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The Black Panther Is from Oakland

A Bay Area–centric reading of the wokest superhero movie ever.

 

OK, so we admit that T’Challa, the African prince turned superhero at the heart of Marvel’s latest comic book blockbuster, Black Panther (opening Feb. 16), technically hails from a fictional, techno-futurist utopian African nation called Wakanda. But in Richmond-raised director Ryan Coogler’s adaptation—the first in the Marvel universe to include a black star, a black director, and a majority-black cast—it’s clear that he’s hella Bay.

1. He Goes to Saint Mary's
Just like Coogler, the Black Panther is a Panther. A Saint Mary’s Panther. Coogler was a football star at the Berkeley prep school before eventually earning acclaim with Fruitvale Station and Creed. In Black Panther, a young T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) is shown during a flashback attending the director’s alma mater.

2. He Rides AC Transit
The East Bay Times reported last year that AC Transit had licensed its mid-1990s green-and-orange logo to Marvel for use in the film, some of which takes place in Oakland. Set designers apparently attached the logo to a bus in Atlanta, where the majority of the film was shot.

Ryan Coogler (left) and Chadwick Boseman on set during the filming of Black Panther.

3. It All Started at Dr. Comics
Coogler admits he was a comic book fan growing up in Oakland and Richmond; he told Entertainment Weekly that he haunted Dr. Comics & Mr. Games in North Oakland as a kid. The day he landed the job of directing Black Panther, he and his wife returned to the Piedmont Avenue shop. “We went in and I bought the two Black Panther comic books I could find,” he said.

4. He Listens to KMEL
Coogler’s previous films have included healthy doses of Bay Area hip-hop in their soundtracks, including cuts from Richmond rapper White Dave—aka Noah Coogler, the director’s younger brother. Perhaps White Dave’s biggest hit to date has been “Bands,” which was included in the NBA 2K17 video game; the song’s music video also features Black Panther villain and frequent Coogler collaborator Michael B. Jordan.

5. His Pals Rep Berkeley Rep
Many of the film’s stars are either African American or of African descent—a major breakthrough for a big-budget Hollywood superhero movie. Apart from that, San Francisco–born actress Francesca Faridany has a small role. Faridany is a regular at Berkeley Rep, having appeared in Much Ado About Nothing (2001), The Oresteia (2001), and her adaptation of Fräulein Else (2003), among others.

6. All The Superheroes Are Here
It seems half the Marvel universe is paying our sky-high rents these days: Iron Man recently relocated to San Francisco to build his new app, while Ant-Man, Hank Pym, and Hope van Dyne all call the city home in the upcoming film Ant-Man and the Wasp (due out July 6). A few years ago, Daredevil decamped to the Bay, where the X-Men frequently do their thing. And later this fall, the Spider-Man spin-off Venom hits theaters, based on the San Francisco–set comic books.

  

Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco 

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