Part of the reason Marvel’s “Black Panther” has seen so much success is that it came along at the right time both culturally and politically, says Blair Davis, an associate professor of media and cinema studies in the College of Communication. His latest book, “Comic Book Movies,” will be available April 19 through Rutgers University Press.
Davis has spent his career researching comic books, classic Hollywood cinema, B-movies and African-American cinema and has written three other books on film topics. In this Q&A, he explains what makes “Black Panther” a cultural phenomenon, how it’s different from other comic book movies and the promising future of the genre.
Blair Davis is an associate professor of media and cinema studies in the College of Communication. (Image courtesy of Blair Davis)
What makes “Black Panther” such a highly anticipated comic book movie?
Audiences are treating “Black Panther” like an “event” movie for several reasons.
Marvel used the character’s first appearance in “Captain America: Civil War” as a way of launching a spin-off film in a way that its previous films haven’t. Marvel characters usually get their own films first, and then appear in the Avengers films. Marvel handled “Black Panther” much differently, using him as a central focus of “Civil War,” which was itself an event film. This raised the bar for audiences much more for a “Black Panther” solo film than if they hadn’t already come to know and love the character.
This is also an “event” film because of its significance as a blockbuster superhero film with a predominantly black cast and a black director. In our current cultural and political moment, questions about diversity are at the forefront of discussions about race and the media. A big-budget film aimed at mainstream audiences in which black characters play a central role rather than just a supporting one is noteworthy.
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