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Comic-Con 2016 had a serious splash of melanin

The newly revealed cast of ‘Black Panther’ features all shades of blackness

Between Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira, Comic-Con 2016 featured all shades of blackness.

This year, in front of a crowd of about 7,000 attendees, the highly anticipated Marvel Studios film Black Panther raised the bar for the inclusion of black culture when director Ryan Coogler introduced the all-star cast of prominent African-American actors. Boseman is the film’s lead character, T’Challa (aka Black Panther); Jordan is T’Challa’s nemesis, Erik Killmonger; Nyong’o is Nakia, one of T’Challa’s bodyguards; and Gurira is Nakia’s friend, Okoye.

Black inclusion, however, has not always been the case in comic book culture.

It was just two years ago, at Comic-Con 2014, when a session called the Black Panel — which has taken place every year since 1998 and is hosted by comic book creator and Milestone Media co-founder Michael Davis — had nothing to sell and no new announcements.

The long-running panel is storied in reiterating that black culture is a part of the American comic book culture. It brings together crowds that share the many different ways cultures are one within the industry. According to The Guardian, the Black Panel began five years after Davis founded Milestone, a comic book entertainment company that showcases some notable black superheroes of the ’90s, such as Icon, a 300-year-old alien whose first earthly encounter was with a slave woman in the American South, and Static, a high school teenager who receives super powers.

Now, the view is very different. This year’s Black Panel included Wayne Brady (actor, producer), Karen Hunter (The Karen Hunter Show, Karen Hunter Publishing, Pulitzer Prize winner), Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik (Recall & Given) and Tomiya Gaines (The Perfect $20 Date).

And the announcement of Marvel’s Black Panther cast helped take things to another level. The news put to rest months of speculation about which actors would take on the roles and gave a substantial splash of melanin to an oftentimes very white superhero world.

The Black Panther comic book, written by The New York Times’ best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates, details the life of strategist and tactician, T’Challa, who was tasked with protecting his nation of Wakanda from outsiders and supervillains. Though T’Challa may not be the strongest superhero, “He is a master planner who always thinks several steps ahead and will go to extreme measures to achieve his goals and protect the kingdom of Wakanda,” according to the character’s profile.

“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,’ ” Coogler told Vulture. “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.”

Black Panther is scheduled to be released in February 2018.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.