Black Panther was the first Black superhero in mainstream American comics. Black Panther was a cultural phenomenon that broke box office records. Yet it wasn’t just a movie led by and starring Black artists. It grappled with ideas and conflicts central to Black life in America and helped redress the racial dynamics of the Hollywood blockbuster.
Scott Bukatman, one of the foremost scholars of superheroes and cinematic spectacle, brings his impeccable pedigree to this lively and accessible study, finding in the utopianism of Black Panther a way of re-envisioning what a superhero movie can and should be while centering the Black creators, performers, and issues behind it. He considers the superheroic Black body; the Pan-African fantasy, feminism, and Afrofuturism of Wakanda; the African American relationship to Africa; the political influence of director Ryan Coogler’s earlier movies; and the entwined performances of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa and Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. Bukatman argues that Black Panther is escapism of the best kind, offering a fantasy of liberation and social justice while demonstrating the power of popular culture to articulate ideals and raise vital questions.
Scott Bukatman is an expert—someone who knows the history of the Black Panther, has read the comics, and is well-positioned to tell us all about it. His enthusiasm is contagious, and he has a nuanced ability to balance lots of different voices and takes on this film. This short book is ambitious but fulfills its promise.
— Diana Adesola Mafe, author of Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before: Subversive Portrayals in Speculative Film and TV
Introduction: Tell Me a Story
The Road to Wakanda
Black Panther’s Black Body
The Wakandan Dream
The Killmonger Problem
Conclusion: Why Do We Hide?