I finally saw Black Panther this Saturday and I was completely blown away by it. It’s unlike any of the other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I mean that in the best way possible. To some Marvel fans this may seem like another cog in the MCU, but for others, it’s a statement that means so much more.
Marvel has seen its fair share of internet backlash and criticism over “catering to the PC culture” with its inclusion and development of characters that aren’t white male superheroes, and Black Panther is no exception to this criticism. To a large portion of the comic community, this is just another way Marvel is appeasing the “SJW’s” when in reality, a company like Marvel realizes that to attract new readers, sometimes you have to shake things up a bit.
People were completely up in arms when the Iron Man was to be a teenage African American girl named Riri Williams, saying that Marvel was tampering with the legacy of Iron Man just to cash in. What people fail to see is that inclusion in comics is important for the growth of the medium and a movie like Black Panther is the best bet the comics industry has at continued expansion.
A lot of children are first exposed to comic books through the Marvel Studios films and while some may pick up an issue or two and never come back, for every 10 kids that do that, you may have 2 that continue to pick up comics. For years, the only black predominant characters in the Marvel films have been sidekicks (War Machine, the Falcon), but Black Panther completely changes that. Black Panther takes a powerful, smart, and thought provoking African character and makes him a leader of an entire nation while simultaneously defending it from the threats of outsiders. To keep the comics industry thriving, we need to make sure that young readers have an accessible character they can relate to that will keep them coming back for more. Without new readers, we’re dead in the dirt and stuck with the same old boring titles year after year while comic shops go under because of sales.
Like I said before, to some this movie is just another installment in a long plan of films that will eventually lead up to a large event, but to others this is the event they’ve been waiting for. This film is a beacon of pride for so many people and it shouldn’t be seen as anything other than that. Black Panther sends a message to numerous marginalized groups through the medium of comics that their voices are heard and represented. Young kids need someone to relate to when they stare at that screen and a hero like Black Panther gives them that opportunity and it doesn’t stop just there, the entire film highlights the accomplishments of black men and women alike. We see young women in extremely complex roles as military Generals and tech developers.
For the first time in an MCU film, people of color are represented proudly and not just as a novelty character for backup jokes. If we want to see the comics industry prosper, films and comics like Black Panther need to be at the forefront of these numerous relaunches. They need to be handled by seasoned creative teams rather than being passed off to inexperienced writers and artists as an afterthought.
Inclusion is important for growth and shouldn’t be considered a move to appease Tumblr nerds but rather as a way to spread something many of us love to as many people as humanly possible.