Watch the Original Black Panther Animated Series Online: All Six Episodes Now Available Thanks to Marvel

Last month, I was thrilled to learn of a talk com­ing to my town called “The Writ­ers of Wakan­da.” I scored a (free) tick­et, think­ing that maybe the mas­sive block­buster movie’s director/writer Ryan Coogler might make an appear­ance (or his co-writer Joe Robert Cole), or maybe one or more of the high-pro­file writ­ers who have expand­ed the comic’s world recent­ly, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Rox­anne Gay, or Nne­di Oko­rafor. Well, either there was some kind of bait-and-switch at work or I naive­ly failed to read the fine print. The event was a pan­el of devot­ed fans of the com­ic hav­ing a dis­cus­sion about their life­long fan­dom, the many iter­a­tions of the char­ac­ter through var­i­ous Mar­vel writer’s hands, and the film’s huge cul­tur­al impact at home and abroad. It was slight­ly dis­ap­point­ing but also quite enjoy­able and infor­ma­tive.

I learned, for exam­ple, that some of the most well-loved and high­ly-praised char­ac­ters in the film appeared very late in the series’ run (which began with the character’s cre­ation by Stan Lee and Jack Kir­by in 1966) and were intro­duced by its first black writ­ers, the “chron­i­cal­ly under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed” Christo­pher Priest and the film­mak­er Regi­nald Hudlin.

In the late 90s, Priest invent­ed the Dora Mila­je, the elite all-female fight­ing force who pro­tect Wakanda’s kings (who each take on the man­tle of super­hero Black Pan­ther once they ascend the throne). Hudlin cre­at­ed the char­ac­ter of Shuri, King T’Challa’s younger sis­ter and the sci­en­tif­ic mas­ter­mind behind his high-tech empire of vibra­ni­um-pow­ered gear and gad­getry. Which brings us, at last, to the sub­ject of this post, the Black Pan­ther ani­mat­ed series, co-pro­duced by BET and Mar­vel, who have released all six episodes on Mar­vel’s YouTube chan­nel. Stream them all above.

Tak­ing its sto­ry from Hudlin’s 2005 comics run, the series is less ani­ma­tion and more “a stop motion com­ic,” as Nerdist writes, “added to the art­work of John Romi­ta, Jr.” This is all to its cred­it, as is its star-stud­ded voice cast­ing, with Ker­ry Wash­ing­ton as Shuri, Alfre Woodard as the Queen Moth­er, Jill Scott as Storm, and Dji­mon Houn­sou as T’Challa/Black Pan­ther. How does it com­pare to the block­buster film? From its first sal­vo of Wakan­dan war­rior prowess in a cold open set in the 5th cen­tu­ry A.D., to its sev­en­ties-African-funk-inspired theme song, to a present-day scene in the White House, with a blus­tery racist army gen­er­al (played by Stan Lee) who sounds like a mem­ber of the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion, the first episode, above, sug­gests it will live up to Hudlin’s cast­ing of the char­ac­ter as “an unapolo­getic African man,” as Todd Steven Bur­roughs writes at The Root, “open­ly opposed to white, West­ern suprema­cy.”

Hudlin wrote some of the comic’s most polit­i­cal­ly chal­leng­ing sto­ries, delv­ing into “seri­ous Euro­pean col­o­niza­tion themes.” These themes are woven through­out the ani­mat­ed series, which fea­tures such char­ac­ters now famil­iar to film­go­ers as Everett Ross and the vil­lain Klaw. Cap­tain Amer­i­ca para­chutes in—in a flashback—meets an ear­li­er Black Pan­ther dur­ing World War II, and takes a beat­ing. (“These are dan­ger­ous times,” says Cap, “you need to choose a side.” The reply: “We have, our own.”) The X‑Men’s Storm, for­mer­ly the first most-famous African super­hero, plays a sig­nif­i­cant role. Not in the series, like­ly to many people’s dis­ap­point­ment, are the Dora Mila­je, at least in star­ring roles, and the film’s pri­ma­ry antag­o­nist Erik Kill­mon­ger.

But not to wor­ry. The ass-kick­ing gen­er­al Okoye and her cadre of war­riors will soon get a spin-off com­ic writ­ten by Oko­rafor, and there’s been some spec­u­la­tion, at least, about whether Kill­mon­ger will return (res­ur­rect­ed, per­haps, as he was in the comics) in the inevitable Black Pan­ther 2. In the mean­time, both long­time and new fans of the char­ac­ter can get their fix in this six-episode series, which offers a thrilling, bloody, and his­tor­i­cal­ly fas­ci­nat­ing take not only on the Black Pan­ther him­self, but on the com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship of Wakan­da to the machi­na­tions of the West­ern world through­out colo­nial his­to­ry and into the present.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load Over 22,000 Gold­en & Sil­ver Age Com­ic Books from the Com­ic Book Plus Archive

Why Mar­vel and Oth­er Hol­ly­wood Films Have Such Bland Music: Every Frame a Paint­ing Explains the Per­ils of the “Temp Score”

How to Draw in the Style of Japan­ese Man­ga: A Series of Free & Wild­ly Pop­u­lar Video Tuto­ri­als from Artist Mark Cril­ley

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Norman says:

    What a shame the even more “chron­i­cal­ly” for­got­ten writer, who cre­at­ed the film’s antag­o­nist did­n’t get a men­tion in your inter­est­ing article…Don McGre­gor. Thank­ful­ly he is final­ly get­ting a day in the sun and oth­ers are remem­ber­ing his bril­liant and chal­leng­ing runs of the 70s and 80s!

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