I am the first African American editor in comics.
I’m sorry if this somehow displeases you. I’m sorry if it causes you to involuntarily groan in annoyance at my bringing it up. These are common reactions among industry pros when I mention this fact. If it’s not true, by all means, please prove me wrong: I’ll be happy to celebrate whomever was the first black guy in, but it is a reasonable and important distinction for many African American fans and pros. I’m sorry if it annoys you, but it has significance for many of us.
I am also, to my knowledge, the first African-American writer in comics, though people in this biz are quick to haggle and parse that claim. I’m not sure why none of the various self- congratulatory histories of comics ever mention this. Amid all the wonderful histories that have been written, noting the pioneers of the Golden and Silver and Modern Ages, trumpeting these firsts, I am not mentioned anywhere. And, whenever I mention it myself, it is, every time, excised from the published text. I haven’t figured out if the companies think I’m arrogant in making the claim, or if they’re embarrassed to have been in business nearly fifty years before allowing a black man a seat in their front office."
Jen: You’re letting me go.
Blake: I’m sorry, Jen. But in the end, the deciding factor was your attitude. We do serious work here.
Jen: I am very serious.
Blake: Jen, last night you crushed one of our copiers taking pictures of your butt.
Jen: How do you know that was me? It could’ve been anyone.
Blake: It was a color copier, Jen.
She-Hulk v1 #1
“[Black Panther] has a lot of the same characteristics of a Captain America: great character, good values, but it’s a little more difficult, maybe, creating [a world like Wakanda]. It’s always easier basing it here. For instance, ‘Iron Man 3’ is rooted right here in Los Angeles and New York. When you bring in other worlds, you’re always faced with those difficulties.”
Let me see if I read this clearly.
Marvel Studios’ co-president Louis D’Esposito thinks creating a fictional African kingdom like Wakanda is more difficult than, say, a fictionalized version of Afghanistan, the alien realm of Asgard, or the alien worlds that’s going to be in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film?
How exactly is creating a fictional kingdom on Earth harder than creating a fictional kingdom of deity-like beings or of alien creatures?
I’m not sure I’m buying that. I mean, it’s not that difficult.
“I want to recreate something created in comics in live-action.” Boom! It’s done. People do it all the time. It’s not rocket science. It’s movies. You can create anything your imagination allows you to. It’s not hard at all.
You can create beings who transform into giant monsters smashing up buildings. You can create robotic suits capable of traveling from Los Angeles to Afghanistan in mere minutes. You can destroy an entire metropolitan city with alien creatures with relative ease. You can create alien realms and dimensions. You can create a floating carrier base with more machines than humanly possible. But to create an African kingdom with real world physics? That’s impossible to you guys?
It’s not that hard. I mean, filmmakers have made fictionalized African worlds since the beginning of film. We have the talent and the technology to make it look and feel real. That’s not a problem, so I don’t know why Marvel Studio’s co-head would think that’s a problem.
The problem that they refuse to acknowledge is this:
Marvel Studios fears that a Black Panther movie will be classified as “a Black film.”
That’s … that’s it.
Considering Marvel likes to do origin stories to introduce a character, the fact that his entire origin story takes place in the African kingdom of Wakanda may be a hard sell in Marvel’s eyes. And to do that, you’re going to need a majority Black cast. There’s a belief in Hollywood that you can’t put more than three Black actors in a film in leading roles because the general perception is that it’d be seen as a Black film,
Todd McFarlane stated that the producers of Spawn turned Terry Fitzgerald (Wanda Blake’s new husband) into a White man and developed a White woman named Jessica Priest to be the killer of Al Simmons instead of Chapel (a Black man) largely because the studio didn’t want too many Black leads in the film. The first Blade move has Wesley Snipes, N’Bushe Wright, and Sanaa Lathan, while the other films only had Snipes in the titular role. Steel (ugh) had Shaquille O’Neal in the title role, Richard Roundtree as his uncle Joe and Irma P. Hall as his grandmother.
Remember M.A.N.T.I.S? Great television movie about a paraplegic doctor and brilliant scientist named Miles Hawkins (the last name, had the series continued, wasn’t a coincidence and he would have been in a crossover with a Milestone character who also shares that family name) who created an exoskeleton (the costume design was created by Hardware co-creator Denys Cowan) that not only restored his ability to walk, but gave him enhanced abilities.
Carl Lumbly, who later played Martian Manhunter in various DC animated productions, played Dr. Hawkins. Gina Torres, who’s known by many as Zoe Washburne from the Firefly/Serenity series and the voice of Vixen on Justice League Unlimited and Wonder Woman in the DC Universe Online MMORPG, played Dr. Amy Ellis. Bobby Hosea played reporter Yuri Barnes while Wendy Raquel Robinson (you may know her as Principal Regina “Piggy” Grier from The Steve Harvey Show sitcom and Tasha Mack on The Game) and Christopher M. Brown played a pair of African students who interred for Dr. Hawkins.
When the film became a series, only Lumbly remained. Everybody else was gone, replaced by different actors, all White. Much of the African elements removed from the series. And it was canceled with the lead character getting squashed by an invisible dinosaur. Critics noticed the changes made from the well-received pilot and the rather lackluster series, mostly savaging the lack of diversity the series had.
That said, it’s kind of telling that nearly 20 years after M.A.N.T.I.S. premiered, Hollywood still fears creating a serious action-adventure property with a predominately minority cast and the perceptions of it being a “Black film.” There’s no such thing as a “Black film.” There are comedies, dramas, thrillers, and adventure stories with a mostly minority cast, but they’re just comedies, dramas, thrillers, and adventure stories.
The whole thing about Marvel not wanting to make a Black Panther film because they can’t recreate the kingdom of Wakanda seems farfetched and weird to be believed. Guess that’s just Hollywood being strange and woefully ignorant again.
I had a thought today. It’s mentioned more than once in the film that the Avengers Initiative was scrapped. It’s also made known that Tony was not included as an active member of the Team. At the end of Iron Man 2, Natasha’s report stated that the Iron Man was approved for the initiative, but Tony was not, and that if he were to serve at all, it would be as a consultant. I think the implication was that he would be training someone else in the use of the suit, or (given the events of the film) Lt. Colonel Rhodes in his modified suit (given that it’s never referred to as “War Machine” in the film). Agent Coulson even mentions that, given the urgency of the situation, that it wasn’t “about personality profiles” anymore.
Nick Fury states that the world is filling with extraordinary people. Stark, Banner, Steve, and Thor are hardly “filling” anything, and the map at the end of IM2 had more locations marked than the ones that have been explored so far, so I think the implication is that there was a plan for a larger, more organized, well trained team that, for some reason, didn’t seem feasible to the Council.
My question is if Fury and the Council didn’t necessarily get the team they wanted, who else was on the list?