ALL THE STARS ARE CLOSER
A non-spoiler review and essay on the importance and impact of Black Panther
February 8, 2018
by Joseph R Wheeler III
Enkosi Nkosi !!!
(Thank you – Xhosa) * (King – Zulu)
It Was the Best of TIMES: It Was the Worst of Times - Is the classic intro to Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities. This line can best describe the social, economic, political, scientific, and creative atmosphere in 2018 America. #BlackLivesMatter #BlackHeroesMatter #MeTooMovement #DiversityNow #NotMyPresident #WomensEquality #RepresentationMatters
It reflects the triumphs and challenges brought to the table in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER (In theaters February 16th). This is a fictional super hero, spiritual avatar, and king of a sovereign African nation first appeared in the works of comic book creative team writer Stan Lee and the late great illustrator Jack Kirby. Panther appeared first in 1966 in Fantastic Four Vol 1 #52. Both King Kirby and Stan ‘The MAN’ Lee as comic book fans affectionately call them are both of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. BLACK PANTHER in its original comic book form has had many writers and visual art teams since Lee and Kirby. Amongst the most notable contributors include writer Christopher Priest (African American) who’s 90s run on the character is cherished and recently the rebirth of Panther via writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and illustrator Brian Stelfreeze.
As a writer and a visual artist, myself, it is my perspective that when one writes or draws from the model of another people’s history and culture, portraying their interpretation of phenotypes, social customs, etc. as a muse – the actual people should forever have the right to claim it as a proud part of their legacy IF they approve of what is born from the ideas manifested. BLACK PANTHER has been approved by most fans of direct African descent and claimed in comics and now in the ultimate massive impact medium of film.
I officially embraced my dream and claimed the title of an Actor in 2014. I have since worked on hundreds of television shows and movies. Most notable in the realm of sci-fi/fantasy etc. are Captain America: Civil War, Spiderman: Homecoming, and BLACK PANTHER! I did a day of double and background work on this gem.
Georgia is now #1 for the amount of films made in my state. And my city of Atlanta is the epicenter of its growth. Being able to be part of this has given me certain connections and insider love for this industry. (*Shoutout to Konrad) And so it was with great excitement that I was offered an opportunity to go on February 7, 2018 to Marvel Studios BLACK PANTHER Atlanta Premiere at The Fabulous FOX Theatre. This was personally touching on many levels because I was not only amongst an every seat filled crowd of fellow background actors, crew, media, and local government officials, but I was in WAKANDA! #ATLANTAisWAKANDA! We made this film possible along with all the top star talent from all over the world. In many ways, we in Atlanta are a unit, a community, and force of creation. And to highlight what I saw on the screen, could it get any better than to have an opening address by all of Georgia’s Film industry heads and a last opening address by SAMUEL L JACKSON! The standing ovation was long and strong for the hardest working man in Hollywood! He even referenced that he will reprise his famous Nick Fury role in film Captain Marvel (currently in production). At the end of the film the civil rights movement ambassador and Congressman JOHN LEWIS took the stage and expressed his personal and political gratitude for the film’s human rights messages.
THIS … is the paradigm shift many fans have been waiting for, no matter ethnicity or relation to the character. Executive Producer Nate Moore and Director Ryan Coogler with fellow writer Joe Robert Cole are all African American. Couple this with the most outstanding lead Black Principal cast ever created for a film of this genre and level of release. Add costume designer Ruth E Carter and you have a paradigm shift in how stories about/featuring black characters will be redefined. Redefined in the sense that we have needed to see more and we are finally seeing it on a level that is global in distribution/promotion and overall respect.
Issues of family, go bootstrap with no boots to strap, espionage, politics, evolution, revolution, resources, exploitation, appropriation, entitlement, abandonment, disconnect, demise, rebirth, love, compassion, honor, deceit, and more are all… in this film. Any true cinephile, any true sequential art fan, afrofuturist, and lovers of fantasy and action in general, are in for a euphoric journey! And all are approached with a dignity that fits each unique character, from the greatest principal black characters of heroes and villains to the minority of supporting white characters. Yes I said supporting. And that is important to acknowledge because reality is that in the human family, we all lead or follow pending the situation, and Black Panther sets the record straight on who was first and how we must all see each other’s value and do so royally.
Actor/Director Tim Reid once said in an interview (paraphrasing), most Black films in Hollywood are either ‘about the hood or civil rights.’
In a direct quote he has also said :
"The idea of being an independent filmmaker is that you don't look for a home, you make a home. So my job is not to let Hollywood define what my home is but to create a home that Hollywood then identifies and says that we must make room for this as well,"
- Actor and director Tim Reid
He was/is beyond right. All my life, my parents lives, and their parents lives, have seen a focus on little no representation, to servitude and shuck and jive, to side kicks, criminal hustlers, broken families, and cycles of despair, with a few well acknowledged beacons of hope that became trends of glory here and there. There have been many exceptions of course independent made or breakthrough mainstream like Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek or Sidney Poitier for brief examples. But how established have these best of roles become institutions of a standard? Not often. Not expected. Not affirmed. This is not to say by any means that Black cultural struggles and deep dysfunctional issues are ever irrelevant or not worthy of portrayal. To the contrary we need it all -responsibly told - but with new approaches and sometimes not so heavy at all. A full buffet of genre possibilities is what is demanded now and has been forever. This is a CREATIVE CIVIL RIGHT!
