The Marvel Studios film “Captain America: Civil War” had an extraordinary burden: to introduce Marvel Comics’ African superhero, The Black Panther, to the world in exemplary fashion.
Actor Chadwick Boseman had to take that on his shoulders as well, setting the stage for how the character would be perceived by fans and viewers for the rest of the future time of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
Both parties delivered magnificently with skill, style, and class.
With the main thrust of the story being a war of ideologies between two White superheroes with different levels and types of privilege, the Black Panther’s introduction was neither shoehorned nor sold short.
Boseman’s Prince T’Challa and his father, King T’Chaka, portrayed by South African actor John Kani, represented the finer qualities of royalty, and of a father and son.
The death of King T’Chaka led to the battlefield promotion, of sorts, for his son to go from being a Prince to being a King. From being the son of a man to becoming a man of his own, and what a man T’Challa was.
Handsome, athletic, dignified, regal, intelligent, intellectual, observant, discrete, and strategic.
Without ample time to grieve, T’Challa’s first goal was to honor his family by hunting down his father’s alleged killer and to honor his nation of Wakanda by stopping the Winter Soldier, the personified threat to world peace and superhuman power run amok.
T’Challa’s exceptional abilities shone through, whether he was wearing the tribal garb of Wakanda’s protector and animal avatar, or wearing normal clothing.
The costume did not make the man.
Every person who opposed T’Challa was met with equal or superior measure of combat capability, agility, and cunning.
His capacity for silence and stealth made T’Challa the true representation of his royal warrior namesake.
When, at last, T’Challa confronted his father’s killer, he tempered rage with empathy, delayed action with patience, and conquered vengeance with wisdom.
The Black Panther was, from a real-world perspective, the underestimated “minority” in the story about other people, from a fictional land unsullied by the “majority” and their colonialism.
The same can be said for Diana, Princess of Themiscyra, The Wonder Woman of the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries.
The Warner Bros. film, “Batman v. Superman” shouldered many burdens upon its steroid-infected shoulders, and among them was the introduction of DC Comics’ most impactful female superhero, Wonder Woman.
Actress Gal Gadot took on the daunting task of portraying the hero, with a history of failed attempts and the shadow of the iconic “Wonder Woman” television show actress Lynda Carter looming over her in the hearts of many fans.
Gadot succeeded in being a breath of fresh air, amidst the toxicity, smoke, fire, and dominating machismo of the two male superhero combatants, Batman and Superman.
Introduced as the mystery woman of the piece, Princess Diana was commanding in presence, strategically elegant, and highly formidable.
Diana stole from Lex Luthor and outwitted Bruce Wayne.
She maintained a level of secrecy while her male, costumed peers made themselves known through either intention or ego.
As the Wonder Woman, she thrived in the heat of battle while the men had just recovered from fighting each other.
Having walked away from society the better part of a century ago, Diana returned to help save it from an inhuman menace.
She exemplified the royalty of her homeland, Themyscira, a land of Amazons…uninfected by men and their socially-engineered penchant for invasion and domination.
Black Panther and Wonder Woman, two different characters with significant similarities, are bound in their common introduction within the landscapes of other people’s stories.
Both of them, caught between the ideological righteousness of two powerful men.
Neither of them the star, but both of them the shining example of promise.
King T’Challa and Princess Diana are both threatened by the same enemy, and its name is Warner Bros.
From a corporate standpoint, Warner Bros. is the opposite number to Marvel Studios.
In a competitive context, Warner should be planning to trump the character of T’Challa and the upcoming “Black Panther” film with an effort of their own.
Their up-until-this-point-all-White superhero universe will be further exposed in its homogeneity by Marvel’s African superhero directed by the African-American filmmaker Ryan Coogler.
The cameo in “Batman V. Superman” by he-who-is-to-become-the-disfigured-Black-superhero-Cyborg does not serve to counter Marvel’s Panther power.
Warner’s upcoming ‘Cyborg” film will not be completed in time to take on “Black Panther” from a culturally aesthetic or demographically targeted position.
They will either pit a White hero, or a team of mostly White heroes, against the brilliant Black superhuman King of Wakanda.
Warner will try to defeat T’Challa, and may succeed in severely hurting Diana.
Yes, she is their hero, their intellectual property, their pride and joy in her iconic power within the feminism narrative, but Warner Bros. has really done the Amazon Princess dirty, haven’t they?
We all know that “Captain America: Civil War” is a superior film to “Batman V. Superman”, or at the very least is perceived as such by many critics and fans.
So the most important female superhero in the history of comics was introduced in a less-than-stellar film, in which she was shoved, prostituted, and minimally characterized. All because of the desire to set up a Justice League within an accelerated time frame.
Since the upcoming “Suicide Squad” is a villain-based film and thus an anomaly of sorts, “Wonder Woman” will have to be the beginning of the Warner Bros./DC Cinematic Superhero Universe’s redemption.
At a time in which the subject of diversity is ever-present in popular entertainment, the first supporting members of the “Wonder Woman” cast were shown, and they were all White.
Wonder Woman, as a character, has been given the short end of the stick in a handful of ways before the film’s release next year.
Like T’Challa, Wonder Woman has obstacles to overcome, but her obstacles are from her own home, her own camp, her own corporate parents.
Next year’s “Wonder Woman” film is unfairly required to present a level of quality that will remove the bad taste of “Batman V. Superman”, and set a standard that will be difficult for next year’s “Black Panther” movie to meet or surpass.
If not, the similarities between the Princess of Themyscira and the King of Wakanda will be reduced further, and no League of Justice will be able to save the day.