By Carter Glace, Staff Writer
Deciding what to write about “Black Panther” proved to be more challenging than I anticipated. Not because the film isn’t good—it is an absolute wonder, possibly the best Marvel film—not because there is nothing interesting to discuss in regards to the film’s cultural significance—the exact opposite in fact—but what could I possibly say that more qualified people haven’t already said or should say instead of me.
So instead, I’m going to cover an unorthodox topic related to the future of the new franchise. During an interview about the film, Director/Writer Ryan Coogler mentioned that one of the characters that he had initially wished to work into the film: Kraven the Hunter.
Kraven the Hunter is simultaneously one of the best and most iconic Spider-man villains and yet one of the least likely to get a film adaptation, because he’s both weird and stuck behind just enough other villains to make it unlikely he’ll ever get called up to the silver screen. But this gives me an opportunity not only to take the pulpit for one of my favorite Marvel villains, but also advocate for his appearance in the officially inevitable Black Panther sequel.
Born into a family of Russian nobles and exiled during the February Revolution, Sergei Kravinoff is a world-class big game hunter who takes down most of his prey with his bare hands. Using serums and potions to increase his strength and durability—not unlike our favorite King— he is an Olympic level athlete turned super soldier. When he is contacted in New York about a pesky Spider-man getting in the way of criminals, Kraven decides that in order to prove that he is the greatest hunter in history, he will capture THE Spider-man
Yes, Kraven the Hunter is, in his most basic form, is the Superhero version of “The Most Dangerous Game.” But with a fabulous, open, lionhead vest. Because comic books and subtly don’t usually gel.
I feel like that premise alone is rich and exciting enough to warrant attention, but it is the personality and story lines that elevate him to a signature villain. His bold, brash, loud, but cocky demeanor makes him a higher class version of Klaue. Personality-wise he is very much a more dashing, boisterous foil to T’Challa, while matching him in style and class. In terms of his history, he was one of the original members of The Sinister Six, putting him in the same league as Sandman, Electro, and Doctor Octopus. He’s fought and held his own against not only Spider-man, but the Hulk, Venom, and Squirrel Girl. He’s actually related to another Spider-man villain, The Chameleon, which creates opportunities to add another awesome villain to the MCU cannon.
And let’s not forget Kraven’s biggest story arc: Kraven’s Last Hunt. Driven mad by his routine losses to Spider-man, he decides to escalate his usual schemes, shooting Spider-man and burying him alive. And then, in the wake of Spider-man’s death, he dawns the costume and decides to prove himself the better crime fighter. Do I expect that arc to ever appear in the films? No, but it is a brilliant example of the range and potential the character has.
But most importantly, he would follow up on the themes and ideas of the first Black Panther in a compelling and unique way. Black Panther’s villains capture the themes Colonialism and Imperialism, Ulysses Klaue is a white man keen on taking the resources of Wakanda because he doesn’t believe the Wakandan’s deserve them while Killmonger wants to use the resources of the nation to seek vengeance for centuries of colonial destruction. Kraven captures a different angle of the aftermath of colonialism with the big game hunter conception. Big game hunting has been personified as rich white men, endangering entire specifies for tacky trophies for no better reason other than boredom or privilege or a sense of inadequacy. In the aftermath of African colonialism, big game hunting feels like a sadistic final stab: not content with eradicating cultures, enslaving people, and creating a racial hierarchy that still exists today, they’re going to kill as many animals as possible for profit and fun.
Apparently Marvel told Coogler that Kraven was not available for use, but I sincerely hope they come around come sequel time. He matches T’Challa in strength and wits, has a rich lore to pull from, works as both a lead villain or second in command, and has a unique style and theming you won’t find anywhere else. When it was first announced that Spider-man would be returning to Marvel, I was just as excited for the possibilities for his villains as the character himself. And rarely do the stars align so well to give an underappreciated villain his day in the sun while building off of an absolute masterpiece of a film.