By Charles Webb
"In terms of 'Black Panther,' it's absolutely in development."
That's Kevin Feige, Marvel's president of production responding to Black Tree TV when asked point-blank about the status of Black Panther on film. T'Challa, the monarch, scientist, martial artists, and tactician has had a winding road coming to the big screen for years now, with several false starts and elliptical starts as Marvel and the various rights holders who've had their hands on the character over the years have attempted to launch only the second black superhero franchise on film after "Blade."
For those unfamiliar with the character, the Black Panther was introduced in "The Fantastic Four" all the way back in 1966's #52 as one of the earliest black superheroes in comics. He was an interesting counterpoint to other representations of blacks in comics, imminently noble, in charge, and dangerous, from a fictional African nation of geniuses and highly-functioning badasses who didn't seem to have a whole lot of time and interest in the needs or wants of the outside world.
Unfortunately, the outside world took an interest in Wakanda, T'Challa's home turf, which was the site of a mother lode of the metal Vibranium. Its ability to absorb almost any impact made it the perfect material for weapons and technology, ultimately ending up in Captain America's shield (fiction carried into "Captain America: The First Avenger").
Wesley Snipes spent nearly 15 years trying to get the a film based on the character underway at Columbia before Marvel entered its financial dark period at the end of the 90's (the actor would ultimately go on to play another Marvel character, Blade). While Snipes was still making noise about wanting to star in a "Black Panther" movie as recently as 2007, and writer Mark Bailey was brought on to write a script back in 2011.
Given the length of time between now and Bailey's hiring, it's likely the story Marvel's working with for a "Black Panther" feature will be a bit different, specifically given how connected the Marvel cinematic universe is.
At this point, you would expect Feige to dodge and jive and try to explain how the character is "tricky" or whatever" and why it might be a while before we see him on screen. Interestingly, he doesn't do that, simply pointing to how hyped Marvel is about making a "Black Panther" movie. When he says "You have something as rich as Wakanda, and [T'Challa's] backstory, and clearly Vibranium's been introduced in the universe already," it's easy to see Marvel's already decided that they want to make a movie, it's just the how/when.
As for that, we'll let Feige tamp down your expectations for seeing the character in his own film in the super near future: "I don't know when it will be, exactly, but we have plans to bring him to life someday."
What do you want to see in a "Black Panther" movie? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter!