Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler has always been searching for superheroes who look like him

Ryan Coogler MFA ’11 has always been searching for superheroes who look like him.

While Ryan Coogler has had several critically acclaimed movies before Black Panther (Fruitvale Station, Creed), but the Marvel Studio produced movie was his directorial debut in the superhero film genre. And what a debut it was. Black Panther not only became the fastest film to cross the $1 billion mark, but it also became a cultural phenomenon unlike Hollywood has ever seen, sparking critical conversations about diversity and representation in the film and entertainment industry.

Ryan Coogler with fellow USC alumnus, actor Forest Whitaker at the 2018 USC Alumni Awards Gala. Whitaker played the character, “Zuri” in Black Panther. (USC Photo)

When Ryan Coogler was a kid in Oakland, Calif., an older cousin got him hooked on comic books. X-Men. Spider-Man. He liked all of them, but he was looking for more.

“I went to the comic book shop that was by my school and asked if they had any black characters,” Coogler recalled.

That was the moment Coogler discovered the Black Panther.

While in film school at University of Southern California, where he graduated in 2011, that love of comics remained — and after Marvel Studios started its connected cinematic universe with 2008’s box office hit “Iron Man,” Coogler began imagining that one day he might direct a superhero movie.

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