'It was electric': Black Panther draws sold-out crowds in Vancouver

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'It was electric': Black Panther draws sold-out crowds in Vancouver

'It was electric': Black Panther draws sold-out crowds in Vancouver

Black Panther mania has hit Vancouver. 

The latest Marvel blockbuster sold out local screenings Friday and is expected to shatter box-office records this weekend.

Critics have unanimously praised the adaptation, which is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda. 

The film bears even even more significance for black filmgoers, who have historically lacked representation in superhero films.

Black Panther is the first Marvel film to feature a black superhero and its Feb. 16 release falls in the middle of Black History Month. 

"It has a certain resonance," Johnnie Christmas, a black comic book writer and artist from Vancouver, said on CBC's On the Coast. 

"I think this movie will put the lie to the Hollywood idea that movies that have a black protagonist can't be blockbusters, especially in overseas markets." 

'The readers are there'

It's an idea that's prevented people of colour from appearing on screen or in other mediums, Christmas said.

The artist is working on his own comic, Firebug, which features a black volcano goddess who is let loose in the world. 

"The readers are there," he said. "We just have to go out there ... and reach them in a way that's not pandering or silly."

It's an important shift in comic book culture, which has traditionally been white and male, said Levi Johnson, who works at Golden Age Collectables in downtown Vancouver. 

He pointed to other recent cultural leaps, including the casting of a female heroine and black stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

He expects Black Panther to light an even bigger flame. 

"This is the first time we're seeing Afro-futurism kind of realized on any sort of screen," Johnson said. 

"It's so much bigger than just a traditional comic book movie." 

Screening was 'electric'

Johnson's co-worker, Andrew May, says customers have poured into the store to buy the comics since the film's first teaser dropped in June. 

"It's just been an upward trajectory since then." 

That excitement culminated in a 7 p.m. screening that May attended Thursday evening. 

"It was electric," said May, who's read the Black Panther comics since middle school. 

"I've never had a theatre with such unity. There were people in traditional African garb, people were doing chants. There was applause throughout. It was amazing." 

With files from CBC's On the Coast