It’s not easy when your star dies. I mean it’s harder for the people who knew and loved him, his family and friends. No, that shouldn’t include the fans. You know him or her for their work but they weren’t your family. Their film may have gotten you through a situation or spoke to you and inspired you and that’s great. However, that movie was a collaborative effort. There are numerous actors in most cases, writers, directors, cinematographers, editors, a special effects and stunt team depending on the movie…while books and even some comics allow for one voice running the whole show (if they didn’t have an editor) no movie, TV show, play, or audio drama are the work of one person alone.
When Kevin Feige announced that the sequel to Black Panther would not recast T’Challa, the character portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman (who hid a fight with colon cancer even while making this film) there was a positive outcry from fans. Some just want to see a woman take over the role because they don’t actually care about the movie or the comics that the fictional nation of Wakanda comes from. However, many honestly feel that to them Boseman was T’Challa and it would be wrong to cast anyone else in tribute to Boseman’s passing. The problem is what I just pointed out, that the character doesn’t come from the movie nor was it created specifically for Boseman. I’m not trying to downplay his importance given the movie is still on my Finally Watch list and I’m a white dude who doesn’t connect with the significance enough (though it’s nice to see black superheroes on screen that aren’t Blankman or Hancock), I’m saying this character isn’t about Boseman and this becomes another example of Hollywood not caring about the source material, those silly old comic books.
Black Panther as a character goes back to Fantastic Four volume 1 #52, from back in 1966, before the radical rights group of the same name became so well known. Creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (so you have two Jewish men to thank for the hero–remember than when you run around yelling “Wakanda forever” like it’s a real place on the map in our universe) were not inspired by the group. They even tried changing his hero identity to Black Leopard for awhile. Nor was the group inspired by the comic. It was just one of those coincidences. Here’s a review by Linkara of Atop The Forth Wall but I’ll give you the short version of his debut. T’Challa sends Reed Richards a flying car as a gift to come visit Wakanda. It turns out to be a trap as he wanted to test his skills to be able to deal with Ulysses Klaw, one of his recurring villains. Basically if he could beat the FF he could be Klaw. I bring this up mostly to go into my issues with killing him off in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Black Panther was created in 1966 and didn’t get a movie for many many decades. While he has appeared in animated form in numerous Marvel shows, including his own poorly animated not for kids at all series on I believe BET (President Of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin basically had his run on the title adapted) all anyone cares about are live-action appearances. At least anyone in Hollywood. He’s appeared in very few movies and all of them are from the MCU. They’ve basically decided to throw out a character with very little name credit until recently because of the actor. Again, T’Challa wasn’t created for Boseman. He was created before Boseman was even born (1976, 3 years after I was born), and I’m sure fans of the actual comic character were happy to see him finally get time in the spotlight the same way fans of Iron Man were, a character who also only had animated appearances until the MCU started with his movie. Fans who are more tied to the character than the actor probably aren’t happy about this since they’ve just been told they’ll never get to see one of their favorite characters again. Reports even suggest that T’Challa will be killed off, possibly off-screen or with some other stunt actor in the costume for the big death scene.
This isn’t the only circumstance of this happening, a character being dropped for the sake of the actor. Ruby Rose is still alive but when she decided to stop playing Batwoman for that character’s CW show they opted not to recast her, have a storyline where Kate Kane disappeared, and introduce a new character that has never appeared in the comics before. I wonder she knows Jordan Kent. By the way, having your black lesbian be a former drug runner is not exactly the best plan given “drug runner/dealer” is too often a starting point for black characters. I mean, at least she isn’t a former prostitute as well because it’s a black woman but Kate is a former military officer with a lot of combat training and an actual connection to Bruce Wayne. What does this new character bring to the table? Also, Kate is still Batwoman in the comics though given how comics are treated as the “lesser medium” even by people who make the comics that these shows and movies are based on I wonder how long she’ll be there? Does that mean Jon’s going to have a brother soon?
It’s not the same situation for Black Panther as when Heath Ledger died after The Dark Knight came out. (Actually I think he died after making it but before the film came out.) Christopher Nolan said he wouldn’t recast the Joker but who cares? Nolan was planning a trilogy that didn’t need the Joker in the third movie and Batman has so many villains to work from that he wouldn’t be missed if more films were made. Actually, since DC Comics has been overusing the Clown Prince Of Crime lately we might be better off. I’d praise The Batman for using the Riddler instead, except that guy’s as much the Riddler as I am Bruce Banner. We share a temper and that’s pretty much it. T’Challa is the main character, the actual Black Panther. To kill him off is to shut off the character.
