M'Baku Will Not Be Called "Man-Ape" In Black Panther

– by Emmanuel Gomez

Thanks to the release of Entertainment Weekly's Comic-Con annual issue, we get a closer look at Marvel's Black Panther, which is scheduled for February of next year. With that there is an interesting topic about one of the characters in the film, M'Baku aka Man-Ape played by Winston Duke.

First off, let's get to know the character a bit. He was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema. He first appeared in Marvel's Avengers #62 in 1969, and is the ruler of Wakanda's mountain tribe who's affinity is the Gorilla. He is known for wearing white fur and attacking Black Panther as Man-Ape, and that is where Marvel Studios had a problem with the character.

Even though it's completely in context with the fictional culture, filmmakers felt like newcomers to Black Panther might have a hard time accepting a black character dressed us as a gorilla called Man-Ape. Which is why they decided just to call him M'Baku. Executive producer on Black Panther, Nate Moore, commented on the subject in an interview with Entertainment Weekly saying, "We don't call him Man-Ape."

He continued by saying, “Having a black character dress up as an ape, I think there’s a lot of racial implications that don’t sit well, if done wrong,” said Moore. “But the idea that they worship the gorilla gods is interesting because it’s a movie about the Black Panther who, himself, is a sort of deity in his own right.”

Like we have seen in images and in the trailer, M'Baku is still dressed in fur on his arms and legs as well as a breast plate that hints at the gorilla, but unlike in the comics he does not wear the gorilla mask. When writing the the film Ryan Coogler, and co-writer Joe Robert Cole, used Christopher Priest's run on Black Panther during 1998-2003 as inspiration for the character. M'Baku's tribe gets outlawed leading to a clash with Black Panther. Although his role is still under wraps for the film we know that him and his Jabari tribe are not happy with Wakanda's new ruler.

“A lot of the writers who did some of the most interesting work around the character, they treated Wakanda like a truly African country,” Coogler said. “When you go to countries in Africa, you’ll find several tribes, who speak their own languages, have their own culture, and have distinct food and way of dress. They live amongst each other, and together they make the identity of those countries. That’s something we tried to capture. We wanted it to feel like a country, as opposed to just one city or town.”

This is an interesting subject as I personally feel that the reference is completely in context with the film as it takes place in a country in Africa, and the as the Gorilla is a such a powerful animal, audiences should have enough common sense to put the pieces together and not see his character's name as a racial issue. At the same time I do understand them taking precaution and not using the name Man-Ape. The character is still the same, the name is just omitted. Given that M'Baku is not very well known this change really isn't a problem, if anything it saves Marvel Studios from being accused of being racially insensitive. What do you think? Given the context of the film, should this have even been an issue? Is this a good move by Marvel Studios? Chime in below!

Black Panther hits theaters February 16, 2018.


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Source: Entertainment Weekly

Film, Marvel, News Black Panther, M'Baku, Marvel Studios, Nate Moore