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USC alum Ryan Coogler announces new Black superhero projects for Marvel at Disney’s D23 Expo 2022

The “Black Panther” director continues to shake things up in Hollywood.

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USC School of Cinematic Arts alum Ryan Coogler shared exclusive looks into the new Black superhero projects he’s working on for Marvel Studios at Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, California.

Marvel Studios President and fellow SCA alum Kevin Feige introduced Coogler onstage to a crowd of excited fans inside the Anaheim Convention Center.

Coogler showcased his upcoming film, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, the sequel to “Black Panther’', the first film in the Marvel universe he directed. The highly-anticipated sequel will be released November 11.

Feige, Coogler and fans also took a break from the festivities to honor the late actor Chadwick Boseman, as he was inducted as a Disney Legend at the three-day event for his work in playing the role of King T’Challa in the first “Black Panther” film.

“Before we bring out some special guests, we just want to shout out our king Chadwick Boseman who was named a Disney Legend,” Coogler said to the applauding audience. Boseman and Coogler were friends and formed a close bond with each other before Boseman’s passing in 2020.

Later on, Coogler was joined onstage by some of the original cast members, including: Angela Bassett (Queen Ramonda), Letitia Wright (Shuri) and Winston Duke (M’Baku) from the first film as well as a new face from the upcoming sequel, Tenoch Huerta (Namor), which excited the fans in attendance even further.

Coogler went on to show early looks of another upcoming Marvel project he’s working on titled “Ironheart.” The new Disney+ series will follow Riri Williams, who is “a young, genius inventor determined to make her mark on the world,” as she’s described from the official D23 press release.

Coogler is also working on a second Disney+ series which is centered around Wakanda. This project wasn’t shown at the D23 Expo, which means fans will have to wait a bit longer to learn more.

When “Black Panther” hit theaters in 2018, it quickly became one of Disney’s most popular and financially successful films ever. At its peak, the Coogler-directed film reached the number nine spot in a list of the 50 highest grossing films of all time. It’s currently still occupying the top spot as the highest grossing solo superhero film at the domestic box office.

One of Coogler’s former professors, John Watson from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, knows firsthand the kind of student Coogler was.

“The thing that struck me most about him was that he has an excellent ‘b.s.’ meter,” Watson said. “He’s really good at picking what’s truthful. It’s his single strongest trait in regards to his directing ability.”

To put into perspective just how popular Black Panther was in 2018, just three weeks after its initial release in February, toys and general merchandise for the movie were already sold out nearly everywhere.

The success of “Black Panther” was unprecedented. It was the first time an African American director, a majority Black cast and an African-themed narrative were given the spotlight in a big budget superhero film. Not only that, but the characters weren’t reduced to mere Hollywood movie stereotypes. Instead, audiences saw Black people as regal authority figures leading the most technologically advanced nation on Earth.

“His success has certainly inspired studios to hire other talented people of color,” Watson said. “I’ve had Ryan in my classes twice and he was clearly a cut above. It was quite obvious that he was something special. He was the only student that would sit in the front row. Typically students sit in the back but he would always sit right in front of me.”

However, some people didn’t believe something like Black Panther would ever be successful. The thinking in Hollywood for decades was that Black-centered superhero movies would ultimately fail at the international box offices. Skeptics thought Black faces would turn off viewers internationally, which meant for years, ideas for Black superhero films were pretty much ignored because it was considered too financially risky for production companies to take on such an endeavor.

That was until Coogler proved his doubters wrong.

“People really enjoy working with Ryan,” Watson said. “He’s a genuine people person that used his time at SC really well. He still works with the same three friends he met at USC and even married his college sweetheart, Zinzi. That just doesn’t happen.”