Marvel, Do Black Panther Right

Black-Panther-Marvel-2016-Images

Over the past year, we have seen a number of cases in which blacks have been mistreated and killed by police officers: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, the McKinney, TX incident, and most recently the terrorist attack on Emannuel AME Church by Dylann Roof. Naturally, these events have stirred up feelings of anger and tension, and usually when these event happen, people look to protest, pray, or escape. Comic book heroes have been one of those escapes for generations of children. The superheroes we love to read not only provide an entertaining distraction, but provide figures we can identify with. Be it the discrimination against the X-Men or identifying with the loss of family members that many comic book heroes (and villains) face, comics can serve as an amazing parallel to the real world and be a source of comfort, understanding, and even serve as inspiration for individuals to achieve goals they never thought possible. This leads me to Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther movie. I worry that Marvel might try to whitewash or diminish a character with a rich, non-American, non-Western history in order to sell more tickets or avoid the very tense racial nature that has gripped the nation in the past few years.

History of the Character

Though you might be tempted to think of the Black Panther Party when you hear “Black Panther”, Marvel’s hero actually predates the organization. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and first appeared back in 1966, and is recognized as the first mainstream black superhero. The Black Panther is actually a ceremonial title, given to the chieftain of the Panther Tribe, rulers of the most advanced nation on Marvel’s Earth: Wakanda. The Black Panther we will likely see is T’Challa.

Traditionally an isolationist nation, Wakanda developed independently of the rest of the world, and is ahead of it in many areas such as medicine and technological prowess. It is a great megalopolis and nation, and the only home to one of the most important metals in the Marvel Universe: Vibranium. You may know it as the metal that makes up Captain America’s shield.

T’Challa himself is quite the talented individual: proficient in strategy, politics, science (Ph.D in physics from Oxford), and tracking, he’s considered to be one of the smartest individuals in the Marvel Universe. Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t have Reed Richards (blame Fox Media), T’Challa will likely join Bruce Banner and Tony Stark as the top three minds in the MCU. He also is physically gifted: the powers granted to the Black Panther give him strength on a similar level to Captain America, and he has trained in more disciplines such as gymnastics and martial arts disciplines from around the world. In a battle situation, he would likely be armed with vibranium claws and a spear that could cut through Iron Man’s armor.

How will we see Black Panther in the MCU?

Wakanda has been teased multiple times in the Marvel Cinematic Universe ahead of the Black Panther film slated for release in 2018. You can briefly see it circled in the closing scenes of Iron Man 2. It was formally name-dropped in Avengers: Age of Ultron, when the team discovers that Ultron is currently on track to meet with Ulysses Klaue [Klaw in the comics] so that Ultron can build himself a new Vibranium body. While the ensuing battle does take place in Africa, it takes place in South Africa, so Wakanda has not yet been seen on-screen. It’s also been confirmed that Black Panther will be introduced in Captain America: Civil War, though in what capacity has not yet been disclosed.

I do have a prediction for how Black Panther will fit into the Phase Three timeline. T’Challa’s father (and the previous Panther) is T’Chaka. T’Chaka is killed by Ulysses Klaw when he sneaks into the country and tries to steal some vibranium. T’Challa then takes the throne in his father’s stead. This may have already happened by the time we encounter Black Panther in the film, as it would also explain how Klaue could have escaped Wakanda with all of the vibranium that he did: it came down to a final battle against him and T’Chaka, and Klaue won and escaped. The location of the stolen vibranium and attack on South Africa could be enough to get the Black Panther involved in world affairs as Wakanda starts to come to the forefront of political affairs.

My Concerns

But there’s far more to Black Panther than faithfully portraying an African nation as more advanced than the West and a black leader who is of equal intellect to Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Due to its xenophobic tendencies, Wakanda frowns upon American/foreign involvement. This dynamic is made clear in the Netflix miniseries that came out on BET around 6 years ago. I highly highly recommend that you see it as soon as possible, and certainly before the movie comes out. It adapts the first volume of the Black Panther, and makes clear the type of nation that Wakanda is. The mini-series doesn’t pull as many punches as I think the movie may be forced to. In it, American politicians refer to Wakandans as savages and other stereotypical insults typically addressed to blacks/Africans, and I think that would resonate very well with many black Americans who have seen the tragedies and attacks that I referred to earlier. In addition to the language, there are many disembodied heads and violence and blood are present; the point of ‘we don’t like invaders’ is made very clear. Make no bones about it: many people in the US and around the world don’t like blacks and Africans simply because they’re black and Africans, and the movie should make negative viewpoint clear. Expose it, address it, and then prove it wrong by showing just how advanced and intelligent the Wakandans are. Are they perfect? No. But if there’s any semblance of the need for a ‘white savior’ in the movie, then I think the movie will be a failure. Instead, the movie should serve to uplift and provide hope to black individuals around the world.

