While Marvel’s Black Panther does not have direct ties to the real-life Black Panther Party, the new movie’s villain, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, brought a perspective to the film that tapped into the Black Panthers’ mission and belief system. Sure, his plan was extremist, violent, and ultimately short-sighted, but the essence of Killmonger’s plan was to help black people who were suffering while Wakanda thrived. One artist took that connection to the historical group from the film and created powerful Killmonger fan art.
An artist named “Sam-o” posted fan art on Instagram that places Killmonger into a powerful image of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton. In it, the Marvel villain is sitting in a chair with a gun in one hand and spear in another, which is a very popular image of Newton. While the photo first hit the web a few days after Black Panther’s wide release, Snoop Dogg shared it on Instagram on Sunday.
Killmonger’s arc in Black Panther echoes some of the spirit of the Black Panther Party. While his pursuit of the Wakandan crown, which made up the bulk of the drama in Black Panther, was fueled by rage caused by his father’s death, Erik’s stated aim was to help black people across the globe. That was a goal of the Black Panthers when they patrolled neighborhoods to keep their community safe. Killmonger’s popularity coupled with the historical and cultural significance of the character’s story makes him the perfect character to use to create an image like Sam-o’s. Erik is a person who lived an incredibly difficult life in the United States, allowing for the fantastical world of Marvel to connect to history and the real world, like bringing together the idea of Wakanda and the Black Panther Party. The character embodies their belief system and the driving force of the correlation, which adds a great layer to the film.
Erik’s story contained several nods to Newton and the Panthers, including his hometown of Oakland, California. The city was where Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party in 1966. Not only was Erik raised in the city and his father killed there, but it was also where T’Challa and Shuri were when he shared his plans to utilize Wakanda’s resources to help people across the world.
While Killmonger’s plan was misguided, he did set out to help people across the globe, and Sam-o’s image celebrates that.