Wakanda Forever: Black Panther’s Imagined Africa

Authors: Steven Schnell*, Kutztown University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Africa
Keywords: Africa, comics and graphic novels, place identity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Congressional B, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In 1966, Marvel Comics’ Black Panther became the first black comic book character in mainstream American comics. Black Panther, a.k.a. T’Challa, calls the fictional country of Wakanda home. From the beginning, Wakanda was posited as a technologically advanced African country that had never been colonized, and indeed, remained a “dark continent” to outsiders – except in this case, the unknown heart of Africa hides technological sophistication, driven by vibranium, a valuable metal unknown elsewhere. This paper will explore the ways that different comic authors and artists have imagined and depicted Wakanda and deployed it as a means of probing a wide range of issues – colonialism, national identity, race, and urban African-American experience among them. It also will touch on reactions in African media to the highly successful 2018 movie adaptation.

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