Visit Scenic Wakanda!
So…if you haven’t seen the latest Captain America film, or don’t read Marvel Comics, you might not be familiar with the setting of the piece above. That’s tragic for a few reasons. One is that it was a real @#$% to draw that sweeping vista of Kirby-tech. Another is that it’s one of the more interesting settings in Marvel’s Universe, and really interestingly put together. Perhaps the most important right now, gentle reader, is that a few days at least of our “plot line” will be taking place here in Wakanda.
In researching it, I was amazed at how much I thought I knew about Wakanda, and how much that I didn’t ACTUALLY know. Things that if it were in fact a real country, I would think are pretty basic and useful pieces of information. As a result, a very brief set of factoids that were left our of the major motion picture…
Wakanda is a fictional nation (of course) located on the continent of Africa. Everyone that reads comics pretty much knows that. It is the most prominent of several fictional African nations in the Marvel Universe, and it is home to the superhero Black Panther. Also…still pretty basic info here. Wakanda first appeared in Fantastic Four No. 52 in July 1966, and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. So far, I’m on solid ground with the things I should know. Except…Africa is a BIG continent. Shouldn’t I have a better geographical idea of where it is?
Indeed, I should. Wakanda is located in Northeastern Africa, although its exact location has varied throughout the fictional nation’s publication history. Some sources place Wakanda in East Africa, just north of Tanzania, while others – such as Marvel Atlas No.2 – show it bordering Lake Turkana, near Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia (and surrounded by fictional countries like Azania, Canaan, and Narobia). I’d like to think that the Marvel Atlas is a trusted source…but it seems in contradiction to what was laid out in Fantastic Four Vol. 3, No. 21. Just saying.
Why is Wakanda a neat setting? It’s NOT a stereotypical African land, with the tropes that I expect from say, “King Solomon’s Mines.” It’s a technologically advanced land that developed in intentional isolation from the rest of the world. You see, in the distant past, a massive meteorite made up of the sound-absorbing mineral Vibranium crashed in Wakanda. That’s the stuff that you make Cap’s shields out of….valuable resource. The meteorite, and the Wakandan Vibrainium, is unearthed a generation before the events of the present-day in Marvel Comics. T’Challa, the current Black Panther, is the son of T’Chaka, the Black Panther before him. Being Black Panther isn’t just being a superhero, you’re also the Head of State for the nation of Wakanda. That’s important.
Knowing that others would attempt to manipulate and dominate Wakanda for this rare and valuable resource, T’Chaka conceals his country from the outside world. He sells off minute amounts of the valuable vibranium while surreptitiously sending the country’s best scholars to study abroad, consequently turning Wakanda into one of the world’s most technologically advanced nations. So…there’s an intelligent foreign policy directed toward making a science driven utopia and managing a valuable natural resource. See how Black Panther is a SMART comic book?
Due to its isolation and intentional isolationism, Wakandan technology has, until recently, developed entirely independently of that of the rest of the world. In some areas of science, Wakanda is way ahead of the rest of the world. For example, Wakandan computer technology is much more powerful than that of the rest of the world, and is completely immune to outside hacking, as it is not based on binary electronics. That’s really, really convenient. Vibranium was used liberally in Wakandan technology, since it was the big natural resource, and drove the science initiative. Also, it’s why Black Panther is so completely Bad to the Bone in the recent film…his Science is Epic Level.
All in all, it makes for a good setting. A good “summer setting” to be sure. There a a few pieces of art I have wanted to do for a while that benefit from the backdrop of Wakanda, and some direct Black Panther references that don’t fit in with my school year as a whole. It lets me get a bit more back to the “science fiction” roots of the material, as opposed to the more “science fantasy” I have been experimenting with over the year. Even with that, it still leaves plenty of room for Panther Gods and Crocodile Cults, which are straight up awesome.
See that big giant door, though? Sure, the protagonist could fly into the city, or even rip the big science drawbridge door off…but she would like to actually be WELCOME someplace. As a result, she’s going to need to do something smart and/or interesting to pay her way for a fancy Wakandan Resort, since being an Edu-Knight doesn’t pay that much. Thankfully, she has a plan, and can haul Vacation Time pony along for it. For this strip, that is a profound amount of plotting/planning.
Honestly, to a degree the mission she is going on has its creative roots in the simple idea that I should bring something to the barbecue that I was attending with my friends, so as to not look like a free loader. So…maybe it’s not that profound amount of plotting…we are kind of still firmly rooted in an interpretation of reality. That’s probably best, that we don’t stray too far from the basic creative process, even if the protagonist is vacationing in Wakanda.