Inspired by comic book characters and inspiring as a comic book’s Black Panther

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Josh Williams was inspired by comic books to become a performer.

And now, he gets to inspire others to perform by becoming a superhero as part of Marvel Universe Live, which comes to Hartford from Nov. 1 to 4.

Williams, who performs as Black Panther, initially admired the Man of Steel—Superman— and the D.C. Comics catalogue of superheroes.

“But at 15, I got into Marvel, which is my favorite comic universe now,” said Williams.

And Williams’s favorite superhero, as it turns out, is the one he plays—Black Panther.

“I like the fact, he is a king,” said Williams, who counts Jesus Christ as one of his role models. As a king, said Williams, Black Panther knows it’s his job to protect his people, and practice mercy and pursue truth. Williams said he also likes how Black Panther always walks with his head and chest in alignment—showing his mind and heart are in balance.

“He acts the way a leader would act,” said Williams

Press materials explain the plot of Marvel Universe Live as follows: “Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax make their live show debut bringing their courage and misfit wit to Marvel Universe Live. Alongside Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Hulk, Black Widow, Wasp, Iron Fist, and the Guardians of the Galaxy help fight the scheming, menacing and loathsome villains Loki, Yondu and Green Goblin. Audiences will join in the quest that sparks new feuds with old foes, pitting student against mentor, sister against sister and brother against brother.”

Within Marvel Universe Live, Williams has had to learn a lot of fight choreography for his role. And to help him with this choreography, he said he relies on the skills he picked up as a competitive parkour athlete—a sport he has pursued for the past 11 years.

Prior to joining Marvel Universe Live, Williams had been a performer for many years. For instance, he said, he played characters at Six Flags theme parks. Attending Springfield Central High School in Massachusetts, Williams said he was on the dance team and he performed in Shakespeare plays.

His experiences, he said, prepared him to have an open mind when it came to performing. “It gave me a good foundation for Marvel Universe Live,” said Williams.

When Williams comes to Bridgeport, he will be a New England stone’s throw from his hometown. But it won’t be his first time back to his native homestead. Williams, who is in his second tour with Marvel Universe Live, performed in Worcester, Mass. last year.

But when he arrives in Hartford, he once again will be reconnecting with family and friends. It will be a weeklong flurry of activity that will include securing extra guest tickets and arranging backstage tours for the people he knows.

Having familiar faces in the audience will give Williams a boost, he said. “As a performer, we draw energy from the crowd… To have personal friends and family in the audience give me more motivation.”

For the fans coming out to the show, Williams said Marvel Universe Live is great entertainment for the entire family. “It doesn’t just target kids, dads, or moms. It’s for fans of all ages… It brings the family together.”

He said if you’re a fan of comic books, it’s for you. If you’re a fan of action, it’s for you.

“It’s really good entertainment,” said Williams.

Marvel Universe Live comes to the XL Center in Hartford on Thursday, Nov. 1, Friday, Nov. 2, and Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Performances are also 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday and 12 and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4. Tickets start at $15. For more information, go to www.marveluniverselive.com