This past weekend was a big one for award winning director Ryan Coogler (Creed), since it was the first time the cast of his next project had assembled for the cameras. Taking the stage at the legendary San Diego Comic-Con during the Marvel Studios presentation, Coogler made the first introductions of the team of performers that will be delivering Black Panther to cinema screens in 2018.
There was rapturous reception for Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, as well as his supporting cast members – Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o – which was followed by ample opportunity for Coogler to discuss the film with the press. In doing so, he confirmed that the greatest influence on his adaptation is the work of current Black Panther comic book writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates – whose stories are pencilled by Brian Stelfreeze, and inked by Laura Martin.
“Oh, I love it, man. I mean, [Coates] is my favorite writer right now in the world. Since being turned on to his work, I’m reading everything that he does. His nonfiction work, especially. But what he’s doing with Panther is just incredible. You can really see his background as a poet in some of the dialogue. And what Brian Stelfreeze is doing with the visuals in that book. And some of the questions that it’s asking. It’s just inspiring for [co-screenwriter] Joe Robert Cole and myself.”
The Black Panther run of Ta-Nehisi Coates has been a bestseller for Marvel, and its popularity has much to do with the somewhat subversive take on the character the writer has taken. As the Warrior King of the fictional African nation Wakanda, Black Panther – also known as T’Challa – is seen to be open about his anguish for his people and their intentions, and this is a departure from the tone previous writers have created. In addition, greater emphasis is given to supporting characters – particularly the current and former Dora Milaje (the protective force that is entirely female).
It is heartening, then, that this is the biggest influence on Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther – because it ensures we will see something fresh and new. This is further assured by the deep understanding that the director clearly has of this complex character, and the world that he leads.
“What’s so great about Panther is he’s a superhero who, if you grab him and ask him if he’s a superhero, he’ll tell you, ‘No.’ He sees himself as a politician, as a leader in his country. It just so happens that the country is a warrior-based nation where the leaders have to be warriors, as well, so sometimes he has to go fight. I think starting at that is really so interesting. If you look at that, anything that’s happening in the world right now, or in the world in the past, in the political realm and how people deal with each other, it can be an inspiration.”
Principal photography for Black Panther is due to commence in early 2017, for a 2018 release date.