Punk Black Theatre: (Black History Month Edition) Why Marvel Studios Needs to Recast T’Challa
by Drew Constantine
Langston Hughes famously contemplated the fate of a diverted dream in his classic poem Harlem, metaphorically measuring the consequence of a dream’s delay or death in these opening lines: “What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun?” The tragic death of Chadwick Boseman in late August 2020 sent shockwaves through Black culture down to the quantum particles of its very soul –- as we lost one of our greatest talents in a generation, more than a man but also an icon of Black excellence, and more than that Marvel fans everywhere lost something which can even eclipse death: we lost a dream. For everyone of us who dreamed of seeing the full potential of T’Challa’s character in the MCU, for us, that dream became deferred the moment Marvel Studios announced the role of T’Challa would not be recast. While I respect the decision of Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios not to immediately pursue a replacement for the role in honor of Chadwick Boseman, I also believe Marvel Studios needs to recast T’Challa. Allow me a moment to expound upon my reasons why if you will.
The Black Panther’s Historical Importance in the Marvel Universe
The historical importance of T’Challa’s role in the Marvel Comics universe extends far beyond the vast fictional world created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Black Panther’s influence on American society still bends and shapes the reality that is Black history, even as we speak. T’Challa’s debut appearance as the Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52 during the month of July 1966, predates the creation of The Black Panther Party by college students Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in October of that same year; however, though any similarity between the two entities was purely coincidental (Stan Lee did not plan any connection intentionally and Marvel initially attempted to distance themselves from the name to avoid political controversy), the fact that the first mainstream superhero of African descent shares a name with arguably the most revolutionary Black organization produced by the civil rights era — underscores what T’Challa symbolizes for Black people everywhere. He’s not just a superhero to us. He’s the king of a sovereign nation whose loyalty lies with his culture and his people above all else, exemplifying the independence, pride, and resilience of a strong Black nation.
The Fans Want T’Challa to Return to the MCU
My wish for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to continue T’Challa’s stories was not made in total solitude. Currently, #RecastTChalla has steadily risen in popularity and there is a petition that has been signed by nearly 60,000 fans at change.org, requesting that Marvel Studios consider recasting the role of T’Challa to honor Chadwick Boseman (the petition can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/marvel-recast-t-challa-to-honor-chadwick-boseman-in-the-black-panther-franchise-2). While I am under no delusion that the role of T’Challa will be filled in Black Panther 2 and completely understand a cycle to grieve Mr. Boseman’s death with all due respect to his friends and family, I do, like many in the legion of fans around the planet, believe the best way to honor Chadwick Boseman is to resume T’Challa’s role in the MCU. Derrick Boseman (Chadwick Boseman’s brother) in an interview with TMZ last year, expressed the sentiment that Black kids everywhere were essentially being deprived of a role model and that he believed his brother would have ultimately have wanted the role recast as Chadwick saw the character as bigger than just himself (https://www.tmz.com/2021/12/14/chadwick-boseman-tchalla-recast-black-panther-brother/).
We Need Our Black Heroes
In conclusion, Marvel Studios should recast T’Challa because Black America needs our heroes and so very much does the world. T’Challa deserves just as complete a story as Tony Stark before his death in Avengers: Endgame; after all, he only just became a king and there are so many more great stories that can’t be told if his character never returns. Like a reawakened dream, like Superman, like Batman, like Spider-Man, like the Phoenix is reborn from its ashes, again and again. Like King Arthur is the once and future king. T’Challa Forever!!!
I love you all,
Be Bad. Be Punk. Be Black.
(FB- Drew Constantine) (Insta– catchconstantine)
(If you love the work of Langston Hughes like me, the full text of his poem Harlem, my thematic inspiration for this piece, can be found here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46548/harlem. #RecastTChalla. Petition site: https://www.change.org/p/marvel-recast-t-challa-to-honor-chadwick-boseman-in-the-black-panther-franchise-2. Happy Black History Year Punk Black Nation!!!!! I’m out there.)
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