‘Black Panther’ Ditches the Whole ‘Man-Ape’ Thing, Which Is a Good Call
The Black Panther movie is going to update a whole lot of stuff for the modern era to A) better fit in with the rest of the MCU, and B) make some stuff a teeny bit less racist. For example, Winston Duke’s character M’Baku, also known as Man-Ape in the comics, will not be known as Man-Ape in the movie. And there’s a pretty obvious reason why.
In the comics, Man-Ape is a chieftain of the Jabari tribe, one of four Wakandan religious cults dedicated to the worship of an animal god. The Jabari’s patron deity is the gorilla god Ghekre, and Man-Ape gets his name from dressing up in a literal suit made from a slain gorilla, face mask and all. M’Baku’s costume for the movie, as you can see in his character portrait below, still has gorilla-like features, but is definitely not the traditional gorilla suit.
Executive producer Nate Moore explained to Entertainment Weekly exactly why they knew they needed to change him a bit:
We don’t call him Man-Ape. We do call him M’Baku. 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. 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.
I think it’s safe to say that a black guy named Man-Ape would definitely sit less well with audiences than it did back when the character was created in 1969. His motivations have also been switched around a bit too: The four tribes — worshippers of gorilla god Ghekre, panther god Bast, lion goddess Sekhmet, and crocodile god Sobek — are going to be a lot less extremist sects and more religious branch tribes that act as distinct parts of the Wakandan political whole. The tribes will bring a big political angle to the movie, as T’Challa vies with the leaders of each to keep the peace and not let one rise to supremacy above all the others. While also battling Killmonger, Ulysses Klaw, getting used to being an Avenger, and whatever else this movie throws at him.
Black Panther hits theaters February 16, 2018.