365 Reasons to Love Comics #52
Enough with negativity!Â Back to unbridled love! We all love comics, yeah? We all want what’s best for them? Cool.
Let’s talk about the guy who is probably the premiere black superhero of our day. (If he isn’t, he should be.)
52. Black Panther
Black Panther holds the distinction of being the first black superhero (but not plain’ ol’ hero or protagonist). He debuted (in Fantastic Four #52) the same year as the Black Panther Party, but pre-dates it by a scant few months. And, uh, yeah. He’s awesome.
He’s T’Challa, ruler of the African country of Wakanda, the world’s main source of super-element Vibranium. He’s been portrayed as a swashbuckler, a tactician, a technologist, a fighter, and most everything in between.
Lee and Kirby introduced him in Fantastic Four, and he went on to become an Avenger as well as get his own feature in Jungle Action, written by Don McGregor, who would put quite a stamp on the guy. Kirby took over again with a solo series involving high adventure, aliens, golden frogs, and, apparently, monocled midgets in suits. Also, um… the Black Musketeers? Really, Jack?
After that, there were a few mini’s and a running feature in Marvel Comics Presents (by Don McGregor again), but finally, he got another series, written by Christopher Priest under the Marvel Knights banner. Loved by fans and appraised by critics, it lasted awhile, quite often hovering at death’s door, until it was finally cancelled.
Priest focused heavily on Wakandan culture and politics, and turned the Panther into a manipulator and a tech genius, updating his costume and his gadgets/weapons so that he really became a force to be reckoned with. In some ways, he became quite Batman-like: uber-confident, uber-capable. Later, the title underwent a bit of a revamp, still under Priest, but putting a guy named Kasper Cole in the Panther suit with T’Challa as his mentor. Kasper later ended up in The Crew, becoming the White Tiger, but that was quickly cancelled and he vanished from the Marvel Universe altogether. At least we got some awesome covers out of him, like so:
Now we’ve got the Reggie Hudlin series, which I hear isn’t very good, aside from the occasional fun cover. There’s been massive history rewriting and T’Challa’s gone and married Storm. Now they’re set to join the Fantastic Four. Hmm.
Well, there’s his publication history. But why’s he cool? I’ve already listed off some neat aspects. He’s become an expert in every field he needs to. The setting is fantastic: a fictional, highly developed African landscape with plenty of sci-fi elements waiting to be used. As leader of his nation, he has access to all sorts of technology, magical artifacts, armors, and weapons. He’s honorable, mysterious, and in control. Also, on a visual level, he rocks.
The Black Panther is an exceptionally talented and powerful individual with a rich African heritage that’s fully embraced by the creative staff. A character like this doesn’t come along that often, and we should be grateful. I think it would be great fun to write him, and he definitely should be appearing in some high-profile team book. I’m interested to see where Dwayne McDuffie takes him, even if his stay in FF is only temporary.