From portraying legends on screen, to becoming one in real life.
By: Marcus Sebego
Black superheroes are few and far between as it is, but Black superheroes that capture the hearts and minds of viewers all across the world and leave a lasting impression are even more rare. Black superheroes have been a part of comic books for years from as far back as 1969 when “Falcon” was first introduced in Captain America #1 or even as recently as “Miles Morales” who was first seen in Ultimate Fallout #4 in 2011, and everything in between. But when it comes to Black Marvel comic book characters that have a rich history making the crossover into the cinematic world, it has been a little more difficult, with the most recent example of this being Wesley Snipes’ portrayal of Eric Brooks in “Blade: Trinity” which released in 2004. Similarly to any other process, there will always be a first, and in the case of Black superheroes that honor would go to Black Panther, the character of T’challa was first seen in “Fantastic Four” #52 in the year 1966, and would subsequently go on to appear in his own series “Black Panther”, “Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda” and many more.
The very first Black superhero film was a movie by the name “Abar, the first Black Superman” an Action/Blaxploitation film released in 1977. But the character of Abar did not have the rich documented history that most Marvel comic book superheroes have. But even with this comic book success, the same problem persisted, Black superheroes were not being prominently featured in their own live action films. And aside from “Blade”, “Hancock” and “Spawn”, Black superhero films have predominantly taken a more satirical/comedic approach which never really establishes the hero as a leader,an inspiration or even someone with exceptional ability, but rather as the films main source of comedic relief. As can be seen in Robert Townsend’s “The Meteor Man” which released in 1993 and also shares this largely comedic tone with Damon Wayans’ “Blank Man” which released soon after that the following year in 1994.
Then came the announcement that changed the way Black superheroes would be seen from this point forth, Fellow MCU actors Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans stood on stage and announced that Mr Chadwick Boseman would be playing Black Panther, and it almost felt like there was a quiet optimism that came over the comic book community, a sense of hope.
T'challa, first seen in comic books in 1966, would now become a tangible reality for so many people. A real life depiction of a flawed Black man constantly striving to make the life of people and his loved ones better. A prince who was forced to become King because his father was taken away from him too soon. And while dealing with feelings of grief, sadness, anger and a thirst for revenge, he is faced with the skeletons that his father left hanging that he must now address. And in spite of this, he is the leader of an African Kingdom, a thriving nation by the name of Wakanda. Wakanda depicts an untouched African country with an abundance of resources that are used to enrich the lives of those who live in it. And the King of such a country would need to rule with grace, patience and strength. While simultaneously being quick to think and slow to act.
Before his generation defining role as Black Panther, Mr Bosemam took on the daunting challenge of portraying historical black figures who were as great as they were flawed. The progenitor of funk James Brown, the very first African American to play in Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson, and an American lawyer and a Civil Rights activist, Thurgood Marshall. He had the opportunity to play the heroes he looked up to, which subsequently led to him playing a character that would see him become a hero to so many people. It is one thing to portray a hero on screen it is another thing altogether to be a hero in real life.
As people we have all suffered in some way shape or form, but the most honorable form of suffering is not only to suffer, but to do so while being a husband, brother and son. He did his job for 4 years in unimaginable pain while visiting children’s hospitals to help those who he knew were suffering just like he was. But at no point did he make it about him and how much pain he was in. It seemed as though he lived in the moment and continued to give others even though life continued to take from him.
If you are having feelings of pain, sadness and even grief in this moment over the passing of someone you never knew personally. Know that it is perfectly normal because the effect someone can have on your life is not measured in proximity but rather in the moments they have provided that have allowed you to, reflect, laugh, cry, yolulate and whistle with joy. Moments that have allowed you to swallow your pride and apologize, look in the mirror and acknowledge your beauty and look deep within yourself to become the best version of yourself. And just as Mr. Boseman said himself, “I think when done right, it gives people hope.”
Thank you, Mr. Chadwick Boseman, for giving an entire group of people hope, the contribution that you have made to the lives of those who have had the pleasure of watching you and even those who have yet to know of your greatness, you have made an everlasting impact that will carry on for generations. Rest in Power, King T’challa.