What Reid was speaking of in independence is what we now see. It is always been economically motivated and even tied to the politics and issues of the times just as it was in the Black Cinema/blackploitation era of the 70s. But this time around the audience of millennials and seasoned Generation X people such as myself are finished with the repeat narrative. History does not have to repeat itself. People will do things to create similar outcomes based on enlightenment and exposure to truth. With authentic voices and nuances, we all benefit from more diverse and progressive films. BLACK PANTHER is the side of Hollywood that has made room for a new day, financially backing a culture defining itself in it’s own interpretation of a liberal fantasy born in 1966.
This bass, this tone, this slap… on the cosmic djembe drum of film making will echo forever! This is not a fad, not a phase, not a mere moment in time. This is a continuum.
The Professor Yumy Odom shared in his research that the root and origin of the word HERO comes from HERU (The Avenger) which is an African/Egyptian/Kemetic God of symbolic rebirth sun energy. This February live in Sankofa (Go back and fetch it) the Adinkra symbol and proverb from the Asante people that demands us to know our history so we can walk into our future fully aware of all before us.
Welcome to a renaissance started for Hollywood when WESLEY SNIPES portrayed the hardcore Day Walker Vampire BLADE and reset the fandom and financial boom of comic book related blockbuster films. This will be a continued glorious celebration in the Black Age Movement ( blackageofcomics.com ) at our events like ONYXCON (celebrating 10 years in Atlanta), East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention – Philadelphia, Black Age of Comics Convention (the originator, Chicago est. 1993), Motor City Black Age of Comics Convention in Detroit, Schomburg Center’s Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem NYC, and so many more documented in books like BLACK COMIX and BLACK COMIX RETURNS (available now) by editors John Jennings/Damian Duffy, The Encyclopedia of Black Comics by Sheena C. Howard, where progressive, educated, determined, beautiful, intellectual, challenging, layered BLACK CHARACTERS and STORIES are the norm. Where genres/formats of Science Fiction, Superheroes, SuperSheroes, Fantasy, Action, Horror, Animations, Mythology, etc. are searched for, streamed, tickets hits records regularly and with no restrictions on independent or mainstream growth because it all feeds the garden of humanity! This… is a reflection of actual people and actual triumphs. Fantastic icons are ESSENTIAL to ANY and ALL PEOPLE and it benefits ALL PEOPLE to have DIVERSE REPRESENTION!
Every functional/progressive visionary/Artist has rights; a Universe sent mission to build a platform of awareness for their expression on whatever level fits their journey and intended impact. Then it is for the public to decide if they wish to embrace, endorse, ignore, or however react to a creation. And those who do not understand a culture should allow those who are the culture to define themselves, especially if they wish to benefit financially and otherwise from that creation.
In roughly a $10 Billion Georgia Film industry - Black Panther alone brought over $83.9 million to Georgia’s economy. The film employed and paid out over $240 million to Background and other crew working the film. I am proud to add that a majority of Background/extras on the film were Black! I know for sure because I was there and my days of work paid me far more than humble #WorkingActor #UpandComing wages when I saw myself in one of the Post Credit Scenes! *Hint hint!
What Hollywood produces, will shape perceptions and ideas of a people to others internationally. This affects the social, political, and economic plight of how the world chooses to engage or disengage with a given population. And so, when a best of the best group of producers and thespians creates a love poem to fantasy African heroism (based on and totally influenced by many actual African traditions and perspectives), layered with messages, metaphors of inner and outer community conflicts, spiced with the glory of seeing every shade of brown ___it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME!
TIME that is in a best of times, and in a worst of times. And the Arts are the door to the healing. The pressure outlet to all the chaos and confusion. So let it become the norm. Let it sprout new visions, new production companies and resources, and new outlets for growth that will fertilize all of humanity’s full potential to bask in the glory of us sharing our unique stories.
With BLACK PANTHER setting records as the biggest all-time pre-sales ticket purchases for any super hero film, and with worldwide enthusiasm to see this film off the meter, plus the undeniable joy and celebration of most Black fans - the culture has approved and rightfully so, because BLACK PANTHER is AMAZING!!!
We have called upon this moment; as SZA sings in the hit 1st single off the Black Panther Album with Kendrick Lamar -
All the Stars are Closer!
BLACK PANTHER - IN THEATERS FEBRUARY 16, 2018! Special prescreening events showing in select cities! Starring CHADWICK BOSEMAN, LUPITA NYONG’O, DANAI GURIRA, DANIEL KALUUYA, FOREST WHITAKER, ANGELA BASSETT, LETITIA WRIGHT, MICHAEL B JORDAN, WINSTON DUKE, ANDY SERKIS, & MARTIN FREEMAN.
*And in a Post Credit Scene - JOSEPH R WHEELER III (Background talent) Did you faint yet? (smile)
GO SEE #BLACKPANTHER !