Where did the true inspiration for the comic book character Black Panther come from?
“There is a new world coming and that new world is going to come from Africa” – Kwame Nkrumah.
The African world is highly excited for the anticipated Marvel-Disney movie titled the “Black Panther” which leads to the movie outselling every previous superhero film in advance ticket sales. Black Panther is a fictional super hero character created by Stanley Liber better known as Stan Lee. Many sources confirmed that Lee’s inspiration of the Black Panther logo stems from the Lowndes County Freedom Organization’s logo, which emerged from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in late 1965 and was associated with founding members Willie "Mukasa Dada" Ricks and Kwame Toure also known as Stokely Carmichael (https://adeptpress.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/the-black--panthersthe-coal-tiger-and-us/). The Alabama group used the Black Panther as its logo but the image and term was swiftly picked up by western media in 1966 and was then used by a number of organizations, including two in California (Oakland and Watts), one in Chicago and New York City.
Mr. Lee, editor-writer of Marvel comic book superheroes, the Hulk, Iron Man, Spiderman, Thor and the X-Men developed the character, Black Panther in July of 1966. Stan Lee was also inspired by the Civil Rights movement to create the X-men comic. Lee and his partner Jack Kirby used the iconic civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and El-Hajj Malik Shabazz also known as Malcolm X as the inspirations for characters Charles Xavier also known as Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr also known as Magneto, the creators of the X-Men ”(X-Men-Malcolm-Martin). Stan Lee created the characters to fight against oppression that mutants faced in society instead of fighting aliens and criminals. In a 2000 interview Lee stated that the X-Men were “a good metaphor for what was happening with the civil rights movement in the country at that time”(X-Men-Malcolm-Martin). The X-Men mutant heroes used tactics similar to those that were used by King and Malcolm in the 1960s. Professor X strategized a non-violent tactic similar to King and Magneto took more of a defensive stance against violent oppression and prejudice similar to Malcolm.
The era of the 1960s was not only an era of the Civil Rights Movement but also filled with African Independence on the African continent with President Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah achieving independence in Ghana from 1957 to 1966, Amilcar Cabral gaining independence in Guinea-Bissau in 1963, Patrice Emory Lumumba achieving independence in the Congo in 1960 and many more. The backstory of the Black Panther, also known as T’Challa, concerned him and his nation protecting the high-technical advanced society known as the fictional country of Wakanda from European invaders like the supervillain and arch nemesis of the Black Panther, Klaue (Ulysses Klaue), who is the son of Nazi war criminal Colonel Fritz Klaue. In the comics, Klaue was sent to Wakanda to learn their secrets by European Nations and was granted asylum by the Belgium government (Fantastic Four Unlimited #1 (1993), (Marvel Comics). The East-African nation contained and produced a fictional mineral known as the sound-absorbing element of “Vibranium.” As we all know by now from seeing the trailers or the movie of the Black Panther his suit is made with Vibranium that absorbs vibratory or kinetic energy. This mineral is very similar to the Uranium mineral produced in the Congo that was exploited by Western European nations to use for the development of atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan in August 1945 during World War II (New African Magazine: January 2017 pg. 21).
The Black Panther was considered a socialist. As shown in the movie, Captain America: Civil War, there is a scene where the Black Panther states that he does not approve of American politics. Also in the BET and Marvel Knights animation adaptation of the Black Panther, he boldly identifies as a Pan-African socialist (Black Panther animated series: Episode 4, "Death of a Father"). The original concept of the Black Panther was the Coal Tiger, a media term for post-colonial African nations. The term was used in the media metaphorically to represent the first Prime Minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba in 1960. Lumumba, an African revolutionary leader who led resistance against the Belgian colonial government, was also an advocate for nationalizing the resources of the Congo. He was imprisoned, executed and ousted in a military coup backed by the United States of America and Belgium. Let us not forget without neo-colonialism or opportunist puppets, Lumumba would have a hell of a chance of bringing about a Wakanda-like nation in the Congo. The neo-colonialist I am referring to in this instance is Mobutu Sese Seko who served as chief of staff of the army under Lumumba but was taking orders instructed by Belgium and the United States. Mobutu eventually was put in position to deposed Lumumba in 1960. After the assassination of Lumumba, Mobutu transformed the Congo into a ruthless dictatorship nation called Zaire funded by western nations from 1971 to 1997.
Likewise in the animated BET series by writer Reginald Hudlin, The Black Panther which aired in 2010 during sleep hours when the show would likely have lesser viewers, portrayed a character named M’Butu who literally was portrayed to represent the likes of Mobutu (Black Panther animated series: Episode 4, "Death of a Father"). M’Butu was a villain of Black Panther who was backed by Western governments to overthrow the Wakandan leader but failed. M'Butu was also the Prime Minister of Niganda, a fictional country neighboring Wakanda. He was an authoritarian leader, violent with his people and proceeded to barbaric actions, such as purges against doctors (http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Black_Panther_Vol_4_8).
