History has a funny way of repeating itself. In the 1960s during a time of racial strife, Marvel Comics introduced Black Panther and gave its black readers a hero to identify with. On February 16, 2018, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) treads down the same path as its comic book roots by debuting their first MCU film with a black-centered cast on screen in Black Panther.

Making his first appearance within the comic universe in 1966 during the Civil Rights Movement, Black Panther represented the idea that African Americans and other minorities had the same potential for heroism that had been exclusively held by white people.

With Hollywood and the television industry heavily invested in comic book properties the last two decades, Black Panther should just be another MCU movie poised to make millions.

Ultimately, that is far from the case. Within the rising popularity of superhero films and shows, Black Panther stands apart from the rest by giving the audience a black hero devoid of the negative stereotypes exuded by the current MCU black heroes.

Poor visual representation within the MCU over the last decade

Between the MCU movies and Marvel Netflix shows, the representation of its African American characters has been poor. Largely regarded as second-rate heroes in comparison to the white characters around them, the black heroes of the MCU have yet to get the spotlight.

Despite the progressive nature that studios wish to portray these days, the dearth of African American actors that actually exist in the MCU has been either relegated to subordinate roles lying in the background or roles in which crime and poverty are key aspects in their stories. For example despite good performances by Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie as War Machine and Falcon, in reality, they are supporting roles to Iron Man and Captain America respectively.

The counter to that situation comes in the form of Luke Cage, the first MCU minority to get his own show. Unfortunately, the first chance the MCU had to represent a solo African American superhero came littered with negative stereotypical images of crime, drugs, and gang violence surrounding him. Furthermore, Luke Cage has been depicted as the most sexualized male in the MCU (another black male stereotype).

Black Panther looks to redefine the MCU image of blackness

Fast forward about 60 years since his initial inception into Marvel comics, and Black Panther is poised to make a huge splash at the box office. With his very creation as a fictional character meant to promote a positive image of blackness in the 1960s, Black Panther aims to promote a strong image of blackness that has been missing from the MCU since its inception.

With the physical skills to rival Captain America, the agility to best Spider-man, the intellect to go toe to toe with Tony Stark, and the elegant demeanor to rule a great nation, Black Panther is arguably the greatest African American superhero (or any superhero) to have been created.

Unlike the majority of MCU films and show, Black Panther exists as more than just another stepping stone to building the lucrative MCU narrative. It has taken on an image of black pride without relying on the painful stereotypes of crime and suffering in order to sell tickets and tell a story.