Taking place this Labor Day weekend is the Canadian based "Fan Expo", where many of the comic book industry's best and brightest gathered. This included the legendary Stan Lee, who had his very own panel as presented by Marvel Entertainment. The former Marvel creator, writer, editor, president, and publisher as always continues to serve as the public face of the company and is privy to the production of virtually all of their media projects. Not only is Stan Lee usually credited as a co-producer on nearly all Marvel Studios projects, but he also has appeared in cameo roles in nearly every Marvel film released since 2000 (whether by Marvel Studios or licensed to other studios), as well as some voice work as well. Naturally, the "Marvel Presents: the legendary Stan Lee" panel allowed fans to ask the creator questions as well as allowed Stan Lee to tease about future projects.
At one point he was asked about the possibility of a "Black Widow" film, considering the rising popularity of both the character since her appearance in "Iron Man 2" and Scarlet Johansson's success in portraying her. The recent R-rated sci-fi film "Lucy" proved to be a surprising hit based mostly on the increases popularity that Johansson's earned within the role. However, no announcement from Marvel Studios' CEO Kevin Feige has been conclusive, and one imagines that the upcoming birth of her child will play some role in this decision. Stan Lee's response? "We haven’t made a Black Widow movie but she’s been in some of our movies, and she will be featured more prominently as we move forward. And the chances are she will have her own movie because eventually all the superheroes are going to have their own movies. They are already working on Ant-Man, Dr. Strange and the Black Panther and there are others I am not allowed to talk about."
Naturally, the much maligned "Ant-Man" will hit theaters next year and the inevitable production of a "Doctor Strange" film has been one of Marvel Studios' worst kept secrets in years. The inclusion of Black Panther within Lee's statement, however, is very curious indeed. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in "Fantastic Four #52" circa 1966, T'Challa the Black Panther is the first black superhero of mainstream comic books and has been on Marvel's film radar, whether for licensed studios or Marvel Studios, for some time. Wesley Snipes, who starred as the titular character in all three of New Line Cinema's "Blade" films, expressed interest in the role since 1992 (when he would have still been acclaimed for "New Jack City"). Black Panther's appearances in animation also increased since 2006, when he appeared in direct to video efforts like "Ultimate Avengers 2" and "Next Avengers", but was one of the regular cast members in Disney XD's "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes". There was even an effort to air a prime time "motion comic" version of "Black Panther" on BET from 2010-2011.
Although several of Marvel's well known African-American superheroes have been featured as key supporting cast members in several of Marvel Studios' features (James Rhodes/War Machine/Iron Patriot in the "Iron Man" trilogy and Sam Wilson/Falcon in the second "Captain America" film, to say nothing of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury), none have ever headlined their own film. In fact, the last who did was Snipes' final performance as Blade in 2004's "Blade: Trinity", which was produced by New Line Cinema. With the success of "Guardians of the Galaxy" proving that Marvel Studios can make a successful film with a talking tree or raccoon, a clamor both online and in the media has arisen for the studio to attempt to make a film starring a person of color and/or a woman. Marvel Studios has announced plans for films up until 2019, so if one or both of these films are truly in some stage of pre-production, one can expect word to trickle down the pipeline sooner rather than later. In terms of the Black Panther, Marvel has seemed to be doing their best to increase his recognition on TV for much of the past decade.
Whether Snipes would be available to play some role in the film is unknown. The latest rumor from the New York Daily News claims that he is instead seeking to reprise his role as Blade for a new film, whose license has returned to Marvel since 2011.