Black Panther was the first Black superhero in mainstream American comics. Black Panther was a cultural phenomenon that broke box office records. Yet it wasn’t just a movie led by and starring Black artists. It grappled with ideas and conflicts central to Black life in America and helped redress the racial dynamics of the Hollywood blockbuster.
Scott Bukatman, one of the foremost scholars of superheroes and cinematic spectacle, brings his impeccable pedigree to this lively and accessible study, finding in the utopianism of Black Panther (University of Texas Press, 2022) a way of re-envisioning what a superhero movie can and should be while centering the Black creators, performers, and issues behind it. He considers the superheroic Black body; the Pan-African fantasy, feminism, and Afrofuturism of Wakanda; the African American relationship to Africa; the political influence of director Ryan Coogler’s earlier movies; and the entwined performances of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa and Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. Bukatman argues that Black Panther is escapism of the best kind, offering a fantasy of liberation and social justice while demonstrating the power of popular culture to articulate ideals and raise vital questions.