Monday, February 19, 2018

Black Panther

Black Panther
seen @ Cinemart Fiveplex, Forest Hills, Queens NY

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Black Panther in the pages of Fantastic Four in 1966 — issue 52, for those of you keeping track at home (inciting a trend that would one day be the bane of Chasing Amy's Hooper X).

He seemed to be a villain at first: inviting the FF to his fictitious African nation of Wakanda to "arrange the greatest hunt of all time," only the FF themselves, in a four-color twist on The Most Dangerous Game, turn out to be the hunted.

It's okay, though; he had to ensnare them, you see, because they "were the supreme test" for BP, so he could be ready to take on his archenemy Klaw. Yes, this is one of the oldest tropes in superhero comics, getting the heroes to fight each other by having one appear to be a bad guy.

BP held his own despite having no superpowers (other than enhanced speed, agility and reflexes) because he had the element of surprise and time to prepare. If you ever go on "versus" message boards, you'll find those two factors can be used to justify a (popular) powerless hero, like Batman... especially Batman... defeating anyone from Captain America to Superman to Thanos.

Still, BP was and is one of Lee & Kirby's finest creations, and certainly one of their most enlightened — even if the Thing displayed some uncharacteristic racial insensitivity when BP revealed his origin. The two-part story, like all of Lee's classic comics, is excessively wordy and melodramatic, but it's imaginative, energetic and action-packed as well. Lee crammed more story in two issues than most superhero writers today do in six — and Kirby, the gold standard for superhero art then and now, rendered Wakanda as a technological wonderland in the jungle, fusing mechanical doodads and weapons to a vaguely African motif.

Much has been written about the Rogers & Hammerstein of comics, way, way more than I can touch upon here; suffice it to say theirs was a collaboration unparalleled in 20th century visual art. Someday someone will make a movie about them...

Ryan Coogler's adaptation of BP for the movies is not far removed from the Lee & Kirby template, supplemented by later interpretations, notably the work of writer Christopher Priest, who did much to modernize the character. Those who enjoyed the movie should seek out his BP run in particular.

Coogler's sensibilities are on display as well: the ties to Oakland; Coogler's muse, Michael B. Jordan, in a major supporting role; the recurring theme of fathers and sons.

I knew this film would be in good hands when I saw Coogler was on board, though now that he's played with other creators' characters in his past two films, from Rocky Balboa to the Marvel Universe, I hope he returns to doing original material again soon. His is a strong new voice in American cinema, telling modern stories about the black experience his way (he co-wrote BP), and it's good to see him succeeding.

It was nice to see Andy Serkis' real face and body for a change.

I have a new friend to tell you about! I met Virginia through Sandi; technically, this was a little over a year ago, but I got to know her for the first time this past New Year's Eve. She's a singer and musician; she was part of the chorus in which Sandi performed. At the after-party, we got to talking and enjoyed each other's company.

Virginia is awesome not only for coming out to Queens from Manhattan to see a movie, but for coming to the Cinemart, which is a bit of a walk from the nearest train station. Most of my non-Queens friends either can't or won't make the trip (Vija being an exception).

Plus, she was actually willing to see an action movie! You all know I have no problem with seeing indie movies with my friends, but Zod forbid I suggest bringing up a movie like BP, or a Star Wars movie or an Apes movie. Even Vija is fairly resistant (though I think she saw the first Avengers movie).

Virginia and me had to sit in the nostril seats because BP was close to a sellout; indeed, Cinemart had two screens and plenty of showtimes for this one. I'm proud to say I saw all sorts of people at our screening. Afterwards, we had coffee. It was a drizzly afternoon but a very pleasant one.


  1. So, a good time all around. Glad to hear it. On a related note to someone who will share a movie with you; Garry watched a poor quality DVD film noir with me last night. I think maybe he was too tired to get off the couch.

    Janet saw BP last night with her gang. She liked the interesting villain and the design of Wakanda. She's looking forward to a second screening which we will attend together. It hasn't knocked Thor: Ragnarok off her top marvel spot.

  2. THOR must've been pretty damn good then.

    1. It has a cheeky humour that doesn't take away from the action or the plot. Jeff Goldblum in this movie is something that has to be seen to be believed, and even then you won't believe it.

      She just walked behind me and shouted "when?!" so it must be an awfully close second favourite Marvel movie. We're going on Wednesday.

    2. We're back. Janet liked the movie even more the second time around. It seems to me to be a movie that will wear well. I was impressed and entertained.

    3. I know I swore off long underwear movies, but I might have to go back on that if this keeps up.

  3. Hmm. Can't quite imagine Jeff Goldblum in a Thor movie, but if he is, I'm sure it's for laughs. If Dorian were still blogging, no doubt she'd have Opinions.

  4. I really want to see this one a second time.

    Enjoying the book!

  5. I know the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has worked on the book recently. Marvel (and DC too) has attracted a number of literary names to their superhero titles over the past decade-plus. Some have been memorable, some haven't. I can't say how much the trend impacts sales.


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