Marvel and Diversity

Marvel has already done a fairly good job when it comes to racial diversity. Half-Black Half-Latino Miles Morales has become the new mainstream Spider-Man (even though the MCU decided to give us our third Peter Parker in 15 years rather than have a new hero take on the role). War Machine/Iron Patriot and Falcon are both black superheroes in the MCU that have seen multiple appearances, though they haven’t had their own films. I do think that Marvel has been a bit less fair to its female leads—Black Widow had essentially been carrying the torch by herself (and didn’t even have powers) until Scarlet Witch showed up in Age of Ultron. I certainly hope Marvel does better with gender diversity, and having read lots of Ms Marvel/Captain Marvel recently, I’m really looking forward to her movie in 2018 as well.

Ultimately, by the time the Black Panther movie comes out, the MCU will be a much different place than it is currently. There are many movies that will greatly change the MCU landscape between now and it’s tentative July 6, 2018 release date: Captain America: Civil War (featuring the Panther), Thor: Ragnarok, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, an unnamed Spidey film, and Avengers: Infinity War Part 1. This begs the question: Will the Panther be in the Avengers by Infinity War Part 1? It will be interesting to watch. Regardless, I hope that Chadwick Boseman represents T’Challa well in the MCU, for the sake of the character and for those of us at home who need a headlining black superhero to look up to.

A New Endeavor: Tech Down South

Recently, I’ve decided on embarking on a new adventure with a friend, Matt Wilson (a student of the school out east): a weekly podcast. It’s something that we’ve talked about for quite a while, and after a false start back in November, we’ve finally put  something together that we’ve put some energy behind. The name of the podcast is “Tech Down South”, where Matt and I talk about any tech-related news that comes out for around 45 minutes. Given that we’re big Nintendo and Apple fans, expect those to be popular and common topics, but we’re working to include other, more general information as well. You can check us out on Twitter via @tds_show, or on the web at techdownsouth.wordpress.com. I hope you give us a listen!

Manual

Stick shift. Manual transmission. “The only way to drive a car”. It is called it many things, but in the end, it’s still the best way to operate a vehicle.

I grew up watching my dad drive a manual, a red Nissan Maxima ’92. He loved it to death. He purchased it a couple of months before I was born, in November of ‘93. It was the car that picked myself and my brothers up from the hospital right after we were born. It was the car that he took to work every day for the next 12 years, until it got just a bit too quirky to trust for that daily commute. He held onto it for a little while longer, eventually getting rid of it just a few months shy of my 15th birthday. Feeling the car vibrate under the seat and rumble as he shifted gears, I knew that when I bought my first car, it was going to make sure it would be a manual.

Because he got rid of that trusty Maxima before I could get my learner’s permit, I never had the opportunity to drive it. I never got to feel its steering wheel in my hand nor its clutch under my foot. And while I pleaded for a manual when he shopped for a third vehicle entering my junior year of high school, he instead opted for a pedestrian, but beloved Honda CR-V (which many of you know as Ramona).

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to drive a manual. The friend that takes me to church (no, not that one) has a nice Mazda 3 hatchback that he finally let me take for a spin. I had driven a stick before—my ex-girlfriend’s father showed me the ropes on an old Toyota in the rural Tennessee hills of Joelton my freshman year—but since then I’d been itching to get my hands on one. Given that very few Americans drive sticks anymore (apparently around only 4% of cars sold in the last few years are manual), even finding someone who drove one was a pretty rare in and of itself. After a bit of guilt-tripping and peer pressure, I was able to convince him to let me try it out in an empty parking lot.

Driving a stick, you have to pay attention. You can’t text and drive a stick, to be quite honest. With one hand on the wheel, one on the shaft, and both feet occupied (the left on the clutch and the right working the accelerator & brake), you have to be fully engaged with the vehicle and your surroundings. Unless you were Doctor Octopus, you wouldn’t have any remaining limbs to hold an iPhone. Terrain makes a difference: getting the car from “0 to 1″, as I call it, can be much trickier depending on the slope of the incline one is stopped on. (You don’t want to end up like Wal-Mart—rollback.) Even things like braking require more thought: Are you pressing in the clutch in as you brake? Do you even need to, at the speed you’re going? Do you need to downshift? I think that in an automatic and cellphone-heavy world, these extra factors can help to keep drivers engaged with the road. If driving a manual means I can’t use my phone while driving, that can only be a good thing.

Beyond the need for higher engagement while driving, operating a stick is simply more fun and more rewarding. There’s no sense of accomplishment in getting the car from stopped to 20 mph in an automatic. But in a manual, each start of the car is a reward in and of itself. You’re telling the world, the car, and every frightened passenger in tow that you’ve conquered the car and overcome the stoplight. Only the most experienced manual driver can pop into a new stick shift and make it purr. For everyone else, you’ve got to get to know your car. Over time, you learn where the sweet spot of the clutch is. Once that happens, you’ll be able to masterfully make it to that 20 mph mark. Indeed, few things are exhilarating as successfully downshifting, (putting on your blinker), and zooming by the old lady in front of you going 9 under the speed limit.

