Latino Review, one of the more reliable scoop-breaking organizations in the business, is running a report that Black Panther will be the next standalone Marvel franchise launched, filling in the mystery Marvel movie slot in 2014. The studio, predicatbly, denied it. They deny EVERYTHING, even when it's true.
I tend to believe Latino Review. For one, El Mayimbe is a veteran scooper with strong sources. For another, Marvel prez Kevin Feige is smart. See, The Avengers and Iron Man 3 indicate an evolution in the Marvel business model - the movies are getting more expensive. They have to, because they have to keep getting bigger and better. But the original Marvel Studios business model - staying cheap to maximize profits - remains viable and smart. So what the studio will do, I believe, is go cheap on some new franchises and cannily target them at specific audiences.
A 2011 BET study showed that blacks go to the movies 22% more often than whites. Hispanics make up almost a quarter of movie audiences. Those numbers indicate that minorities are fast becoming a majority in movie theater seats, and Hollywood is only beginning to understand that. And only beginning to understand this: if blacks and hispanics go to movies THAT OFTEN without needing to see a black or hispanic face on screen, how much more will they come to movies if they're being actually represented and the movie is good? What if black audiences were offered something better than Tyler Perry movies?
That's where Black Panther comes in. Made for a comparatively low budget - 60 or 80 million dollars - a well-done Black Panther film could give the studio incredible returns. And that's with the assumption that white people will not, in general, come out for the movie as much as they would for a white-led film (Denzel Washington and Will Smith are the only black actors who can consistently draw white crowds on their own).
Done right, Black Panther would make for an excellent superhero character. Feige keeps saying that he doesn't want Marvel to just make superhero movies, and a Black Panther film could be an international intrigue movie (shot partially in South Africa, which I believe remains pretty cheap) with superhero elements - think black James Bond in a costume. Black Panther is King T'Challa of Wakanda. Wakanda is an African nation that is very technologically advanced thanks to its abundant supplies of the rare mineral vibranium (a key component of Captain America's shield). Black Panther is the hereditary identity bestowed upon the leader of the Wakandan peoples, and T'Challa uses the name to fight enemies like Klaw (a cool-looking guy made out of living sound), Man-Ape and to join the Avengers.
Part-time hero, part-time king, Black Panther is unlike any character on screens now. Wakanda's scifi aspects would create a refreshing view of Africa that goes against the militia and rapist stereotypes that are in every film. Not only could Black Panther make money, it could be the kind of movie that gets Marvel the sort of accolades and kudos that builds their brand and deepens their audience.