Throughout his long history in comics, Marvel hero T'Challa (AKA Black Panther) has been portrayed many ways. He's been presented as Marvel's answer to Batman, as a brilliant scientist whose IQ easily rivals that of Tony Stark or even Reed Richards, as a solemn king who puts his people above all else, and more. He's even trained in the mystical arts. So which elements did director Ryan Coogler inject into the upcoming Black Panther film? In the newest issue of SFX, Coogler claimed the ultimate consideration is showing T'Challa as a just and good man.
"He’s had such interesting stories, but the biggest thing about the comics is his character. He carries the responsibility that he has to his people with every decision and every move that he makes, which I find incredibly selfless and noble. He’s the kind of leader that you want," Coogler explained. "He always has this great sense of responsibility, sometimes to his own personal detriment. That was something I was very interested in. We have to introduce audiences to this character, and that responsibility."
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A major part of that is showing what T'Challa is fighting for - his home, the fictional nation of Wakanda, is the target of shrewd black market weapons dealer Ulysses Klaue (who wants to mine Wakanda for the rare, virtually indestructible metal known as vibranium) and Erik Killmonger (who wants to usurp T'Challa and take the mantle of king for himself). Coogler tells SFX it was important to make this connection for audiences while exploring and representing African culture on-screen to a scale that hasn't been done before - at least, not in a superhero film.
"Bringing the visuals and the cultural aesthetics of the country to life was a big thing to us. But working with the people, working with the actors, was where we really saw Wakanda come to life," Coogler said. "Even seeing the people on the streets of Wakanda made the place feel alive, somewhere that felt lived in and, frankly, of this world. We didn’t want Wakanda to feel like it was in space or a land that you couldn’t reach. We wanted it to feel like a place that you could reach out and touch."
"As far as storytelling potential, it’s interesting. [T'Challa] lets you explore stories that have a cultural aspect to them that are different from other characters. His culture - his heritage - is literally a character, and it’s a heritage that people can identify with. And if they don’t identify with it, they recognize it and draw parallels to their own lives."
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