After two straight stalls and about 10 loops, I eventually got the hang of the no-incline start. After 4 stalls and 25 loops, I got the hang of the inclined start. It was a flashback to my father teaching me the ropes in his huge truck, in an empty school parking lot 6 years and many miles ago. Impressed by my aptitude, I was even granted the opportunity to drive back to my dorm. If you happened to see a car stall out in front of the book store today in traffic, I apologize. Despite the embarrassment, it felt good to fail and have a new challenge presented to me. It’s an interesting feeling, knowing how to accomplish a task and yet failing at it upon learning how to do it a new way.

I’ve still got a ways to go—be it mastering the stick or even getting a car with a stick. But I have only a little while longer to wait until the opportunity arises. When it does, it’ll be clutch.

(Disclaimer: I simply couldn’t write an article without at least trying to incorporate the slang ‘clutch’. I’ll see myself out.)

21

Happy New Year!

Another semester, another schedule, and, of course, another birthday. January, as you can see, is generally a time full of adjustment.

Back on the 10th, I turned 21. A couple of weeks ago, it hit me while talking to my dad that 21 is really the last birthday one looks forward to as a kid. Five is the last time you can tell people your age on one hand; 10 is the last time you can use both and the first time you hit double digits. At 13, you’re finally a teenager and at 15 you can actually drive a car. After one grueling year, you can finally drive without your mother screaming in your ear at 16. At 17, you are simultaneously excited for the fact that you’ll soon be an adult, but also scared that you’ll soon be an adult. Then, finally, at 18, you can sign your own parental slips, call those 1-800 numbers you saw on toy commercials as a kid, and laugh at your younger child siblings. After that, it kind of simmers down until you hit 21.

The United States is odd in that it joins the likes of Egypt, Cameroon, Indonesia, Tonga, Oman, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Solomon Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Tajikistan, and Kazakstan as having a high drinking age of 21. I’m going to venture and guess that you didn’t know half of those countries. In contrast, most other places in the West/Americas mark the age at 18, and some even have it at 16. But it doesn’t matter, because the overwhelming majority of people who do end up drinking most likely started doing so before they reached 21. Having not grown up in a house where my parents drank alcohol, it’s been a little odd to me to suddenly be able to legally do something that so many of my peers do underage and strive to be able to do legally. I think that, like other topics, it seems like something that everyone does unless you stop to observe. Only then when you look around do you observe that it’s a much smaller percentage than what Budweiser would have you think.

Either way, I’ve reached the last ‘fun’ birthday. Save for finally being able to rent a car at 25 and formally kicked off of my parent’s insurance at 26, all of the good good birthdays (while young) are about over. It’s odd to step back and reflect on all of those pivotal moments; where I was in my personal journey, favorite songs of the time, and which iPhone/iPods were out at the time. But now, it’s time to enjoy today, the moment, 64% through my time at Vanderbilt.

Here’s to 21, and here’s to 2015.

Go Buy a Wii U

Having read some reviews of Bayonetta 2, I was moved to make a Public Service Announcement: Go buy a Wii U. Right now, it has the widest variety of games, and the highest reviewed games. There’s something for everyone. The Wii U won’t get the most. The Wii U will get the best. The game that prompted this article, Bayonetta 2, just received a 10 on GameSpot (they’ve only given out eight 10/10 scores in 18 years of business, including Bayonetta 2). IGN also awarded it a 9.5, and they don’t hand those out like T-shirts.

Let me just say that I don’t like GameSpot; I think they’re overly-harsh graders. Among their biggest slights, they gave Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze a 6/10 and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption an 8.5/10. After the latter review back in ’07, I simply had to stop taking them seriously, as Prime deserves a 9.5/10 and no less. Them giving DK a 6 merely validated this claim, as that game earned no less than an 8 in my opinion (and most others agree).

With that said, Bayonetta 2 only serves as another game in a long list of original content that the Wii U offers. Shooters? Grab Call of Duty: Ghosts or Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist. 2D Platforming? We’ve got plenty: Rayman Legends, the aforementioned Donkey Kong, Shovel Knight, and more. Oh, you meant 3D? Check out Super Mario 3D World. Racing? Need for Speed U and Mario Kart 8 will keep you occupied for weeks. Adventure? Pikmin 3 and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (one of my personal favorites). Action? Hyrule Warriors and the upcoming Bayonetta 2. Fighting? Injustice: Gods Among Us and of course the upcoming Smash Bros. We have it all.

The Wii U truly offers something for everyone, and if you’re a true video game fan, you’re really missing out by not owning one. I highly recommend it. If you don’t want a new one, you can usually find one for cheap on Craigslist (your win, trust me). Make it happen.