Marvel screenwriter talks Wakanda and the 'historic opportunity' of writing Black Panther

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Feb 16, 2016, 6:05 PM EST

Black Panther screenwriter Joe Robert Cole recently sat down with Mother Jones, where he gave a very lengthy inverview on a variety of subjects, including how Marvel will translate the fictional country of Wakanda for the big screen when the movie blows up in theaters exactly two years from now.

The writer/director also spoke about how he came to get the gig of writing the screenplay for director Ryan Coogler’s (Creed) superhero film, which will star Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, aka Black Panther.

“Having gone through the [Marvel] writer program, I knew Black Panther was in the pipeline and I knew they were big fans of my writing. But I had to compete with the other writers who were put up for it—no one hands out jobs. It familiarized Marvel with my work and with me as a person. Being able to interact with [studio president] Kevin Feige and have him know who I am and know me as a person, and be able to then sit down and have a conversation about story with someone who's familiar and comfortable is invaluable.”

Cole, who’s also been tapped to write the script for Marvel’s Inhumans movie that’s set to premiere on the big screen in three years’ time (July 12, 2019), also discussed how important it was for him, as an African-American, to write the screenplay for a major black superhero who’ll claw his way into Captain America: Civil War before headlining his own solo movie.

“Black Panther is a historic opportunity to be a part of something important and special, particularly at a time when African Americans are affirming their identities while dealing with vilification and dehumanization. The image of a black hero on this scale is just really exciting. When I was a kid, I would change superheroes' names: Instead of James Bond, I was James Black. Instead of Batman, I was Blackman. And I have a three-year-old son. My son will be five when Black Panther comes out. That puts it all into perspective for me.”


When he was asked about the themes the movie would broach, for example, if they would be exploring the history of the African continent, including the myths, Cole said that they were still figuring out a lot of things for the comic-book movie.

“We're in the process of figuring many of those things out. I think approaching the movie from a perspective that is rooted in the cultures of the continent is important. Personally—and Ryan [Coogler] and Nate Moore, the executive producer—we all are cognizant of what's going on in the world, in black communities, and in our country. We are aware of the importance of that, and the platform this movie provides us with. But I can't give you the specifics”

As for bringing the nation of Wakanda -- a technologically advanced country where Vibranium (what Captain America's shield is made of) comes from -- to life for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cole was asked how he would portray said technology without “Westernizing” the African country’s culture.

“That's one of the many questions that excite me. I think you try to extrapolate from the early civilizations and cultures of the continent, kind of looking for unique ways they set themselves apart from Western civilizations, and then pursue those avenues technologically and see where that takes you. In terms of his culture, we're thinking about where we are locating Wakanda within the continent, and what the people and history of that region are like. It's a process of investigation to help inform the story at this point. But we are going to be engaged with consultants who are experts on the continent and on African history and politics.”


Black Panther will open in theaters on Feb. 16, 2018.

(via Mother Jones)