Black Panther: More than just a movie

The film made a enormous mark on our cultural landscape well before it's official release

By: Jobina Fortson

The love of comics starts in places like the Great Escape for many fans.

“Everyone that reads a comic reads it for different reasons,” Great Escape manager Sonya Linser said. “Some people read for the art some read for the writing.”

Growing up Julian Thomas was reading for something else too. But often had trouble finding it.

“Especially when you’re a child, seeing characters and none of them look like you,” Julian Thomas, a lifelong comic fan, said. “So you find other characters and you say, ‘Okay I feel like he looks like me or he would be the black character.'”

Two authors attempted to increase diversity in the medium in 1966 with Black Panther, protector and king of the fictional African nation Wakanda. Black Panther became the first super hero of African descent in mainstream American comics.

Fast forward to 2018, the writers of the comic have changed, enlisting influential voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Popularity grew with it and the world has now fixed it’s eyes on the big screen for something that’s never happened before.

Fans expected excitement over the film, but maybe not to the extent it has.

Students of color in Atlanta went viral after dancing on desks at school when they found out they were going to see the movie.

Black community activists in Louisville put together an entire photoshoot dressed as the characters.

“We recognize the power of this movie,” Kingdom Fellowship Church Pastor Timothy Findley said. “Having these kinds of images that people can see, heroes and positive figures that look like us in a very small way, that can have a major impact.”

The group rented out an entire theater to support the movie as well.

“The idea of having all these beautiful black people in this movie we don’t get that too often,” Louisville Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said. “I think it’s just a great thing to celebrate.”

“I never thought I’d get an opportunity to portray a queen,” actress Angela Bassett said the night of the film’s premiere.

“You know these undercurrent themes of empowering, and how to do you step up and defend your nation and your people and I thought, ‘You know yeah that’s fantasy in the movie, but that’s also a reality that we’re living especially in these times,'” MEMStim LLC CEO Dr. Angelique Johnson said. “The first time when you’re a child where you can just really dream without bounds, is when you see a super hero.”

Thomas remembered the feeling Dr. Johnson referred to. He took it with him into adulthood.

He’s now a comic writer. One of his characters is based off his brother.

Thomas is writing to take things beyond race and into work that’s hopefully remembered.

“I want people to see these are great characters, oh and they’re black too,” Thomas said.