The first major African super hero in comics, Black Panther has always held a special place in Marveldom. In the 1960′s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were on a roll. Introduced in issue 52, Black Panther was not just a super hero but he was also a King to the people of Wakanda, an advanced city where super science posed as primitive technology. An expert hand-to-hand fighter, lithe gymnast and tracker, T’Challa is also a skilled scientist and tactician. After obtaining his own series in Jungle Action, the character really came into his own and has been one of the more popular characters in the Marvel Universe ever since. As a member of the Avengers and one-time leader of the Fantastic Four, the latest Black Panther volume has seen the hero rise to new heights.
So what’s next?
Recently announced at the San Francisco WonderCon, T’Challa will finally be hitting the small screen. Developed for BET by Denys Cowan and Reginald Hudlin (the creative team of the current comic), the animated series will aim to faithfully adapt the first story line from Hudlin’s run, ‘Who is the Black Panther?’. A veteran of both comics and animation, Denys Cowan was one of the architects of Milestone and its star cartoon series, Static Shock. Hudlin is also the President of BET… which must help get this kind of thing off the ground.
Designed for airing at prime time, the series may be animated but Hudlin clearly stated that “This is not for kids. What you saw in the book, you will see in the series.” Black Panther is also not about to shy away from any political impact. “The series is more than putting heroes on the screen, it’s a different world today. Telling the story of a Black King guarding his kingdom sends a powerful message, same as the recent Presidential Election. It’s going to rock people and change their world. It’s profoundly personal for all of us.”
“Black Panther is the President, the Pope and the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all rolled up in one,” explained Hudlin. “Think of Black Panther as the African equivalent of Captain America.”
The lucky attendees at WonderCon got to see a two minute trailer that Marvel has gracefully uploaded to youtube. As you will see, the design closely matches that of the ‘Who is the Black Panther?’ story line which featured artwork by John Romita Jr.
The response has been big and why not? For decades this super cool characters has languished on the shelf, waiting to reach a wider audience. Think Blade but with a deeper significance and more of a comic book legacy. There have been numerous attempts at getting a feature film produced with no real results, making this the first step in what could be a golden age for the Black Panther. Hudlin gladly exclaimed to the convention attendees that he would love to work on a Black Panther feature film and the motion picture director/producer certainly has the influence to not only make it happen but make it happen in the right way.
The animated series will debut on BET this Summer.