The world is still mourning the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Among the actor’s many iconic roles, he inhabited a special place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe: he portrayed T’Challa, also known as Black Panther. As everyone grieves the enormous loss of Boseman’s acting talent, Marvel sets upon the unenviable task of deciding how to move forward without him. It’s not an easy decision, of course. Boseman was so good in the role that replacing him seems almost blasphemous. That said, including his character was a massive win for Black representation in one of Hollywood’s most popular genres.
So where does Marvel go from here? One group of fans think they may be able to move on by not doing anything at all. Here’s how.
How Black Panther revolutionized Black superhero movies
Black Panther might not be the first time a Black superhero got their own movie, but it was the most successful. According to Box Office Mojo, the film made over $700 million domestically and $1.3 billion worldwide. It debuted in February 2018 and was in theaters until August. It was the first time a Black character headlined a franchise film in the MCU — easily the most popular film franchise in the world today. The movie didn’t just perform on pace with all the other MCU films, it crushed them all.
The film was proof positive that a superhero film featuring Black people and produced by Black creators was as commercially and artistically viable as any other project, if not more so.
The history of Black superheroes onscreen
As noted, Black Panther wasn’t the first Black superhero portrayed onscreen. Below are just a few examples of Black superheroes portrayed prior to T’Challa:
- In the late ’90s/early 2000s, Wesley Snipes portrayed Blade in a trilogy of horror-action films.
- During the same era, Halle Berry depicted Storm in the X-Men series. While she was a focal point, she wasn’t the lead but part of an ensemble.
- The MCU featured a number of Black superheroes in supporting roles such as Falcon and War Machine.
Other Black comic book characters Marvel can turn to
A Reddit thread discussed what Marvel should do now that Boseman has passed. They discussed many options, including retiring the character or recasting. One Reddit poster said they may be able to get away with doing nothing at all, in a way:
“Maybe Marvel doesn’t have to do anything. There are other awesome Black comic book characters to promote. Sam Wilson, Luke cage, Storm, Shuri, Blade.”
Black Panther is one of the most revered characters in Marvel’s catalog. His importance to the Black community can’t be understated. Marvel’s also in a tough position because the role is so closely tied to Boseman’s performance now — he was so good in the part that it will be next to impossible for someone else to step into the role.
By turning to another one of their Black characters and focusing on that person, Marvel can avoid the uncomfortable question of what to do about Black Panther. They can either have Shuri, the character’s sister, assume the mantle, or they can have one of the aforementioned Black characters get the spotlight. Luke Cage has already been the star of a successful Netflix show. Sam Wilson is a member of the Avengers with his own Disney+ series in the works. Blade is also a character Marvel has discussed creating a franchise around.
While Boseman is sadly gone, and the character of Black Panther will never be the same, his legacy will live on. Marvel has plenty of great characters to expand how the MCU represents the Black community.
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