Monday, June 21, 2010

Black Panther, Cool Helicarrier

In the 1960s, Marvel Comics, clearly influenced by the political protests of the day, introduced a character named Black Panther who ostensibly had nothing to do with the American political conflicts of the day but happened to be the first black member of the Avengers (the team now being slowly assembled on the big screen that over the years has also included Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, War Machine, Thor, Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, etc.). Black Panther hailed from the African nation of Wakanda, which made him one step removed from the tricky domestic political questions of the day, but simply having a regal black character on the team said something.

And if he ever crops up in an Avengers movie, there’s the added intrigue of getting to see him interact with a black Nick Fury, given the casting of Samuel L. Jackson in that role. Speaking of which, a friend of the guy who wrote Air Force One informs me that that writer is working on a script for a potential Nick Fury movie and trying to figure out what sorts of things the special effects will allow to be done with, yes, the Helicarrier, the aircraft-carrier-sized six-prop helicopter used by Nick Fury’s sci-fi-CIA-like organization S.H.I.E.L.D. Almost all I want out of these Avengers movies is to see a battle involving the Helicarrier, so I have my fingers crossed. Of course, a slightly lower-budget 1990s version of the Helicarrier can be seen in, yes, the David Hasselhoff TV-movie version of Nick Fury, which you may have missed but which I swear wasn’t half bad, featured Hydra in all its glory, and was written by David Goyer, later of Dark Knight (not to mention Dark City) fame.

As for Black Panther, the character’s been animated, as seen in this clip, which is beautifully drawn but crudely animated, anachronistically (but not humorously) written, shockingly violent, and, in this scene, almost completely devoid of Black Panther. Still, I love the fact that it has sort of a Jonny Quest look, which is ironic, given that Jonny (one of the fictional boy-science-adventurer characters, like Tom Swift, who had the biggest influence on me in childhood) was sort of an echo of imperialist/explorer characters like Alan Quartermain (as is Indiana Jones).

But far be it from me to condemn Jonny because of his ancestry. He captured the childhood spirit of exploration perfectly — and there are still times I think fondly of Doxilus, the idyllic yet high-tech planet of giant trees and hidden spacefleet docking facilities (of my own making) that I sometimes imagined being on when I was six.

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