‘Black Panther’ Stars Remember Stan Lee

Black Panther stars Letitia Wright and Winston Duke have paid tribute to Marvel Comics co-creator Stan Lee, who died Monday at age 95.

“Rest in Peace Stan Lee,” wrote Wright, who plays Shuri, Wakanda’s tech-minded genius inventor and younger sister of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman).

Wrote Duke, who plays T’Challa’s rival-turned-ally M’Baku, “You gave us characters that continue to stand the test of time and evolve with our consciousness. You taught us that there are no limits to our future as long as we have access to our imagination. Rest in power!”

Duke signed off with “excelsior,” Lee’s famous catchphrase.

Lee created Black Panther with Fantastic Four co-creator Jack Kirby, premiering the character in 1966’s Fantastic Four #52. Originally conceived as “The Coal Tiger,” T’Challa emerged as the first black superhero in mainstream American comics.

“You were always aware of all those social issues, but I wasn't writing political stories or social stories. I was just trying to write stories that people of all ages and sexes would enjoy reading. If we touched on any issue, I did it very lightly,” Lee told Huffington Post in 2016, the year Boseman’s T’Challa would prove himself a breakout character with his cinematic debut in Captain America: Civil War.

Lee’s co-creations included the X-Men — inspired by the civil rights movement and adopted by many as a parallel for gay rights — and Captain America partner Sam Wilson, the Falcon, another major black superhero who debuted in 1969.

“It wasn’t a huge deal to me. It was a very normal natural thing,” Lee said of creating black superheroes who stood on equal ground with their white counterparts. “A good many of our people here in America are not white. You’ve got to recognize that and you’ve got to include them in whatever you do.”

Of T’Challa, Lee added of his co-creation, “At that point I felt we really needed a black superhero.”

“And I wanted to get away from a common perception. So what I did, I made I made him almost like like [Fantastic Four’s] Reed Richards,” Lee said.

“He’s a brilliant scientist and he lives in an area that, under the ground, is very modern and scientific and nobody suspects it because on the surface it’s just thatched huts with ordinary ‘natives.’ And he’s not letting the world know what’s really going on or how brilliant they really are.”

Added Lee, “If kids of all types can identify with our heroes, it’s the most gratifying thing I can think of.”

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Marvel Studios’ Black Panther has since emerged as a worldwide phenomenon, becoming just the third film in history to gross $700 million domestically — behind only Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and James Cameron’s Avatar — and grossing $1.34 billion worldwide, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of all time.

Wright and Duke, who reprised their roles in Avengers: Infinity War, will next return in Avengers 4, out May 3.