This title may be a bit confusing, but I assure you, there is a point.
When hitting the Black Panther panel with my awesome colleague Sarah Jaffe, Black Panther writer Reginald Hudlin gave us a preview of the Black Panther animated series for BET. (While you won’t the see the trailer I saw, there’s another one right here.)
While I know that Hudlin said this was a rough cut, I left the panel feeling more than a little conflicted about the series. The voice actors seemed enthused about their experience, and having top-tier talent like Djimon Hounsou (from Gladiator and Blood Diamond) on-board really lends a sense of legitimacy to the show. It’s clear that Hudlin and BET care about this show.
But the animation really took me aback. With Marvel coming out with slick animation like Hulk Vs. and Next Avengers, seeing this choppy style didn’t feel like an artistic choice — it felt as though BET couldn’t decide whether to commit to static John Romita Jr. art or traditional animation.
The preview stuck with me for the rest of the day, nagging at me. There was clearly something deeper here than my own personal aesthetic sensibilities at play — but it didn’t hit me until I passed by the DC Comics booth.
The Black Panther’s weaknesses as a cartoon would be its strengths in another medium. This may be what animation does wrong, but it has everything that would make a motion comic right.
Motion comics, as seen by Brian Michael Bendis and Mr. Sequential, are a new beast in this rapidly diversifying media world. It’s too soon to say whether or not they will stick around, but they incorporate comics, animation, voice acting, special effects–even music. It’s a book-on-tape meets TV trailer, all based on the foundations of the comics we love so much. But as seen above, there are so many different elements of the motion comic that can be neglected or forgotten that the whole enterprise can crash and burn.
Not so with the Black Panther. The animation might be clunky, but it is due to an unyielding dedication to the source material — in this case, John Romita Jr.’s art. But at the same time, there is a vibrancy to the sound — watching the trailer, you could see Hounsou really getting into his role. The enthusiasm was contagious, and everyone in the room was hooked — whether they liked it or not — when they heard the voice of Stan Lee as a villainous general. So I’m thinking that maybe this is just the wrong venue: Black Panther may not be everything I’d hoped for in a cartoon, but it could be the next big thing as a motion comic.