Panther” is no
exception thanks to its director and cast. From the beginning, “Black Panther” stood for
something larger, and is arguably the most important character in comics.

“Black Panther’s” origins come from a goal of diversity. The creator of “Black Panther,”
Jack Kirby, brought the character to life after realizing he had no black characters he was
writing at the time. Kirby felt black heroes deserved the spotlight just as much as anyone else
did. T’Challa (“Black Panther”) made his debut thanks to Kirby in 1966 in “Fantastic Four #52.”
This led to more, much needed, black heroes in the following years such as Luke Cage in 1972
and Blade in 1973.

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“Black Panther” has also been forward thinking in spotlighting its African creators via its
comic series of recent years. The ongoing “Black Panther” series from Marvel comics is penned
by Ta-Nehisi Coates, an African-American political writer for The Atlantic who turned to comics.
The series tackles political issues of an African nation, which happens to also be the most
technologically advanced in the world, that is tearing itself apart via war within its borders. It
features a terrific cast of African characters that Coates brings power to with his writing.
It features gay characters as well in the form of two woman, Ayo and Aneka, who go
against the traditional Wakandan values of serving the King and take care of themselves
instead. The comic champions diversity of all kinds, both from the characters within them and
those who are creating them. The first two African female writers at Marvel penned the spinoff series “Black Panther: The World of Wakanda” in 2016, which focuses on Ayo and Aneka and how they found each other.

This is a thread across all of Marvel Comics. The newest team of heroes at Marvel, The
Champions, are champions for diversity. They fight for those who don’t get the attention and
care they need, regardless of who they are or where they come from. Characters like the
Pakistani Ms. Marvel, the gay and Latin-American hero America, and 16-year old African
American Riri Williams as Ironheart made Marvel accessible to all who are hoping to get away
from the normal brooding white male superhero that was most the mainstream.
Marvel is showcasing this diversity within their films as well. With its almost fully black
cast and up and coming black director, Ryan Coogler, Marvel is allowing the character to be
properly and fully displayed on the big screen. Coogler did the same thing with the Rocky
franchise via Creed and also with his movie “Fruitvale Station,” which revolves around a
shooting of a young black man at a train station in Oakland.

Something that has worked so well with the MCU is the fact that creators are allowed to
make their own movie. Directors are given a basic structure from the leads at Marvel Studios to
keep all the films unified, but otherwise a director is allowed to make a movie full of their own
voice. James Gunn has done it with “Guardians of the Galaxy, Taika Waititi,” “Thor: Ragnarok,”
and now Coogler will get to do so with “Black Panther.” Giving each film a voice from someone
who is ideal for the characters on display allows the MCU to feel fresh with each film, keeping
movie goers coming back for more.

“Black Panther” has also allowed for a musical showcase. Kendrick Lamar, who was
nominated for several Grammys just a few weeks ago for his album “DAMN,” was given creative freedom for a full rap album tie in to the movie. The album came out on Feb. 9, and features a wealth of stars from the music industry that collaborated with Lamar to make the album happen.

“Black Panther” has already become the highest pre-selling superhero movie to date,
and this can largely be credited to Marvel’s efforts at diversity. Diversity is something that
should be championed in all industries, but Marvel has done this both within it movies and
comics in a brilliant way. From the start, “Black Panther” has stood for creating diversity, first
within the comic and now on the big screen. “Black Panther” paved the way for black heroes
both in his origins and now on the big screen. At the end of the day, “Black Panther” is a movie
meant to entertain, but it stands for so much more than that within our world.

The early buzz surrounding the film has been nothing but positive, and it will be exciting
to see when it hits theaters on Feb. 16.

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