Joe Robert Cole, screenwriter for the upcoming Black Panther movie, dropped a major hint about what the Black Panther film will look like at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Symposium on Tuesday in Raleigh, North Carolina — which could have gotten him in mind-blowing trouble with the top brass at Marvel.

The fun started when Rick Loverd, of the National Academy of Sciences, asked Cole, a keynote speaker, how much he could talk about his work.

“I mean, I can say that we,” Cole stopped, and then asked Loverd under his breath, “are you talking about Black Panther?” Since Cole was clearly a little uncomfortable, Loverd backed off, but Cole offered this:

“We have consulted, but Marvel’s – I can’t actually say who we talked to ‘cause Marvel — there’s a chip in my head and I will explode.”

Cole talked more about his screenwriting process in the keynote.
Cole talked more about his screenwriting process in the keynote.

Grounding the film in real-world science is important to Cole’s process, and gives him more confidence in the foundation of his story – even when he then spirals into something impossible.

“In a lot of ways, especially superhero movies, sci-fi movies are about wish fulfillment,” Colde said. “You want to feel that thing that’s not real. So there’s that line. You want to ground as much as you can but you also want that unbelievable to feel true.”

With Cole consulting with scientists on the script, it could mean that the film will be based at least on the aesthetic of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ heavily Afrofuturist Black Panther comics. Because no outsiders ever interfered with the isolationist nation of Wakanda, it’s incredibly scientifically advanced. In the comics, it’s as close to an alien world on Earth as you can get.

               Like this gorgeous tech, from Ta-Nehisi Coates writing debut in Black Panther Issue #1.
Like this gorgeous tech, from Ta-Nehisi Coates writing debut in Black Panther Issue #1.

And if Cole consulted a scientist on the script – it’s a good bet that someone at NASA helped him nail this feeling, and what the tech would look like.

Photos via NIAC, Marvel