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Williamsburg woman's mission to honor late-grandfather lands her at 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' premiere

Billy Graham was the first Black artist hired at Marvel Comics. His granddaughter made sure his contributions to the original comics didn't go unrecognized.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is hitting the screens Thursday night. 

If you're planning to see the blockbuster film, make sure you keep an eye out for this name when the credits roll: William (Billy) Graham.

Billy Graham was an artist, actor and writer. He was the first Black artist hired at Marvel Comics. He played a major role in the "Black Panther" comics, which at the time were originally called "Jungle Action."

Credit: Shawnna Graham

"A lot of people claim him to be the most definitive 'Panther' illustrator, which is unfortunate because a lot of people don't know about him..." said Shawnna Graham, Billy's granddaughter.

The Williamsburg woman made it her mission to make sure her grandfather's contributions to the original "Black Panther" comics didn't go unnoticed. 

Shawnna took to social media and reached out to everyone she could in the hopes to see Billy's name on the big screen. While Billy's name didn't make it in the first "Black Panther" film, he was mentioned in the special thanks credits for the second. 

"He's been acknowledged, but I feel like if he were here today, it would be a totally different story," Shawnna said.

Shawnna and her boyfriend were invited to see Billy's name on the big screen at the movie's premiere in Los Angeles. Shawnna said the experience was overwhelming but exciting at the same time.

"It lets me know that the work that I've been doing and the people that have been helping me, it hasn't gone unseen," she said.

Shawnna said the movie was great and plans to see it again this weekend with her family.

While she never got the chance to meet him, Shawnna is carrying on her grandfather's work.

"I just want people to remember my grandfather, know what his contributions were," Shawnna said.

But Shawnna wants to make sure Billy is known for more than just his work on the "Black Panther" comics. Billy was also a talented writer and had a passion for acting. 

In fact, Shawnna is working to transform one of his original screenplays into a film titled "Ashanti Princess."

🖤💜late post… Had the opportunity to be invited to the The Black Panther - Wakanda Forever, World 🌎 Premiere in...

Posted by Shawnna Graham on Thursday, November 3, 2022

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