Wednesday, March 06, 2019
The Rise of the Black Panther
by Kesav Kosana, Sophomore, Solon High School
Finding popularity in the 1940s, comic stories have evolved and progressed significantly in the past 70 years, surely leaving their mark on modern culture. However, there are aspects of the comic world that we rarely considered, such as race, gender, and other various societal aspects. These factors are more prevalent than ever in today’s society, and the intersection between comics and modern day culture creates a unique form of compelling art.
In honor of black history month, journalist, critic, and author Evan Narcisse joins The City Club of Cleveland Youth Forum Council to discuss the representation of African Americans in pop culture and the history of African American comics, specifically through his work with The Rise of the Black Panther: A graphic novel released by Marvel in 2018, the same year as the release of the “Black Panther” movie itself.
However, the story of black panther is nothing new. Debuting in 1961, the story of Wakanda made its first appearance in Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four No. 52. Being released during the civil rights movement, this story portrayed many African American stereotypes, creating a sense of “ghetto” characters. Many comics during this era included significant levels of racism, working to seemingly combat the civil rights movement at times.
In the 1990s though, comics noticeably started to become a platform to create change. Even today, Narcisse discusses his story The Rise of The Black Panther, using the character of T’Challa as a heroic symbol to resist racism and white supremacy, while including traditional aspects from his Haitian background. Indeed, Narcisse pushes his voice through Marvel to break stereotypes and create equality, portraying shifts in the role of both African Americans and women.
The story of the Black Panther furthers itself on screen, through the movie “Black Panther” released last year in February. Earning $1.3 billion globally, this film saw booming success, through a diverse cast and audience. This movie connects perfectly to the novel, representing the same progressive ideas that Narcisse describes in his works. The forum discusses the effect of blending modern day aspects of comic heroes with traditional African American customs, which creates a compelling and inspiring story.
This month’s forum ultimately discusses how comics can be used as a tool to combat the issues within today’s society by using diverse storylines and characters as symbols of heroism. In today’s progressive society, it is important to recognize the unique aspects of different cultures, but at the same time put those differences aside to unite and create the change in society that no generation has been willing to make. Regardless of how it’s done, there’s nothing you can’t do to to make a difference.