It has been nearly a month since the new Black Panther movie teaser trailer was released, and it has nearly 9 million views and that was just in the first 2 weeks. But also the day before the first Black Panther movie poster was released. Some people liked it other people felt Marvel went too cheap or maybe his mask and a panther should’ve been added. Other people thought the poster was “too black” as it was being compared to Co Founder of The Black Panther Party Huey P. Newton and his famous picture of him sitting in the chair with the staff and gun. I personally loved the picture, I didn’t see a lot of resemblance to Huey Newton, because T’Challa aka Black panther is a King in the comic books, I more so saw it as a King on his Throne then relating to The Black Panther Party of the 60s and I am a big fan of both. Some people even criticized the teaser trailer, when that trailer was probably one of the most smooth and well put together teasers I’ve seen in a while that made me want to watch it over and over, it’s very rare for me to want to watch a trailer over and over and get hyped every time I see it.
Now the Reason I am writing this piece is because lately I have seen many people say the mask should’ve been added, there should’ve been more to the poster for Black Panther. Well guys it’s the first poster so how Samuel L. Jackson says in Jurassic Park “Hold on to your butts”. But I feel that people are trying to downplay the idea the person behind the mask and not appreciate who T’Challa really is and why other black superheroes like Blade or Spawn seem more acceptable to the white audience per say. I mean for many of us we already knew T’Challa and that he is the Prince soon to be King of Wakanda, and also seeing him in Captain America’s Civil War film especially the iconic scene of when he removes his helmet. I want to examine why thus subject or idea of a hero like Black Panther makes not just white people uncomfortable, but even other races.
Blade and Spawn:
I grew up in the era of seeing Blade and Spawn constantly in the media, where Spawn was constantly being played on TBS or TNT, and Wesley Snipes was coming out with another Blade movie or Blade was in constant rotation as one of the characters in Spiderman the Animated series. The Internet wasn’t so vast as it is now, you either had dial up connection or you actually had to go to work, or the comic book store or school and talk about what you saw or read with other people. Growing up I never heard a lot of people bad mouth any of these two characters, Michael Jai White did great as Spawn and Wesley Snipes held an entire generation in the palm of his hand with his character. But why is Blade and Spawn more acceptable to the white audience? I saw a recent interview where Todd McFarlane was at a Comic-Con and some white guys came up to him talking about how much they loved and connected with Spawn. Todd looked at them and said “you do know that Spawn is a black man” so it surprised McFarlane how much this character resonated with people even who were a different race.
I think many people connect so well with Blade and Spawn because their identity isn’t about I am Black and I’m proud, its more so they are fighting for something deeper than just their race so to speak. But each character still faces racial issues or someone takes jabs at them being black and Spawn, or Blade will come back with quick banter that dismisses the racial divide the other character is trying to bring. I am not saying this is a bad thing, but this is something that I definitely feel you don’t feel as if their is a divide in the comics, even though the comic book and it’s fans have not always been so friendly to black nerds, you see there is a reason for this connection.
Sometimes we also forget that these two with the Spawn movie, and Blade series they were the first black superheroes on the big screen, we could even say Meteor Man and Blank Man were the first, even though they were comical they were still black and superheroes at that. So why does it seem like Comic book fans respect these two so much, but we also still forget, they paved the way for a lot of Comic Book movies? but these movies weren’t garbage or trash, they actually had good plots, and good fight scenes. So why can’t more people relate to Black Superheroes?
Why Can’t You Relate?
I have always been a fan of Batman, I rarely cared about the race of superheroes until I got a little older and started watching the Justice League Cartoon, and X-men the animated series, that whole 90s to early 2000’s classic comic book shows, and even comic book era. Growing up black you are always conscious of your skin, but when you’re also black and a nerd you find it hard at times to always relate to superman, wonder woman, or Batman , so seeing characters like Storm, John Stewart Green Lantern was such a treat for many of us. Over the last few years I’ve seen so many articles and blog post about Storm and how she’s one of the strongest mutants, but on screen we rarely get that, don’t get me wrong Halle Berry was good, but if they gave her more screen time and more lines, we would’ve had an amazing story for Storm. But if Storm is one of the strongest why do people try to play her as if she’s not dope, or cool, she can singlehandedly control the weather, and was also apart of Apocalypse’s 4 horsemen which should tell you how deadly she is. Maybe it is the way Storm is portrayed as being pro black, and wanting to help her people back home in Africa, or how she always has to be on guard with being a mutant and also being black.
