The movie world has been rocked by the sudden, tragic death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman at the age of just 43. For the past four years, the actor had been waging a secret battle with late-stage Colon Cancer.
As King T’Challa/Black Panther, the MCU’s first African-American lead hero, Boseman quickly became an icon. As we slowly recover from the shock of his death, some are beginning to ask questions about the future of the Black Panther franchise.
However, before we look to a future without Chadwick Boseman, we can take solace in the fact that he has left behind one more MCU performance for us to see, even if it is not quite as the King T’Challa we know and love
Marvel’s ‘What If?’
Sometime in 2021, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first animated series, What If?, will debut on Disney +. Inspired by the Marvel Comic series of the same name, the series will dive officially dive into the multiverse. Overseen by the character of Uatu the Watcher, each episode will explore a different ‘What If?’ scenario in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first episode will ask the question of ‘What if Peggy Carter was injected with the super-soldier serum.
One of What If’s? biggest draw-cards is it’s all-star cast. Most of the major players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are set to reprise their roles for the series.
In a piece of bittersweet news for fans, Chadwick Boseman is believed to have recorded at least some voice-work for What If? before his death. The show’s Wikipedia page now lists it as Boseman’s final appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What If’s? T’Challa will not be the one we are used to.
While we may see, or at least hear, Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa one last time, by the nature of What If?, it won’t be as the version of the character we all know and love.
According to leaked footage screened at the 2019 D23 expo, What If’s? T’Challa will take on the role of the lovable space outlaw known as Star-Lord. The exact ‘What if?’ question that leads to this unusual scenario, or whether the episode will also cover an alternate Black Panther, is currently unknown.
Beyond What If?
Beyond the appearance of alternate T’Challa in What If?, the future of the Black Panther is up in the air.
Some fans believe that, out of respect for Chadwick Boseman, the character of T’Challa should be retired, and the mantle of Black Panther passed to another, most likely his younger sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright in the films. Others think that, given time, a recast could work.
Either way, it’s likely that the Black Panther sequel will be bumped from its proposed 2022 release date. Marvel needs time to decide how they will move forward in the most respectful way possible.