BLACK PANTHER: THE MOST UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO BLACK THEOLOGY

God works through me, the same as you. There is no feat I achieve that you are not capable of.”

-Black Panther

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As fascinating and as unexpected as it may sound, the Black Panther is indeed a very important figure in comics. This exception of the Black Panther does not exclude other significant black superheroes of authority and influence such as the Blue Marvel. But, the Panther takes first place because he came before the rest. His impact on African American thought was revolutionary. At a time when the African American community battled with self identity, Marvel Comics showed that they could rise up to the occasion and create a character who would be the image of African Americans. The Black Panther, though unassociated to the group that went by the same name did something unimaginable. It not only changed how African Americans saw themselves, it also demonstrated that though they originally hailed from Africa [which had been christened the ‘Dark Continent’ in the sixties], that they and their homeland were not so ‘dark’ after all.

In a manner that must have stunned DC readers at the time, the Black Panther was a point in and of himself. Unlike DC’s Cyborg, the Panther was not a sidekick, he was his own authority. He has remained, since the time of his creation, a king, a genius of Marvel’s top cream, a superhero and a priceless contribution to the Avengers’ team on panel. Now, here’s where some of you may ask some questions like, “Wasn’t Marvel just trying to capitalize on a present issue to earn some extra income?”. The answer, a resounding “No”, here’s why; Stan Lee had pointed out that he did not like his character being ‘shadows’ of the so-called ‘main hero’ because he felt that they took something away from this main hero. He later on went to state that he would not do to any of his characters what DC had done to Batman’s Robin and subjugate them.

At a time when comic books themselves were seeking relevance, Stan Lee and Marvel Comics were on the right path. Seeking to create characters of substance, and relatability; meaning that the selling point of the characters would not be on their power or abilities but on their diverse personalities, weaknesses, challenges and ability to ‘rise up’ as it were after being knocked down several times over. This, if I must say, is a strength. And as recent comic news is showing us, Cap’s history has been re-written. He is now a triple agent and a HYDRA project?? Anyway, many fans are a bit confused about this reveal but this story is bound to be one that may lead fans to respect the Captain even more. Some of you might be skeptical but watch this space…

Now, to the issue at hand, Black Theology and Black Panther’s contribution to the same. Black theology has had a very powerful influence on American society as a whole. Be it loved or hated, it is a force to reckon with. Seeing the likes of Martin Luther King Junior, pardon me, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. springboard the revolution in the U.S. that shook the very core of the rest of America we got the best comparison to the Black Panther character. We got Barack Obama, an educated African man who made African American history through his dual heritage as a Hawaii-born black man. It’s this point that makes me respect Marvel; they looked into the future by being great analysts of the present. I speak and express myself in these posts as a young African man of black descent and I have grown up reading comics. Not only do I love them, I relish their perspectives on several events. As an African theologian, I am thrilled to see the parallels that can be made from the comic book/fictional realm and the realm of theology. If some of the greatest ministers advised other preachers/theologians to hold a paper in one hand and the Bible in another, then comic books qualify right there near the newspaper.

Kudos Marvel on bringing the character to the big screen in Captain America Civil War!

“The more different we are, the more we find that we are the same”

-Chinese Proverb

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DC’s KINGDOM COME: MESHING UP THE PULPIT AND THE COMIC BOOK

PART 2: WHEN BIG QUESTIONS ARE RAISED ON THE PULPIT OF THE ARTS

“The meek would [indeed] inherit the earth…but God didn’t account for the mighty”

-Dodds to Minister at hospital bedside

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What a powerful way to begin the story. Kingdom Come, like the Dark Knight Returns series (i.e. the comic books) came in a multi-part series. The setting of KC is in a dystopian future where the heroes have come into the fore and have demonstrated to the ordinary, regular person that power is everything. This is seen in how reckless they have become in how they dish out justice to criminals and villains; a matter that had brought one of DC’s main characters, Batman to loggerheads with Superman–another one of DC’s top heroes.

Bruce Wayne (Batman’s alter ego), broken, aged and disenchanted with the current state of affairs, criticizes Superman for his failure to be an example. Bruce goes on to state that because of Clark Kent’s (Superman’s alter ego) failure to mentor the growing number of young heroes who had taken it upon themselves to fight crime, that he is to blame for the social unrest that has taken over the world. With the revelation that Superman’s failure has resulted in global consequences, Bruce wages war on Clark, declaring that he is unfit to lead. With Batman’s aides and allies by his side, they take up arms declaring the end of the reign of the unchecked forces and combat them.

Meanwhile, Dodds looks on as the embodiment of God’s wrath in the DCU (DC Universe), the Spectre, prompts him to look on from a distance and judge the actions of these vastly powerful beings. Therein lies the crux of the story, does absolute power in the name of fighting for good necessarily bring security? For as the narrative shows the reader, all this came about when one young hero of this alternate timeline decided to murder the Joker in cold blood after a court proceeding. But this act alone made many question whether men and women who empowered vastly like Superman were truly equal.

Many were in fear wondering if truly, the Law would apply to such beings. For as Dodd’s rightly asks, “Does the Law apply to those with immense power? With those more privileged than others?” Jail them, they can break out. Threaten them and with their bare hands, they can kill you. Ignore their actions, and there is civil unrest. Confront them and danger looms like a shadow?

Is it truly possible to speak out against injustice in this world. Because, if so, how terrifying is it to be the average mortal who is given the power to sway things in his favor given the power of the Wrath of God. How terrifying it is too for when God’s people pray so are they made like Dodd’s for they are in his position, demonstrating that truly, the meek will reclaim and not only inherit the earth.

-END