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With revamped 'Black Panther,' Marvel ups its diversity game

Posted April 18

Two years after first making noises about shaking up old titles with fresh, more diverse characters, Marvel comics' efforts may finally be paying off in the form of its most famous minority hero, Black Panther.

Created in 1966, Black Panther was the first black superhero Marvel introduced. Known as his alter ego T'Challah, king of the fictional African country Wakanda, Black Panther went on to become a member of Marvel's Avengers, as well as having memorable stints alongside The Fantastic Four.

Penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the nonfiction author whose book about racial tensions in America, "Between the World and Me," won the 2015 National Book Award, the new Black Panther is getting the full treatment in the Marvel pantheon — including a prominent spot in Marvel's upcoming summer release, "Captain America: Civil War," a standalone film in 2017 and a full merchandise line.

The timing and author choice is apropos, say many critics, given how white and male the superhero lineup can be. But part of what makes the new series great, critics say, is that Coates grounds the new series in issues besides race — specifically, the politics of power and unrest in Black Panther's kingdom of Wakanda.

"It doesn’t feel like some kind of response to the diversity cries. It just feels like the most important black superhero in the world is exactly where he needs to be," the Post's David Betancourt wrote. "It feels a little like destiny. And that’s what the Black Panther deserves."

"This is a story about a man of his people, and unlike many Black Panther stories of the past, it does justice to and makes us care about those he's pledged to serve and protect," Vox's Alex Abad-Santos wrote. "It's a brilliant start to one of Marvel's most promising new series, and like the hero whose story it tells, it's poised to defy its already grand expectations."

Black Panther No. 1 was released April 6, with Marvel reporting comic retailers have already ordered 300,000 copies.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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