Remembering Black Panther, oh and Queery

You may be asking yourself why is there an article about Black Panther on the Queery website? Well gentle viewer, if you continue reading you’ll soon find out why we at Queery can never forget the 2018 film, Black Panther.

Way back in the 1960s, a young, white, Jewish male (that’s me) started reading comic books. Many of them were written by older, white, Jewish males (not me). And so many of the characters in comics were white. That is until the mid-1960s. You see, that decade was an incredible period for change in US history. The space program, the civil rights movement, even the start of the internet helped create a new, more challenging world. This new world would challenge comic books as well.

While the country also had a great deal of unrest during the 1960s, like the Vietnam War and the assassinations of President Kennedy and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, some positive things happened as well. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped give black people equal rights. Social injustice was being fought through the efforts of Dr. King. Sidney Poitier became the first black actor to win an academy award for best actor. Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American appointed to the US Supreme Court. The 60s was clearly a time when strong black representation was of extreme importance in our country, particularly in media, government, and human rights. So it became apparent that positive black representation was needed in comic books as well. Now what does all of this have to do with Queery? I’m getting there, so please stick with me.

In 1966, Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a character known as the Black Panther, Prince T'Challa of the African nation of Wakanda. Appearing in Fantastic Four #52, he was the first black superhero in comics. He went on to have his own comic series and in 2018, his own live action Marvel Universe movie. The film hit theaters in February of 2018 to rave reviews and won 3 academy awards. It had a black director and an almost all-black cast and crew. It showcased independent black women in control of their own destinies, as opposed to being led by men. It even passed the Bechdel test. (If you don’t know what that is, google it!) This was not just a well done superhero movie, but a role model film for our time. Chadwick Boseman’s inspired performance as T’Challa, along with that of his sister and scientist, Shuri, his personal guard, Okoye, and his close female friend, Nakia, made this movie such a fulfilling and uplifting experience for myself and my two friends, James and Jeff. We left the theater feeling so positive about the message it offered.

My friends had a realization from seeing this film. Wouldn’t it be great if there were movies like this about LGBTQ folks, with fuller gay representation? What about an LGBTQ superhero? This thought inspired Jeff to reach out and ask if I’d be interested in drawing an LGBTQ comic book. While I admit to being a comic book geek, I wasn’t all that good at drawing comics. After many a late night discussion, we 3 queer guys started putting some ideas down on paper. What about a comic strip that would question the hetero-normative binary system? We could get people, not just LGBTQ people, to think outside the box; to look at people, really try to understand people, even challenge social norms.

We eventually came up with an LGBTQ comic strip called “Ever feel like…”. It was rushed. It wasn’t perfect. But it was a start. Now what were we going to call our little company, this union of 3 guys and a concept? After several ideas, we landed on the name Just Love. Our logo was the word Just along with a ❤️, and we truly felt we were offering that. Now the comic strip was ready to go. It was circulated at Westchester County Pride in June of 2018. It was black and white, hand drawn and we offered it to kids and adults alike with a pack of crayons so it could be colored in.

That summer was a whirlwind of creativity which eventually led us to creating “Sticks and Stones,” our second art-based education project, but this one focused on names used against and within the LGBTQ community and the harmful effects these words can have. James helped provide the new name we needed to let folx know what we were about by combining “queer theory.” Another logo was designed and one Kickstarter later, so began the organization now known as Queery.

So you see, if it wasn’t for the inspiring performances and black representation in the film, Black Panther, you might not be on this Queery website reading this blog. Sadly, one of the bright stars of this move, Chadwick Boseman recently passed away at the way-too-young age of 43 from colon cancer. He fought hard since his diagnosis in 2016 and worked tirelessly on films to embody the essence of important black figures like baseball player Jackie Robinson, singer James Brown and Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall. Though we have lost Chadwick Boseman, we still have his work, we still have Black Panther. And thanks to that, we have Queery too.