I mean look at John Stewart part of the Green lantern Corps, now everyone knows he is the best Green Lantern hands down, but he is constantly kind of downplayed in comics. Of course Hal Jordan wit Earth’s first Lantern so they’re going to give him the best of everything, but John makes so many critical and crucial decisions he was even made as a guardian to keep watch. In 2014 I went to New York Comic-Con and cosplayed as John Stewart and had an interesting conversation with a comic book seller, he said ” why they always downplaying you man, he was like John blew up a whole planet, but he did that to save the people, but now they want to put him in jail, if that was anyone else they wouldn’t care.” When it comes to the Green Lantern corps it always seems like a divide with fans over who is better Hal or John, I don’t necessarily see it as a black or white divide but, sometimes it almost feels that way.
Now we have old, but new black superheroes coming into the forefront people like Cyborg, and Misty Knight. I have always loved Cyborg because of Teen Titans, but I am just now really learning more about misty Knight since Luke Cage, I’ve always heard her name, but never fully looked into her. I think these characters that are coming up now is amazing that they are getting shine because it feels like Cyborg always gets pushed to the side when it comes to things like Justice League, and how much of an amazing character he really is. Misty Knight we see is strong minded, educated, and not afraid to do what she has to do, seeing her in live action form is amazing and just to see the transformation, and hopefully Netflix adapts the idea of Daughters of the dragon.
The question still stands though, why is it hard for the white audience to accept black superheroes? prime example when Michael B. Jordan was casted as Johnny Storm aka Human Torch for the 2015 Fantastic Four movie, there was so much backlash, people saying no they shouldn’t have did this. I am not the biggest fan of his acting, but I was truly excited for a different variation of Johnny Storm and the spin they would put on it, and he actually did a pretty good job in my opinion. So why do so many people or nerds get so bent out of shape when comic book writers or show runners put a spin on a character, I mean none of us own these characters, and we don’t have a say in how they are created. Even with the adaption of Miles Morales as Spider-man many people couldn’t believe a person of color is now in the spidey suit, I mean if we can see Spider-man movies get rebooted 100 times, I think people will be ok with seeing a Black-Latino teenager as Spiderman.
One thing I can say I am happy about is a character like Vixen who is getting more of a push and a lot of people are liking her, from seeing her in the TV shows Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, and also her own animated series DVD. I am also happy about seeing a black Hawkgirl in Legends of Tomorrow which I didn’t know how people would handle that, but it definitely worked out, just wish she could’ve lasted in the show longer. It’s going to be great when we get to see the Dora Milaje in Black Panther one of the deadliest and amazing group of women you’ll ever see in comic books.
The crazy thing about black superheroes, that not only black and Latino people are hungry for these characters, but people of all races are, but why does it seem like the nerd culture itself is having such a hard time. If we look at Luke Cage and his new Netflix series, many people were expecting maybe a comic book variation where he uses old 60s and 70s words and maybe even bring back the old costume. But this concept people were looking for backfired and created a whole new idea of Luke cage and what it means to be invulnerable and bulletproof. We even saw a new adaption of Iron Man with RiRi Williams, a young black teenage girl who has become the new protégé of Tony Stark, this had everyone going crazy over the internet, and the different look of the iron costume.
So we have to ask is it the acting? is the notion of seeing a black face on the big screen?, is it the idea of a black character replacing an already beloved white character and changing the story? or are people simply mad comic book writers are only writing these stories because times are changing? So I am a little confused as to why people can’t relate to a lot of these characters when every superhero I have mentioned are fighting for the greater good of the planet. They all may do it in their own way, but every person is fighting to make sure the world they live in is safe. of course a lot of these characters could be written better that’s a no brainer, but why is it so hard to see Black Panther and Wakanda as one of the most advanced civilizations. Is it because it is actually becoming real, it has been downplayed as this is just a comic this could never be real? Remember these are just my opinions and thoughts, but also many other people have felt and thought this way.
Of Course we get it yeah every comic book or TV executive is riding on the back of more diversity, but this is something people have been shouting for years, and we finally have people who are not afraid to break that barrier or chain to provide those outlets. Hollywood has constantly failed us in the diversity department, and we have seen bland characters that should be seen as the coolest thing ever. So please excuse the few of us who are extremely excited for black superheroes and how they are becoming more visible. People are more accepting of characters they believe fit a certain mold, and not what seems to be more pleasing to the majority of fans or nerds who want to see change. people want to identify with a character and if they can’t they say it’s weak, trash, garbage or the character just doesn’t fit the bill try again. So when you see people of color so excited about Black Panther, Black Lightning, Misty Knight, Luke Cage, we have finally found something we can identify with instead of just accepting these characters that have been rebooted thousands of times.
So hopefully in the coming years we see more black superheroes, and not only just black, but Latino, Muslim men and women characters with good stories and plots. Don’t turn a blind eye just because you can’t relate, read up on new characters, read and learn.