Black identity, ancestry and social values all collided with the release of Black Panther.
T’Chella is Black Panther’s alter ego and is the leader of Wakanda an African nation that is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
Black Panther first appeared in the Fantastic Four comic run in 1966 just two years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Chris Hargrow the Store Manager of Great Escape Comics and Records says he read the comic in the mid-1990s and was impressed that the black super hero was written to the same standard as other Marvel super heroes.
“Honestly for me being Afro-American he was one of the first that I saw that I thought they really did the story right,” Hargrow said. “I didn’t know who was writing it but whoever seemed like they understood where Black Panther was coming from.”
Hargrow says he believes comics are still popular in American culture because people love seeing good triumph over evil.
Super hero comics debuted at the beginning of World War II and allowed American readers to escape the dark realities around them.
Sociology Department head Douglas Smith says he has always been interested in studying how groups interact and work together.
“When I was a kid in New Castle, I was sick a lot and the woman that worked the pharmacy counter in the old five and dine diner,” Smith said. “Every week if the comic didn’t sell she had to rip the cover off and sent part of the cover back to the company letting them know that the comic had been destroyed but she kept those comics and I would end up with sort of ripped off comics when mom would have to go up and get a prescription for me.”
Smith stopped reading comics while he was in high school and regained interest when he saw the Avengers were being disassembled. Smith currently reads 30 comics on an average week and says he has seen strong messages that range from girls in science to the role of the individual in fascist situations.
“You’ll probably run into the discussion of pop culture in opening spaces for people to talk about issues and not talk about them necessarily in their personal lives, but it gives them the opportunity to talk about them in some sort of fictional life.”
Smith says he believes having diverse representation in comics allows everyone to see the good that comes from working together and helps humanize groups that are being depicted.