Like many people, I woke up on Saturday 29th August 2020 to the shock news that Chadwick Boseman had died from cancer at the age of 43.
Although he was a talented actor who played a wide variety of roles in his too-short life, Boseman was probably best known (certainly to Marvel fans) for his portrayal of King T’Challa of Wakanda, aka Black Panther, a role which he played in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.
Although T’Challa has been appearing in Marvel Comics since the 1960s (he was probably the first black superhero, certainly in mainstream comics), I think it’s fair to say that Boseman’s performances, particularly as the eponymous hero of Ryan Coogler’s 2018 Black Panther film, played a huge role in bringing awareness of the character to a much wider audience. As a piece of entertainment, I found Black Panther to be a fairly middle-of-the-road Marvel film: entertaining, without necessarily being a stand-out. However, I’m white. I’ve spent my life being told that superheroes look like me. If I want to see superhero films made by people who look like me, starring people who look like me, I’m spoilt for choice.
Black Panther was the first (and so far the only) Marvel film with a black director and black main cast (aside from a couple of Tolkien white guys played by Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis), and that mattered a lot. Rather than try to put words in other people’s mouths, I’m just going to let you all watch for yourselves as black fans tell Chadwick Boseman why the film meant so much to them
Boseman always came across as a nice guy, and someone who appreciated the responsibility that came with such a prominent role. Stories like how he fought for T’Challa to have an African accent in the films can seem like little details, but they show a level of awareness that cannot be taken for granted from Hollywood stars. Obviously Boseman was far from the only actor to bulk up for a film, or to visit sick kids in hospital, but knowing that he did all that whilst hiding his own cancer diagnosis only adds to the amount of respect that he deserves.
An obituary may feel a bit out of place on the blog of a card-games podcast, but I wanted to say something. Bringing things closer to our normal subject matter, I find myself wondering: without Boseman would Black Panther have been picked as one of the 5 heroes for the Marvel Champions core set? I’m not sure anyone can really say, but it’s definitely going to impact how I feel next time I play Black Panther.
At the Card Game Cooperative, our little act of remembrance is going to be taking Black Panther up against Klaw, with Killmonger and the rest of the Nemesis set already mixed in, in place of a modular set (just as soon as we’ve finished re-watching Black Panther). In this sad time, let us know what Black Panther gaming you’ve got planned to remind us all of happier times.
RIP Chadwick Boseman, 1976-2020
We will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.