And yes, Black Panther is basically a title inherited through various means. Maybe someone doesn’t care whether or not the role is supposed to be exclusive to men. (In fact if it is the usual suspects get to go on their “smash the patriarchy” crusade.) Black Panther doesn’t attempt to hide there have been numerous people prior like his father. It’s not like The Phantom, where the mantle is also passed from father to son but the world is supposed to believe there is one immortal guardian of Bengalla. Black Panther is the king of Wakanda, maybe an hour’s drive by flying car, who has earned the right to the special herb that gives him his powers and that’s it. Maybe his sister could in theory take on the role…except that’s not what’s happening in the comics as far as I know. T’Challa is still alive and ruling Wakanda in the Marvel Comics Universe just as Kate Kane is still Batwoman in the DC Comics Universe as opposed to what’s her name in the CW DCU. You’re basically saying “screw the comics, only the movies/shows matter because I don’t read comics”. Again, the character got his own movie because of the comic character having a strong enough fan base to keep him occasionally relevant since 1966. At that point the closest thing to a Marvel movie was the old Captain America serials that had little to do with Steve Rogers. (Captain Marvel and Superman were a fluke when it came to a decent adaptation, with Batman and Robin getting a break in their second serial.)
The problem is that the actor has become more important than the character. When Richard Donner was casting for Superman: The Movie he purposely cast actors who weren’t big names. He was pretty much forced to take on Marlon Brando as Jor-El but the closest thing to a big name actor otherwise was Gene Hackman. That was because Donner wanted the audience to see the characters from the comic on-screen, not actors they may know more for a famous role in the past playing Superman, Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor. Back to the aforementioned Superman serials they purposefully didn’t credit Kirk Ayan as Superman because they wanted kids to see him as Superman, not an actor playing Superman. However, that totally isn’t the real Lois Lane, kids. The story was more important than the actor. Even George Reeves had played the role for years in a weekly television series, and his suicide made him harder to recast, but they did attempt to continue on through other methods. Granted it was the failed Superboy series and the abomination that was Superpup.
T’Challa is a character that has had three movies. Questionable as Rhodey’s actor replacement was because Ike Perlmutter is an idiot and possibly racist (Don Cheadel is a good actor but doesn’t really work as well as Terrance Howard) the character continued to exist. It’s one thing if the role was created with the actor in mind and was made for that actor. Nobody can really replace Eddie Murphy as Prince Akeem, prince of Zamunda (right next door to Wakanda actually…Akeem sometimes goes over when he needs to borrow the gardener then never returns him) because that and the 55 other roles he plays in Coming To America and the upcoming sequel were made with him in mind. T’Challa was created by two Jewish men in the 1960s for a comic book with no thought about him being in a TV show or movie because back then comic creators made comics, not movie pitches that look like comics. As great as I’m sure Boseman was in the role he is simply the guy who played T’Challa while Murphy is Akeem because of why each African ruler exists.
I know Black Panther the movie was a huge hit for the MCU and that any black people who immediately cheered it for being the first all-black superhero cast because none of them heard of The Meteor Man since it came out before Blu-Rays were introduced connected to it for a reason. I bet most of them have never read a comic and think they’re too good for those “kiddie crap” books (that cartoon adapted from a comic I mentioned opens with a trap bisecting a dude with all the blood you’d expect…you know, for kids) to see where the character came from and know nothing about his long history but Boseman isn’t more important than a character that was created roughly a decade, give or take a few months, before him. Maybe they should wait on the sequel if they refuse to recast the title character but if not you’re saying to hell with any potential stories that could be made with a character that’s existed since bell-bottoms were considered fashionable in a movie series that took way too long to finally be produced. Marvel’s first black superhero is important enough that his tale should continue. (The actual first black superhero according to one article was Lothar, ally to Mandrake The Magician–both of whom have never appeared outside of comics and cartoons–but that depends on your definition of superheroes. A cowboy named Lobo was the first black main character in comics, also mentioned in the article) It’s a sad thing when the actor dies but that’s not reason enough for the character to go with him.