Marvel has announced that Chadwik Boseman will play superhero Black Panther. Boseman hasn’t been in the public eye for very long. He hit most people’s radar in the spring of 2013, thanks to his quiet but stirring portrayal of Jackie Robinson in Brian Helgeland’s 42; then, in August 2014, he brought Brown back to life in Get On Up with a performance that seemed to quiet any doubters about his talents. Now he’s will join the ranks of many other notable stars with Marvel’s big announcement that he has signed to star as the superhero Black Panther in five films, beginning with Captain America: Civil War.
The Black Panther and Captain Marvel films in particular find the comics juggernaut moving in exciting new directions. Black Panther was the first mainstream comic to feature a black superhero. Boseman, who will reportedly make his first appearance as the superhero in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. Black Panther is scheduled for release on November 3rd, 2017, while Captain Marvel will open on July 6th, 2018.
The first thing to know about the Black Panther is that he’s an interesting combination of brains and brawn. His real name is T’Challa, and he was born an heir to the throne of Wakanda, a fictional, isolationist African kingdom that also has some of the world’s most advanced technology.
T’Challa’s path to inheriting the Wakandan throne and becoming the Black Panther was far from direct. T’Challa’s mother died in childbirth, and when T’Challa was a teenager, his father was murdered by a Dutchman bent on stealing Vibranium, a rare Wakandan metal. (Some might remember that Vibranium was also the metal used to forge Captain America’s shield.) After attending schools in America and Europe, T’Challa returned to Wakanda for a ritual tournament, wherein he defeated and replaced his uncle S’yan as the nation’s ruler, also called the Black Panther. The feat earned him the Heart-Shaped Herb that made him a superhero: The herb links its bearer’s spirit to Bast, the Panther God, and imbues the newly crowned Black Panther with superhuman senses and extraordinary strength and speed.
And that’s all in addition to the Black Panther’s awesome gear. His uniform is bulletproof, he has super-sharp claws, and he has a “Kimoyo Card” that’s basically a very advanced smart phone. (He once commandeered and remotely landed a jumbo jet with it.) For footwear, he has boots that let him climb up the sides of buildings and walk on water. To top it all off, the outfit has cloaking technology that lets him walk down the street looking like an average Joe.
Like the Avengers team itself, the Black Panther was a creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He was one of the first mainstream black superheroes, and he was created a mere three months before the Black Panther Party formed. His first appearance was in a Fantastic Four comic in 1966, and after several supporting roles, he got his first starring appearance in 1973, with a new series launching in the following issue. The series, written by Don McGregor, ran for three years, and it wasn’t just the Black Panther’s race that made history: Critic Jason Sacks has credited the early “Panther’s Rage” comics as Marvel’s “first graphic novel,” since they followed one titled and self-contained story arc over 13 issues.
Marvel Studios’ movie won’t be the first Black Panther adaptation for the screen. A few years ago BET collaborated with Marvel Animation to produce a motion-comic-style primetime series with Djimon Hounsou voicing the superhero. The show premiered in Australia in January of 2010 and was released to DVD a year later. Wesley Snipes was also slated to play the Black Panther in a Columbia Pictures adaptation in the ’90s, but the movies never materialized. The BET-Marvel animated series might be the closest we get to a Black Panther adaptation before Marvel’s Black Panther movie in 2017.