As we prepare to put on a pair of vibranium claws, Ryan Coogler's Black Panther is set to mark a milestone for the MCU and comic book movies everywhere. Bringing the very first black superhero in mainstream American comics to cinemas for the first time is no mean feat, but #BlackPanther looks set to continue the #MCU's winning streak. However, as diverse as the cast and the movie's intentions are, T'Challa was introduced in 1966 during a very different time in race relations. It is safe to say that Black Panther has certainly picked up some outdated stereotypes along the way.
Times Have Changed
With Coogler's film, we are promised to stick relatively close to the 51 years of comic book lore, but there was a big question hanging over the use of the character M'Baku, better known as "Man-Ape." Winston Duke's M'Baku could mean big trouble for Black Panther as an adversary, but that pseudonym just doesn't fly in 2017. However, thankfully Coogler already has a plan up his sleeve.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, executive producer Nate Moore revealed that the crew would still be doing the character justice, but with a little change to history:
“We don’t call him Man-Ape. We do call him M’Baku.”
Introduced in Avengers #62 in 1969, M'Baku led Wakanda's mountain tribe and locked horns with out titular Panther, who was the nation's new king. The character took on his Man-Ape villain title when dressing in white fur and attacking our hero. Just as the MCU has become so adept at doing, it has tweaked the M'Baku's origins to fit with a more modern interpretation. As with Adrian Toomes and the Vulture undergoing an update in Spider-Man: Homecoming, M'Baku has had the same much needed modernization. Moore continued to explain that there will still be elements of the character on his wrists and ankles, but don't expect M'Baku to be replicating King Kong in 2018:
“Having a black character dress up as an ape, I think there’s a lot of racial implications that don’t sit well, if done wrong. But the idea that they worship the gorilla gods is interesting because it’s a movie about the Black Panther who, himself, is a sort of deity in his own right.”
Out With The Old, In With The New
Instead of M'Baku's 1969 origins, Moore promises that Coogler and his team have taken inspiration from Christopher Priest's acclaimed Black Panther run from 1998-2003:
“You learn that M’Baku is essentially the head of the religious minority in Wakanda and we thought that was interesting. Wakanda is not a monolithic place. They have a lot of different factions.”
While M'Baku probably won't be as antagonistic as Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger or Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue, he is still expected to be a thorn in T'Challa's side. In particular, M'Baku is said to be equally angered by T'Challa's deceased father, T'Chaka, who was too willing to diversify Wakanda. If you remember, John Kani played T'Chaka in Captain America: Civil War and was killed during the explosion of the UN, and Coogler says this will still have repercussions for one of Black Panther's biggest enemies:
“Man-Ape is a problematic character for a lot of reasons, but the idea behind Man-Ape we thought was really fascinating. … It’s a line I think we’re walking, and hopefully walking successfully.”
“In this movie, it’s a little tricky to define who’s a [good guy]. The film very much plays with those concepts, looking at conflicts and different motivations, and who’s with who. M’Baku is a really interesting character, and I’m excited for people to get to see him.”
Just as most MCU movies have interwoven into an overarching story, expect the events of Civil War to bleed into Black Panther, and Black Panther into the upcoming Infinity War. We have only briefly seen Duke in action as M'Baku, but look for the film to represent a struggle of power among the various families of Wakanda and beyond. Undoubtedly there will be those who see the loss of M'Baku's alter ego as a desecration to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's work, but I think we ca all agree that it is a necessary move with the times. Either way, Black Panther is sure to cause a stir when it is released next year.
Check out the trailer for Black Panther and don't forget our poll below.
Do you think 'Black Panther' is right to get rid of the Man-Ape moniker?
(Source: Entertainment Weekly)