To call this new shocking would be one hell of an understatement. Chadwick Boseman, known best in comic circles as the actor who portrayed the Black Panther, died yesterday at the far-too-young age of forty-three.
I don’t follow modern celebrities and actors much at all, so I’ll leave the formal, full obituary for Mr. Boseman to others with far more knowledge. You can find The New York Times obit here, the Los Angeles Times obit here, and one from Comic Book Resources here. The New York Times also re-posted a lovely article on Boseman from a year ago on their Facebook page that can be viewed here.
He died on the same day that Major League baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson Day, which also happened to be Jack Kirby’s birthday. The synchronicity is eerie. In addition to Jackie Robinson and the Black Panther, he also played other iconic roles, including Thurgood Marshall and James Brown.
Boseman was younger than me, born in 1976, the year before punk broke, the year my comics fandom really became an addiction. I wasn’t aware that he had been battling colon cancer the last four years—was this even public knowledge before yesterday? I can’t capture in words just how much this news has shaken me.
One of the best takes I’ve seen today came from Alexandre Rowe, in response to a tweet from Alan Sepinwall: “He [Boseman] played him [Black Panther] the way Chris Reeves played Superman, with the decency and humility that men with great power should have. A very underrated performance.” Being compared to Chris Reeve’s performance of Superman is the best praise one can offer to any actor portraying a superhero. Boseman was certainly a great actor and, by all accounts, a great man.
The hurt is just so fierce and raw right now.
I know this is not the time for such things, but the question is inescapable: What does the MCU do with the Black Panther now? They’ll probably turn the mantle over to Shuri (Letitia Wright), but this can only be a temporary fix at best. At some point they’re going to have to re-cast because T’Challa is just too important a character, culturally, to be packed away.
But as I said, there will be time enough for this question later. Right now, we need to mourn the loss of an extraordinary human being.
R.I.P., Chadwick Boseman.