It appears that Lumumba and the Black Panther have 3 main things in common:
1. Protecting their African nations from European governments, more specifically the Belgian government.
2. Having the same goal of maintaining their land and minerals independently for Africans and “Wakadans”.
3. Both being Pan-African socialists with the main goal of keeping their nations free from the exploitive system of capitalism and imperialism.
Minerals like cobalt and coltan that we use today exploited from the Congo is utilized to create the high-tech images that we see in the Black Panther movie. The same minerals make it possible for us to view, share and enjoy pictures and social media posts on our Androids and iPhones. Coltan is a black tar-like mineral found in major quantities in the Congo. The Congo possesses 64 percent of the world's coltan and it can become a heat resistant powder that can hold a high electric charge. The properties of refined coltan is a vital element in creating devices that store energy or capacitors, which are used in a vast array of small electronic devices especially in mobile phones, iPad, tablets, handheld video game devices, laptop computers, pagers, and other electronics (http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/resource-center/coltan.html). Cobalt is a shiny metal that is a result of the mining of nickel and copper and is found primarily in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is the largest producer of cobalt in the world, producing an estimated 60% of the world's supply. It also has the largest reserves of cobalt with about 50% of the world's reserve of cobalt. Cobalt is used in two key sectors, military and industry. In the military sector it is vital for the functioning of jet engines and in the commercial industry sector it is critical for rechargeable batteries (http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/resource-center/coltan.html).
This leads us to the technology question of why is it now that we have a Black Panther movie. The answer is due to the advancement of technology. Actor, Wesley Snipes stated that he had high hopes of bringing the Black Panther to the big screen in the 1990s but failed to do so due to the lack of technology representing the fictional country of Wakanda on the big screen. Snipes reached out to black directors to help develop the film, one in particular, John Singleton. Snipes stated “I laid on him my vision of the film being closer to what you see now: the whole world of Africa being a hidden, highly technically advanced society, cloaked by a force field, Vibranium. Also at the time, we were so far ahead of the game in thinking, the technology was not there to do what they had already created in the comic book” (http://atlantablackstar.com/2018/02/01/wesley-snipes-opens-couldnt-get-black-panther-made-1990s/ ). Due to the setback of technology, Snipes continued to press on with the motion picture, “Blade” about a black vampire hunter superhero (http://atlantablackstar.com/wesley-snipes-opens-couldnt-get-black-panther-made-1990s/). The 1998 film brought in a profit of $131 million worldwide and helped Marvel to get out of debt and put an end to their 1996 bankruptcy. Blade led the way for the Marvel Comic Universe and gave birth to movies like Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and ultimately the Black Panther. Hence, the cobalt and coltan exploited from the Congo which the fictional country of Wakanda is based on produced the seeds for the movie, Black Panther to be developed.
Actress `Lupita Nyong’o who plays Nakia, Black Panther’s love interest in the Black Panther movie stated “ Wakanda is such an exciting world to be in. Like none other we have ever seen. What would Africa look like if it was not colonized? I hope the audience leaves thinking about if they can be citizens of Wakanda” (Lupita Nyong'o “Loves Physical Challenge” of “Black Panther” | E! Live from the Red Carpet, YouTube). This transitions us to what is next after we all see the movie Black Panther and how can we see Wakanda in reality and how can we see the new world that is going to come from Africa as Kwame Nkrumah stated. Some are attempting to strive for the reality by creating petitions pressuring Marvel Studios and the Walt Disney Company to donate 25 percent of the profits from the movie to STEM programs in the black community. Moreover, a lot of us were already in the struggle prior to the movie working to get our people to live and experience a real Wakanda by reclaiming our home of Africa for the Africans which can only be done through the means of creating political educational organizations and study groups. Yes, we do see the Black Panther as a king who inherited the mantle of Black Panther from his father, King T’Chaka but please do not let this refocus our view that one person can alleviate the masses out of the oppression of capitalism and imperialism. Kwame Nkrumah stated “The total liberation and the unification of Africa under an All-African socialist government must be the primary objective of all Black revolutionaries throughout the world” (Nkrumah 88 Class Struggle in Africa).
