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Posted at 1:00 AM ET, 09/15/2008

The Interview: Ex-BET Chief Reg Hudlin of "Black Panther"

By Michael Cavna

When REGINALD HUDLIN was ousted last week as programming chief at BET, the network cited Hudlin's desire to "get back to his roots." Which, in his case, means his longtime interest in movies.

Reginald Hudlin calls Black Panther "the baddest cat in the game." (AP)Enlarge Comic

Hudlin directed such films as "Boomerang" and "House Party." But when it comes to putting a superhero on the big screen, only one character is on his mind: the Black Panther.

In a limited field of black superheroes, the Black Panther remains the Black superhero: He's king of a technologically advanced African nation; he's married to one of most attractive female superheroes ever: Storm (there's a reason they had to get Halle Berry to play her); and he has that cool costume, which gets the point across: Be very afraid of him.

We sat recently with Hudlin, before BET announced his departure, to discuss the future of his favorite superhero -- from Hudlin's ongoing "Black Panther" comic-book writing to a Black Panther animated series (BET said Friday the show is still in development) to a possible "BP" movie:

David Betancourt: How did you come to write the Black Panther? Was it something you were approached about or something you pursued?
Reginald Hudlin: The Black Panther came to me when I was a kid [laughs]. My brother was a very serious collector. I remember the Black Panther from his first appearance in the Fantastic Four, so I'm a die-hard fan.

DB: What was your first experience with the Panther like?
RH: It just blew me away. Here's this guy. He's the king of an African kingdom. Living in this palace surrounded by incredible art from around the world. For fun, he challenges and beats the Fantastic Four and he's a regular human. So I'm like, this cat puts Batman to shame. This is the baddest cat in the game.
I really have the utmost respect for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to create a character like that. A lot of people were like, "Wait, is he based on the Black Panthers?" That's what's amazing. They both debuted the same year. You had Stan and Jack in New York and Huey in Oakland having the same idea at the same time. That Black Panther is a cool name. And they were both right.

The Black Panther as written by Reg Hudlin. (Marvel Comics)Enlarge Comic

DB: Do you feel there's a sense of pride involved for people who read Black Panther and, if so, is that something that you try to instill in your writing style?
RH: There's absolutely a sense of pride amongst the fans. It's very interesting because, obviously for black Americans, the book really resonates. But I remember giving a copy of the book to Ziggy Marley, who flipped and actually wanted to have the book translated to several languages in Africa. The book really does have a large international fanbase.

DB: The Jay-Z lyric "got the hottest chick in the game wearing my chain" comes to mind when I think of the Black Panther being married to Storm of the X-Men.RH: A very apt lyric. Very apt lyric to describe that relationship. Panther's a one-woman man. If things don't work out, it's not because of his lack of commitment. They were childhood loves and they got torn apart by circumstance. They're back together and they really love each other. They can be a real cornerstone relationship. The same way that you count on Reed and Sue to be one of those cornerstone relationships in the Marvel universe.

DB: Any children for them in the future?
RH: Of course they're going to have children. A king has to have a queen so he can have heirs.

DB: Those would be interesting kids. Athletic and weather-changing.
RH: And who knows what other abilities they might have.

DB: That's right, because the mutant gene is a crapshoot. You never know what powers you're going to get.
RH: Exactly.

DB: Any costume changes in the near future?
RH: It's funny. When John Romita Jr. started drawing the book in the first story arc, he called me and said: "Only two questions" for the whole series. He said: "Cape or no cape?" I said [cape]. He goes ... "Classic costume or the new one?" I said: Classic. And he goes: "That's what I thought." And he hung up. That said, do I think about playing with the costume? Yeah. I think that a guy like Panther is going to tinker. He might have specialty suits for different things. I introduced the idea of the thrice-blessed armor. We haven't heard the story of where that stuff comes from. There may be a couple of other special uniforms he wears for special occasions.

DB: Can you talk about the Black Panther animated series in development?
RH: We took a three-minute short of it to the folks at the publishing arm of Marvel -- they flipped. Then they showed it to Marvel Productions and they flipped. Everyone's really excited about it.

DB: So if a Black Panther movie is made, who's your Black Panther?
RH: Again, this is challenging. I had a pretty locked-in sense of who I wanted, but now I'm having to question that. We'll see. Actually, right after I finished "House Party," I went to develop the Black Panther. I actually approached Denzel [Washington] at the time, who was very interested. I don't know that he'd still be into it, but at the time we had some interesting conversations. Wesley [Snipes] was attached for a long time. What's great is that there's a great new crop of young actors who I think are going to be our next generation of movie stars. They're all very interested to be considered for the role.

By Michael Cavna  | September 15, 2008; 1:00 AM ET
Categories:  Interviews With Cartoonists  
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