Despite the lack of publicly released footage, this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was a big one for Marvel. New details emerged from their next major films, including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Doctor Strange, and of course their official announcement introducing Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. One of the most exciting aspects to the MCU presence at SDCC, though, was the Black Panther panel.
Fans were treated to major Panther updates, including the reveal of several mystery characters (including villain Killmonger) and of course the meet and greet with cast and crew, including director Ryan Coogler and the Wakandan king himself, Chadwick Boseman.
Following the madness of Saturday night’s Hall H panel, Gizmodo sat down for a chat with Boseman about his upcoming foray into the MCU. The premiere outing (of several, hopefully) for the fictional African nation of Wakanda, Black Panther features Marvel’s first mostly black cast. Boseman, who’s somewhat familiar with the Jack Kirby-based origins of the superhero king, spoke about the importance of the character in terms of diversity and fan base:
“Obviously, I know how important it is, particularly for people of African descent. In terms of seeing everybody’s response to it, all types of people have responded to me since Civil War came out. I’ll go certain places and they’ll come up to me and talk about the movie. But this is the first place where I’ve seen them all together—black people, Asian people, Latino people, middle-aged people, young people, old people… It’s something to see all in one spot. So, I’d definitely say yesterday was the first time it just hit me.”
He also touched on the importance of keeping King T’Challa from being a stereotypical black character, one who swoops in to fix problems for white people. Boseman related:
“Well, he’s there for his own purpose. He’s not there… usually what happens is 'well, he did this in this scene and now he’s doing [something else contradictory] and that doesn’t even fit the character.' That’s the Magical Negro thing. But, I think we were very cognizant about making a character that had his own through-line, his own intent and he wasn’t going to waver for anybody else’s story. Anytime that I felt like that was about to happen, I’d be like ‘nah, this is what he wants. You can do whatever you wanna do but this is what I feel like he needs to be doing.’ I feel like that’s the key. Sometimes… I won’t say more than that.”
Boseman reiterated the need for the character to keep his own agenda, saying:
“I think the main thing is just keeping it very clear that he has his own arc and his own things that he wants and desires. He only changes that when something strikes a chord at his core. It strikes a chord at what I think is his lineage and heritage and what he’s been taught, at what he’s been groomed to be. He can’t make that shift at the end of the movie unless he’s been groomed to make that shift already. And even though we don’t see that grooming, that’s actually the first glimpse into Wakanda before you see that tag at the very end.”
Unique in being comic-dom’s (and Marvel’s) first leading black character, it’s only appropriate that Black Panther becomes the MCU’s first minority standalone. King T’Challa’s evolved greatly over the years, from being a minor element in the Avengers or a supplemental character for all-white teams like the Fantastic Four (despite Kirby and Lee's best intentions). According to Boseman, Coogler and his team have done their best to bring the best elements of the Wakandan to life in the upcoming film.
Creating a character with elements of political struggle is challenging enough, without also having to insert them into the finely tuned clockwork of the MCU, and keep things exciting on a superhero level. Since his entry into Captain America: Civil War, Boseman's Black Panther has received overwhelmingly positive buzz. His character stands poised to not only bring greater diversity into the MCU, but also launch a subset of the franchise which could bring in countless new fans to the acclaimed comic and to the Wakandan leader.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming following July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2– May 3, 2019; and as-yet-untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.