Spotlight on Black Panther: Tracing Diversity in Comics and Film
The unveiling of the Academy Award nominations in late January is an annual rite in the month leading up to the Oscars, and one which generates much media buzz. This year's 91st Oscars include one of the most diverse lists of nominees to date. Nominees include Roma—which follows the life of a housekeeper in Mexico City—taking the lead with 10 nominations, followed by such films as Blackkklansman, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, and the animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Belonging to this list, too, is the highest-grossing film of 2018, Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, which will walk into the Oscars ceremony on February 24 with seven nominations, including Best Picture.
Upon its release in February 2018, Black Panther quickly cemented its place in box office history. The film earned $292 million over its first week in North America alone, making it the most successful debut of any Marvel film and the fifth-highest-grossing domestic opening of all time. Black Panther is also the first Marvel film to feature a leading black superhero and black supporting cast. The film is based on the Marvel comics character of the same name, who originally debuted in 1966; the Black Panther series debuted in 1977, and its storylines have often reflected the current events of their time. Like the comic, the film is set in an alternate reality where European colonization never reached the African continent. African cultures have been allowed to flourish, resulting in the development of the powerful, technologically advanced nation of Wakanda. And it is from Wakanda that Black Panther gets his power.
The film and the comic series offer unique opportunities to not only examine the history of racial diversity and inequality in comics, but also to celebrate African American history and the resilience of African cultures—visible, too, in the 91st Academy Award nominations.
Use the Instruction and Background Resources in the drop-down menu on the left to guide students' library or classroom research into Black Panther. The Background Essay provides context, through various eras, for the Black Panther comic and the challenges it encountered with representing non-white characters and concerns. The other related resources help illustrate challenges to achieving diversity in comics, how characters have been portrayed, and the historical events that have impacted their creation and reception.
"Spotlight on Black Panther: Tracing Diversity in Comics and Film." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Display/2150430?cid=164. Accessed 6 Dec. 2019.
Entry ID: 2150430