The Passing of a King

We comic book geeks can be particular.

I should know. With my best friend and co-host Casey Ryan, I’ve helped build an entire podcast around the kind of minutiae-focused perspectives that we have. It’s coming from a place of love – love for the characters, the stories, the entire mythology – but we can be sticklers for the details.

We love to discuss the nuances of the latest big-screen adaptation of our childhood memories. We opine about a writer or director and their particular choices, the portrayal of the actor or actress and the choices they make. Sometimes, the adaptations fall short. WAAAY short. (We’re looking at you, Victor von Doom!) Other times, it’s a wonderful surprise when we get an actor who so defines a role that we can’t imagine anyone else playing them. (N.B. Chris Evans and Hugh Jackman.)

Sometimes we get a perfect fit and don’t even realize it.

By now, I’m sure that you know that Chadwick Boseman has passed away from colon cancer at the age of 43. For the last four years he fought this disease with, as far as I can tell, no indication that he was sick. I will never watch another of his films from 2016 on and not wonder what pain he was hiding. The word “tough” seems inadequate here.

I wrote about the amazing Black Panther two years ago. There was plenty of praise to go around but I clearly missed the majesty happening right there in the lead role. Boseman was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer the year Black Panther filmed. I defy anyone to find that in his performance. 

My post at the time focused on my admiration of the power of diversity and inclusion and, especially, how I saw the movie offering a much-needed equalizer for fans of color. I stand by all of that.

But I missed another element that revealed the strength of Chadwick Boseman’s character.

He fought for an African accent for the character. As he told the Los Angeles Times in 2016,

For me, Wakanda has never been conquered. So I wanted to make sure that he didn’t speak like … well, at one time they were thinking he’d have a European accent or an American accent. I said that would not be fine because if we did that, that would be saying that they had been colonized. That was something that I wanted to make sure happened, that we stuck to that in the character.

Chadwick Boseman saw the power in a story that lived up to its African roots. He fought, when the “smart” career move would have said, “just go along” to tell a story better than the world we live in. He acted kingly. 

We had a king right in front of us. And we didn’t even recognize it.

Rest in peace, sir. You’ve earned it.


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