When we turn our attention to the recent 2018 film adaptation of The Black Panther we have to clearly understand that this movie is not representing the previous comic book version nor the Reginald Hudlin’s BET (Black Entertainment Television) animated series of The Black Panther. The first inconsistency of the movie begins in the year of 1992 with the father of The Black Panther, King T'Chaka traveling to Oakland, California to visit his brother, N'Jobu. Ulysses Klaue portrayed as a Black market arms dealer in the movie infiltrated Wakanda and stole vibranium, and T'Chaka accuses N'Jobu of assisting him. N'Jobu's friend reveals himself to be Zuri, an undercover Wakandan who is a spy. T’ Chaka exposed his brother working with Klaue, who in the original comics was the Black Panther’s main nemesis, we do not see this in the movie. In the movie we see T’Chaka’s brother, N’Jobu working with Klaue to use vibranium to create weapons to provide to Africans in America to start a revolution against their oppressors. Yes, I know this sounds confusing and misleading due to N’Jobu working with Klaue, who is a colonizer in the comics, to bring an African revolution in America. Once T’Chaka exposes his brother, N’Jobu, N’Jobu becomes defensive by attempting to kill the Wakandan spy, Zuri (who is portrayed by actor Forest Whitaker) but failed to do so after being murder by his brother T’Chaka (the main Black Panther, T’Challa’s father). We have in the first scene of the movie, black on black violence, furthermore black family violence which sets the tone for the remainder of the movie. However, we do have quick scenes of T’Challa along with his beautiful African female bodyguards, the Dora Milaje, fighting Klaue and European enemies but these scenes last for approximately 30 to 45 minutes out of a 2 hour and 15 minute length motion picture.
After these scenes, the movie takes a dive when C.I.A agent, Everett Ross teams up with The Black Panther to take down Klaue. The Black Panther and Ross fail to take down Klaue due to T’Challa’s cousin, Erik Stevens Killmonger, son of N’Jobu who also was not related to T’Challa in the original comics, breaks Klaue free from the constraints of The Black Panther and C.I.A agent Ross. Once Klaue is free, 10 to 15 minutes later in the movie, Erik Killmonger who is played by Michael B. Jordan turns against Klaue and murder’s him and delivers his corpse to Wakanda. From this scene on throughout the entire movie, black on black violence occurs until literally the end of the movie. As the movie carries on, the viewers begin to realize that Killmonger is trying to carry out his father’s goal of a African armed revolution against oppressors but is eventually prevented by The Black Panther and C.I.A agent Ross shooting down aircrafts with weapons being delivered to Africans in the diaspora. Furthermore, viewers come to another realization that the villain Killmonger is the revolutionary not the Black Panther who was a revolutionary in the original comics and Hudlin’s animated BET series. In one scene, Killmonger attempts to persuade The Black Panther to use Wakanda resources to free Africans in the diaspora but The Black Panther denies Killmonger’s request and later murders him. During this scene when The Black Panther murders his cousin, Killmonger, Killmonger states “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, because they knew death was better than bondage”.
In relation to the scene of Killmonger attempting to persuade The Black Panther to use the resources of Wakanda to liberate the masses of Africans on the continent and the diaspora, I want us to focus our attention to a another quote from, Kwame Nkrumah, “We have to be able to develop our great resources of Africa fully for the well-being of African people as a whole (Nkrumah, Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah). In the final scene of the movie, The Black Panther travels to Oakland, California to the apartment building where his father, T’Chaka killed his uncle, N’Jobu, to purchase the building and transform it to a STEM foundation for black inner-city youth. Are you kidding me? The richest superhero in comic book history who is worth well over a trillion dollars kills his cousin who wanted to create a African revolution with Africans in the diaspora decides to build a STEM facility in Oakland, California, the birthplace and home of the real Black Panthers, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. In the bonus scene after the credits, The Black Panther gives a speech at the United Nations declaring that Wakanda will share its resources with the world while agent Ross was smiling. Also, please do not forget that this movie was release on February 16th, a day before Huey P. Newton’s birthday on February 17th. To add insult to injury, during the scene when T’Chaka murder’s his brother in his apartment in Oakland, the viewer will see a poster of Huey P. Newton in the background on the wall of N’Jobu’s apartment.
In conclusion, overall this Marvel Black Panther movie produced by the racist cartoonist, Walt Disney’s company named after him, Disney, was a counter-revolutionary film. I suggest Black Panther fans to stick with the comics and animated series. Furthermore, if readers and Black Panther fans of African ancestry want to bring about a real Wakanda in Africa, we must organize, unify and free Africa from colonialist like Klaue, Imperialist Western European nations and Neo-Colonialist puppets. In order for a real Wakanda to exist in Africa as a whole, us as Africans must create a union of African states on the continent, eliminate artificial boundaries in Africa that were created by imperial powers and finally as Kwame Nkrumah stated “If we do not formulate plans for unity and take active steps to form political union, we will soon be fighting and warring among ourselves with imperialist and colonialist standing behind the scenes and pulling vicious wires, to make us cut each other’s throats for the sake of their diabolical purposes in Africa (Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah). This is what the Marvel Universe and Disney Company did with our beloved African superhero movie and also what the COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) did with the real revolutionary organization group known as the Black Panther Party. We must unite and organize to bring about a real Wakanda in Africa.
Class Struggle in Africa, Nkrumah, Kwame
New African Magazine: January 2017