Before Comic-Con the big story was that Marvel would be making a Black Panther movie. This was met with large amounts of approval. But as we drew closer to the Con it seemed that story was premature, and that Marvel would be going with Guardians of the Galaxy instead.
So what's the deal? Why no Black Panther? MTV caught up with Marvel Studios co-president Louis D'Esposito and asked what was up with T'Challa.
"He has a lot of the same characteristics of a Captain America: great character, good values," said the Marvel exec. "But it's a little more difficult, maybe, creating [a world like Wakanda]. It's always easier basing it here. For instance, 'Iron Man 3' is rooted right here in Los Angeles and New York. When you bring in other worlds, you're always faced with those difficulties."
Huh? Let's take a couple of steps back for those who don't know Black Panther that well.
Wakanda is an African nation. Thanks to a rich deposit of vibranium, a rare metal (which is used in Captain America's shield), Wakanda is wealthy and advanced. Not crazy advanced, but just a step or two ahead of us. Their gleaming capitol city is set in the African jungle, where there are still traditional tribes, and the Wakandan system of government still harkens back to tribal ways.
That's the world of Wakanda. A sort of technologically advanced African nation with a king.
I reached out to Marvel and asked if they wanted to clarify this statement in any way. I was told they would not be commenting.
So we're left with a statement that boils down to "Creating a slightly advanced black civilization on Earth is harder than creating a floating space city of Norse gods. Or whatever setting we're going to use for Guardians of the Galaxy, a team that will include a talking raccoon and a sentient tree."
Making a black movie is harder than making an alien movie, or a fantasy movie. It's more realistic to spend time with gods than scientifically advanced Africans.
And here's the thing: you don't even have to spend much time in Wakanda in a Black Panther movie. Have it be a Bourne-esque espionage film where T'Challa is in Los Angeles and Berlin and other cities that are comfortably Caucasian enough on screen.
Let's be honest: it will be harder to sell white audiences on a black superhero headlining his own movie. The truth is that wider white audiences would rather watch hobbits and monsters than black heroes. And I give Marvel credit for their continued use of strong, heroic black characters like Nick Fury, War Machine and the upcoming Falcon. Outside of Spawn this is the most diverse cast of heroes since Meteor Man. But these characters are all secondary players, and do not hold up their own franchises.
By the way, it's entirely possible that D'Esposito's quote comes from profound ignorance. Just because he's a muckety muck at Marvel Studios doesn't mean he knows the Marvel non-cinematic universe that well. I've heard stories about meetings at Marvel where execs were stumped when pretty big villain names were brought up, so it's likely that D'Esposito has no clue what Wakanda is beyond 'where Black Panther comes from.'
But if I were D'Esposito and Devin Faraci had reached out to me for clarification, here's what I would have said:
"We love Black Panther and think he's a great cinematic character. We look forward to bringing him into the Marvel Movie Universe, but we have a limited number of openings on the slate and we have a plan for where Phase Two is headed. As we continue to grow, and as we look forward to Phase Three, I think T'Challa is a character who will have a bright, bright future. We didn't have Wakanda on the map in Iron Man 2 for nothing!"
I mean, that beats "We don't know how to make a black civilization that has technology. Check out Thanos sitting on a floating asteroid in open space."