When Emmanuel “E-Man” Noisette first encountered Black Panther in the Marvel comic books, he finally “felt what representation should feel like.”
“It’s something a lot of people take for granted,” said Noisette, a 37-year-old film critic from Chicago.
“It was the first time I could see myself as a superhero that looked just like me. Because dressing up as Superman, it was weird when you were a Black kid dressing up in those costumes. But seeing yourself in someone like Black Panther … ‘This is what it feels like? This is awesome.’”
The formidable superhero’s immense cultural impact increased exponentially when Chadwick Boseman portrayed King T’Challa of Wakanda in “Black Panther,” the 2018 Marvel blockbuster directed by Ryan Coogler.
But after Boseman died of colon cancer last year, the president of Marvel Studios confirmed that T’Challa would not return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, stating that Boseman’s “portrayal of T’Challa the Black Panther is iconic and transcends any iteration of the character in any other medium from Marvel’s past.”
A lifelong comic book and movie lover, Noisette responded by launching an online campaign in April to #RecastTChalla and reverse the studio’s decision to retire the character. His change.org petition has since amassed more than 47,000 signatures and ignited a viral social media crusade to keep the Wakandan king alive in the MCU.
(It’s worth noting that Marvel has already started production on Coogler’s “Black Panther 2,” and many have speculated that T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), will become the next Black Panther in the highly anticipated sequel.)
“This petition is so emphatically clear that we are not asking for an immediate recast. We are not asking for some cheap, poorly written story just to make people forget about Chadwick Boseman,” Noisette told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week.
“We also are not preventing any other person from taking up the mantle of Black Panther. … This is about the role of T’Challa. T’Challa is significant and deserves to have his stories continue to be told, regardless of whoever else wears the mantle [of Black Panther].”
On Monday, #RecastTChalla and #SaveTChalla began trending on Twitter. Thousands of tweets implored the studio to continue Boseman’s legacy of representation by giving another Black actor the chance to play Marvel’s first leading Black character onscreen.
Among the #RecastTChalla movement’s supporters is Boseman’s brother Derrick Boseman, who told TMZ earlier this month that the “42″ star believed the groundbreaking role was bigger than he was.
A representative for Disney and Marvel did not respond Monday to The Times’ request for comment.
“T’Challa wasn’t Chadwick Boseman’s best role or best performance. It was simply his most visible & got him the recognition he already deserved,” tweeted @Ekie0. “Recognition that other underappreciated black actors in Hollywood need. T’Challa living on means Chad’s name lives on.”
“The Legacy of T’Challa as the Black Panther shouldn’t end with Chadwick, it should start with him,” tweeted @itswinsomegrace. “Continue what he started.”
After studio head Kevin Feige and “Black Panther” executive producer Nate Moore announced plans to remove T’Challa from the MCU, Noisette began to worry that Boseman’s character would meet a tragic end. T’Challa was already killed and resurrected in “Black Panther” before temporarily perishing again in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Yet another death for T’Challa, Noisette fears, would have a traumatic effect on Black children who idolized Boseman on the big screen.
“If you do end up killing this character for the third time … whether it’s intentional or not, you’re now going to be exploiting the actor’s real-life passing. And that’s what I’m trying to urge Marvel not to do,” Noisette said.
“I have no animosity against Marvel,” he added. “Marvel is human. I understand that people can have emotional blind spots. I know that this is a tough position for them. … We are just expressing how much this character means to us.”
Noisette’s latest push to get #RecastTChalla circulating on Twitter was inspired by recent hashtags related to other superhero movies, such as the #MakeTASM3 trend begging Marvel to make another film starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker or the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut crusade — which resulted in an extended version of DC’s “Justice League” streaming on HBO Max.
“We don’t see that same energy when it comes to Marvel’s first leading Black MCU character and mainstream comic book character that — by the way — has over 55 years of history that people are missing out on by ending this role, potentially,” Noisette said.
“The reason why I started it [Monday] was like, ‘Well, if you guys can have all this energy for all these other characters, why not do it for this character too?’ T’Challa matters.”
So, who should succeed Boseman as T’Challa in the event Marvel changes its mind? Twitter and Noisette have plenty of ideas, including Y’lan Noel of “Insecure,” Yahya Abdul-Mateen II of “Watchmen,” John David Washington of “BlacKkKlansmen” and Trevante Rhodes of “Moonlight.”
“When it comes to other white popular characters — like James Bond or Spider-Man or whoever — we roll those names off easy because they have those opportunities. Black actors don’t get that,” Noisette said.
“That’s not fair. We should get the same treatment. And that is exactly how legacies are created. We want to make Chadwick Boseman and T’Challa the beginning of a legacy and not the end of one.”
See more tweets debating the push to #RecastTChalla below.