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View on Film: ‘Black Panther’ a welcome sight

February 15, 2018 GMT

YAKIMA, Wash. -- There’s a new Marvel Studios movie opening Friday, and I’m excited about it. I’ve been a fan of Black Panther since the early 1970s, when he was a member of the Avengers. King T’Challa, as he’s known in his native Wakanda, has been around since the ’60s and is one of the most compelling characters in the Marvel roster. I’m hoping the filmmakers do him justice.

In July 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were in the midst of their historic run on the Fantastic Four. Issue No. 52 introduced the Black Panther, who was the first African-American superhero. Interestingly enough, in October of the same year, the Black Panthers political organization was founded.

To avoid any connection to the controversial group, Black Panther was often referred to by his birth name rather than his moniker. He was renamed Black Leopard for a short time in the early ’70s, but his original name endured.

His introduction led to other African-America heroes, including Falcon, Luke Cage and, in the DC Universe, John Stewart in the Green Lantern Corps.

For X-Men fans, Black Panther was married to the mutant Storm for a few years. He returned to the series that spawned him, and led the Fantastic Four with his wife for a short stint.

My favorite comics storyline with T’Challa is “The Illuminati.” Black Panther was joined by Iron Man, Professor X, Reed Richards, Dr. Strange and Namor to form a secret society whose members perform covert missions for the greater good, or at least they think so. Their clandestine adventures were always an intriguing read that would be so much fun if they showed up on the big screen.

I think Chadwick Boseman is perfect casting for the Wakandan leader. His extended cameo in “Captain America: Civil War” was excellent. He had the essence of being a leader of a country and a tough guy to tangle with in a fight.

If you’ve read my column, you no doubt know how important I feel good directing choices are. Ryan Coogler, who did the excellent “Creed,” is behind the lens for “Black Panther.” He was keen on getting the job, and if he shows the command he demonstrated in “Creed,” this will be one fun ride.

This also is the last Marvel Studios film before the massive “Avengers: Infinity War” in May. The trailer from that movie shows the heroes battling in Black Panther’s homeland, so pay attention to developments that may pay off in that movie.

I hope the Marvel winning streak extends to “Black Panther.” Just like I felt 10 years ago when “Iron Man” came to the screen, I’m looking forward to people meeting a character I’ve loved almost my entire life.

• A lifelong movie fanatic, Jason Valentine is the weather anchor for KAPP 35 evening news and reviews movies on the Friday 5 p.m. news. He has professionally reviewed films since 1994. Email him at jasonv@kvewtv.com.