Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios operate with such synergistic timing that one almost can't help being impressed by the companies' strategic planning and execution. Perhaps coincidentally, Black Panther turned out to be the character with a serious windfall as a result of the latest promotional efforts from both companies under the Disney umbrella.
Last week, The Atlantic's website was the promotional launchpad for the exclusive preview of the first six pages of the highly-anticipated "Black Panther" #1, written by the magazine's National Correspondent and New York Times-bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates. With a creative team inclusive of critically-acclaimed illustrator Brian Stelfreeze, color artist Laura Martin and letterer Joe Sabino, Marvel's new "Black Panther" ongoing series is expected to exceed many expectations on every level, from quality to fan reception to sales.
Additionally, The Atlantic's website showed a video interview of Coates discussing his history as a comic book fan, specifically a Marvel Comics fan, his approach to writing, and his goals for the new series. This level of mainstream coverage, and the alignment with Coates' well-respected journalistic employer and headquarters, may be unprecedented for any Black superhero in American comic books to date.
The number one American publisher of superhero comic books and the magazine named Magazine of the Year in the 2016 National Magazine Awards for Print and Digital Media, joining forces to preview the print reintroduction series for one of the top Black superheroes in national pop culture, is as formidable a high-profile mixture in the high-profit multicultural geek world as it gets.
Within the same week, the second full trailer for "Captain America: Civil War," showing the world more of the cinematic Black Panther, dropped online, and managed to get almost 95 million views in 24 hours.
Even if that figure represents every viewer watching the trailer four times so they could rewatch their favorite scenes, we'd still be looking at over 23 million viewers, all of whom saw Black Panther give the Winter Soldier a taste of the pain to come.
Despite the fact that Netflix announced the premiere date for their "Luke Cage" series, showcasing another popular Black male Marvel Comics superhero, that news seems somewhat overshadowed by the sheer presence of the Black Panther across online media.
The fictional African King of a fictional African nation is poised to become the most popular fictional Black superhero by this summer, with the first issue of "Black Panther" hitting shelves on April 6, and "Captain America: Civil War" hitting theaters May 6. Interestingly enough, since comic series tend to come out every four weeks, that has "Black Panther" #2 getting fortuitously released on May 4, two days before his first appearance on screen.
Bravo, Marvel Comics.
Another first appearance we'll see on screen in "Captain America: Civil War" is that of the post-Sony/Marvel Studios alliance version of Spider-Man. A well-known character of much debate in terms of his treatment in contemporary cinematic history, Spider-Man is one of the rescued heroes. Unlike The Fantastic Four and X-Men, Spider-Man on film is now being handled (in part) by the influential Marvel Studios.
Ever since the Sony/Marvel Studios deal was announced, Spider-Man's involvement in "Captain America: Civil War" was strongly desired by the fan base, especially because of the character's crucial presence in the Marvel Comics "Civil War" series from which the film derived its name.
The timely appearance of Spider-Man at the end of the latest film trailer, seizing and holding Captain America's shield no less, was arguably one of the highlights for many viewers.
I thought that climatic tease shot was enough. At least it was for me. But I started seeing a variation of the end scene's still shot of Spider-Man on social media. A variation with the character wearing the black and red costume of the other Spider-Man in comic books today: Miles Morales.
The popular character of Black and Latino heritage, featured in the monthly "Spider-Man" series which is published alongside "The Amazing Spider-Man" starring Peter Parker, the Caucasian hero first introduced in the 1960s, Miles Morales has been a subject of great interest from fans.
Fans who were hoping Miles Morales would be the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Spider-Man were disappointed, to say the least, when Marvel Studios revealed the character would be played by actor Tom Holland.
Nonetheless, the digitally-altered visual of the original Spider-Man, remade as the Miles Morales Spider-Man, and the increasing proliferation of the image suggests a projection of either a hope for the future, or the continuing dissatisfaction with the reality of the present. I'm perfectly satisfied and happy with the original Caucasian Spider-Man being the Spider-Man of "Captain America: Civil War."
- Jamie D (@uk_resistant) March 11, 2016
I never expected Marvel Studios and Sony to be collectively evolved or courageous enough to abandon the familiar Caucasian hero, and replace him with the Black/Latino version of the Intellectual Property. Additionally, he's not The Spider-Man, not as far as Marvel Comics is concerned.
He's not "The Amazing" one. He's not the wealthy one. He's the student, with one series as opposed to the various series with the original Caucasian hero.
He's a cool kid, and one day, Marvel Comics and Miles Morales co-creator Brian Michael Bendis may invite a Black or Latino writer or writers to take a whack at him, and perform some uniquely authentic archaeology on the character.
What it is unlikely Marvel Comics will ever do is make Miles Morales The Spider-Man. I have no hopes of seeing Miles Morales as The Spider-Man on screen, nor do I need it. "Captain America: Civil War" will have three Black superheroes on screen, after all.
Don Cheadle's War Machine doesn't take up a ton of screen time in the latest trailer, but what happens to him appears to have a significant impact on Tony Stark's arc in the film.
And why aren't we talking about Sam Wilson, The Falcon anymore? Are we already done with him? Have we no longer any you-know-whats to give about the superhero played by Anthony Mackie?
I hope that's not the case, that we can appreciate the significance of having both Black Panther, War Machine and The Falcon on screen, in the same film. Yes, The Falcon got his butt kicked by, um... Ant-Man, but we won't hold that against him, will we? We'll just put that aside.
Considering how Blade, the Black superhero derived from Marvel Comics mythology, has been mostly dismissed and unacknowledged in its cinematic/historical significance and profitability, I'm decently satisfied for now to see Marvel Studios give us five Black superheroes in eight years, including Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and Mike Colter's Luke Cage.
I don't need Miles Morales on screen. I want Miles Morales to be penned, once, by a Black or Latino or Black/Latino writer.
Dare we bet on which one will happen first?
Joseph Phillip Illidge is a public speaker on the subjects of race, comics and the corporate politics of diversity. In addition to his coverage by The New York Times, CNN Money, the BBC and Publishers Weekly, Joseph has been a speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Book World's forum, Digitize Your Career: Marketing and Editing 2.0, Skidmore College, The School of Visual Arts, Purdue University, on the panel "Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books" and at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City.
Joseph is the Head Writer for Verge Entertainment. Verge has developed an extensive library of intellectual properties for live-action and animated television and film, video games, graphic novels and web-based entertainment.
His graphic novel project, "The Ren," about the romance between a young musician from the South and a Harlem-born dancer in 1925, set against the backdrop of a crime war, will be published by First Second Books, a division of Macmillan.
Joseph's newest comic book project is the upcoming Scout Comics miniseries "Solarman," a revamp of a teenage superhero originally written by Stan Lee.