NEW YORK: Captain America and Iron Man may be the stars of Marvel’s latest comic-book blockbuster, but Black Panther—making his big-screen debut—is most definitely the superhero of the moment.
Black Panther, the warrior king of the futuristic fictional African country Wakanda, is starring in a new comic book series that is doing booming sales, and will be the first black hero to get a standalone film, in 2018.
The new comic series—written by acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates, a leading voice on race issues in America—debuted in April, and so far 330,000 copies of the first issue alone have been sold, according to Marvel.
The character, celebrating his 50th anniversary, is a long-time member of the Marvel universe, but one of the few black heroes, a fact that has new resonance in an entertainment world consumed by a debate about diversity.
“The Black Panther has always been a well liked character among fans,” said Ben Saunders, the director of comics and cartoons studies at the University of Oregon.
But he’s been given new life through the writing of Coates, who won a National Book Award for his “Between The World and Me,” a letter to his son on how blacks fit into American society.
“It was simply meant to be,” Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Axel Alonso told Agence France-Presse of Coates’ participation, explaining that the author is a life-long comic book fan.
“Ta-Nehisi is a wonderful storyteller with a masterful control of language and he has something to say about us—mankind, humanity—that transcends mere politics.”
“I’m more interested in the political side of his story. I got into him when I was young because I didn’t know that there was any superheroes outside of New York,” he said.
Before the new Coates comic made waves, Marvel green-lighted a standalone film in 2018 for Black Panther, who will be played by Chadwick Boseman, best known for his portrayal of black baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 42.
Ryan Coogler, the young black director behind last year’s successful Rocky spinoff Creed, will be at the helm. Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o and Creed star Michael B. Jordan are already attached to the project.
Filmgoers get their first taste of Black Panther in this month’s Captain America: Civil War, but he has a secondary role to the franchise’s more established stars.