HBCU SUPERHEROES COULD INJECT HOLLYWOOD WITH A FRESH START - MEET MOREHOUSE GRAD MAURICE MANDER
Posted By: Will Moss on March 28, 2021 |
The ongoing debate about replacing Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther speaks volumes about blacks in Hollywood. Boseman was a phenomenal actor and role model. However, replacing him as Black Panther should not be an issue. Still, like so many other aspects of American life, Hollywood makes the loss of a black icon appear as if black talent is limited to one person per generation. The mantle of the Black Panther needs to continue to flourish to provide black people, specifically youth, images of Africa that conjure up an imaginary, feel-good version of what the cradle of civilization could have evolved into had colonization not undermined its development. That will require replacing Boseman. After all, it's just entertainment, and the show must go on.
Christian Bale replaced Michael Keaton as Batman. Ben Affleck replaced Bale. Fans of Batman would never tolerate an actor being considered more important than the Dark Knight. If Black Panther and other black superheroes were vigorously promoted like other DC and Marvel white characters, Hollywood would be able to properly celebrate Boseman for all of his performances instead of reducing him to Black Panther. He was excellent as James Brown, marvelous as Thurgood Marshall, and unforgettable as Jackie Robinson; yet, the fictional Black Panther remains his most celebrated role. Why? Hollywood, and some blacks, is incapable of seeing Boseman's overall brilliance. Undoubtedly this has to do with the billion dollars generated by Black Panther at the box office. Regrettably, media outlets have slyly opined black people may not appreciate Black Panther without the esteemed actor, as if blacks believe Boseman was Black Panther in real life. Remember this: Black Panther elevated Boseman’s visibility, not vice versa. To acknowledge such is not an indictment against Boseman. Starring as Brown, Marshall, and Robinson should have ushered in Boseman as an A-list actor, but unfortunately it did not, even though his acting was far superior in all three films because of the characters' depth. As a paying audience, we must demand Hollywood not diminish one icon (Black Panther) at the expense of another (Boseman). Producing more shows to popularize black superheroes is a start.
Sadly, however, Hollywood will run out of black superheroes soon. Not because they don't exist but because Hollywood doesn't like to take risks. Stick to the old formula with an updated twist is its motto. See the many remakes of old films as Exhibit A. Thus, there is a discussion of a black Batman and Superman arriving soon in theaters. **** may smile at the prospect of such an "accomplishment," but ultimately, it highlights a more significant problem. Developing black superheroes and supporting characters requires time, effort, and desire. Marvel and DC are unflinchingly married to their Holy Grail of superheroes and stories, which limits the production of new black superheroes or featuring ones already in their respective universes. There is an answer to this unnecessary, soon-to-be dilemma. Enter Maurice Mander and others like him.
Twenty years ago, Mander had an idea well before its time - create a universe of black superheroes that are HBCU-educated. With 107 HBCUs to draw upon for inspiration, Mander has a wealth of content and history at his disposal. Dismissing his idea as not profitable would be an admission of not understanding black culture, specifically how the black dollar spends. Black America spent money on Black Panther in anticipation of seeing a story that made us look good while also dismantling the mythology of Superman. Not Superman the hero, but the accompanying folklore of white male dominion over the planet. Black Panther, in race and story, countered the Superman narrative. Now Mander has created a slew of bad assed black heroes with college degrees that will put Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, and others on notice. And while Joker is the most celebrated villain in comics, Mander has masterfully carved out Trenton, New Jersey as his story’s best supporting malefactor.
Early on, readers learn Trenton’s real nickname is “The Gator Pit.” It is as ominous as it sounds and does not require overdramatization. The city, as is its residents, is not to be trifled with at all. Unlike Gotham, Trenton is a tangible urban metropolis with a well-earned, notorious reputation that has left onlookers and visitors visibly shook to the core by the antics that occur. Insert dark magic, aliens, Variants (superhumans), and monsters into the mix, and an **** of nonstop action jumps off the pages, capturing the imagination of those searching for an original story. To learn more, grab a copy of the comic and universe guide. No spoilers here!
Sometimes the genius who walks among us is our friend, neighbor, classmate, son, or daughter. Admittedly, Mander does not consider himself a genius. Neither did Stan Lee or George Lucas. Today, the title aptly applies to both. If given the opportunity, Mander could join the pantheon of storytellers that changed American culture and open doors for a new generation of black artists similar to Spike Lee. With several Morehouse classmates' support, Mander is ambitiously creating a Surian Seed: HBCU Superheroes animated proof of concept on par with a DreamWorks, Pixar, or Walt Disney production. The project’s still photos are as color-rich, detailed, and mesmerizing as Toy Story, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, and most recently, Soul. Mander turned down his first multi-million dollar contract offer to gamble on himself for something more lucrative. Maybe it’s true. You can tell a Morehouse Man, but you can’t tell him much. Mander exudes confidence so prevalent at Morehouse College one can only wonder if a secret serum exists there that saturates black men with “swag.” Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke with it. Samuel Jackson acts with it. John David Washington bathes in it. Raphael Warnock rode it all the way to Washington, D.C. Soon, Mander will grace our minds with it.
Expected to be completed this April, Mander wants his proof of concept to make his team significant players in Hollywood. In laymen's terms, Mander wants to control his product and gainfully reap its rewards. It’s no different than Marvel Studios being the primary beneficiaries of Marvel properties. Hollywood, however, rarely partners with black creators. Its process is to buy them out or secure the majority of the rights to their projects; thus, black creators are left scrambling for peanuts. This time should be different. The growing number of streaming platforms should afford independent creators like Mander more opportunities because the upstarts desperately need content to compete with Amazon, Disney, Hulu, Netflix, etc. They also don’t have a reservoir of resources to spend $125 million to buy Coming to America 2 like Amazon. Therefore, establishing partnerships with independent creators is an avenue to become one of the big boys. Ideally, one of the upstarts could partner with Mander to produce a film and television series based on Surian Seed: HBCU Superheroes. With the proper advertisement, black dollars could build the next Netflix.
Networks have used blacks to grow their brand for years (Martin, Living Single, etc.). This time around black creators like Mander must be dedicated to learning the business, so erecting a black-owned studio and streaming service results. Also, retaining the rights to their projects is a must. Over time, Surian Seed: HBCU Superheroes could become a multi-billion dollar series. There is very little doubt as currently constituted it will secure a few hundred million. At the very least, Mander should operate as though he expects to be a financial marvel. It provides the perspective needed to guide his decisions. Poor people tend to make choices based on earning money. Rich people make choices geared towards keeping money.
As of now, Mander isn’t waiting on Hollywood, but Hollywood does need more people like Maurice Mander so doors will open for creative minds languishing without an opportunity or the resources. Only then will Hollywood truly be diverse.
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