Elle McKinney has seen the Black Panther movie nine times and taken all seven of her nephews — in shifts — to see the mega-hit since it came out in February.
So, lucky for McKinney, who is black, that her job as a greeting card writer at Hallmark Cards allowed her to be a writer on the creative team for the launch of Black Panther cards.
In the Marvel movie, T'Challa is king of the African nation of Wakanda and has powers that transform him into the superhero Black Panther.
“To have one of my nephews see T’Challa out of costume for the first time, and hear him say ‘He looks like me!,’” says McKinney, underscores even further for her the power of positive representation on the big screen.
The Black Panther cards will be under the umbrella of Hallmark’s Mahogany line, which is targeted toward African-American consumers. The Black Panther line will have a total of four cards — two for adults, two for children.
By the end of May, there will be one adult and one child card available at stores where the Mahogany line is sold. By the end of the summer, all four cards will be distributed wherever any Hallmark Cards are sold.
There are many superhero movies that provide aspiration and inspiration, says Melissa McKenzie, creative director of the Mahogany line, but not ones in which all children see representation of themselves.
“There’s not a ton of black characters out there. We’re trying to be really relevant and authentic," McKenzie says.
Globally, the Marvel movie, featuring an almost all-black cast, black writer and black director, has grossed more than $1.29 billion to date and has passed "Titanic" as the third-grossing movie of all time in North America.
While the adult cards won’t be designated for any special occasion, McKenzie says, the cards for young people will be birthday cards.
Regardless of age or the occasion given, the creative team believes people getting the cards will be happy to celebrate T’Challa, Okoye, Nakia, and Shuri again.
Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Kansas City, St. Louis, Hartford, Connecticut and Portland, Oregon.