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365 Reasons to Love Comics #52

Enough with negativity! 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.)

2/21/07

52. Black Panther

Black Panther 2.jpg

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.

Black Panther 3.jpg

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:

Black Panther 53.jpg

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.

Black Panther.jpg

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.

14 Comments

I wasn’t familiar with the Black Panther so I decided to try out Reggie Hudlin’s run and I didn’t enjoy it at all. The “Ultimate Avengers 2″ version is better-that’s how bad it is.

I bought the entire Priest run from some guy on ebay on the basis of everyone on the internet complaining about Hudlin. They all tend to say that Priest’s run was the pinnacle of the character.

It’s not. It’s horrible. The Everett Ross character sucks the life out of every issue. The non-linear, middle school drama club version of Pulp Fiction that opens the series is a complete failure in both art and writing. It’s just bad. Especially the first dozen issues, under the MK imprint.

It becomes merely average after that. A little below average, actually.

The Hudlin run is probably about the same quality, by the way, but at least a) the art has generally been superior, and b) it’s been more fun.

I don’t recommend either. I do, however, recommend the Kirby stories. At least they don’t even try to make sense.

Everett "Synch" Thomas

February 21, 2007 at 9:34 pm

I learned about the Black Panther back in junior high when I bought some back issues of Marvel Comics Presents and hes been a favorite since. Hes regal, highly intelligent and extremely good at what he does. It was pretty much guaranteed I’d grab an issue of FF or Avengers if he was involved. I’ve a Marc Ecko t-shirt with the Jungle Action cover shown above and people would always ask me about who he was: little kids thinking he was Batman or guys at college shocked to know there were black superheroes before Spawn or Storm. He was the first male black hero I knew that wasn’t always pissed off or, in my humble opinion, a walking stereotype. He was the only I thought of as kind of a role model growing up.

Priest’s run is legendary. There is no arguing its greatness.

The current series by Hudlin allows the Black Panther to be awesome. The only real problem is that he rarely has a challange becuase he is written as so incredibly bad-ass. The series does however improve with each issue.

I don’t know if it would still hold up now, but when I was a kid, I LOVED the Black Panther mini that came out in 1988. Black Panther vs. neo-South African racists supervillains. Fantastic stuff…

It becomes merely average after that. A little below average, actually.

I’m with you on that. I bought the first two TPBs on eBay based on the raves on the internet and found them to be pretty crap (though some of the art was good).

Then again I don’t think I’ve ever read anything good by Jim Owsely. (I can’t bring myself to call him Christopher Priest when the real Christopher Priest is an excellent author)

Dan

I’m the one guy out there who likes Luke Cage a heck of a lot more than the Panther. Just never did anything for me. And the whole “I’m turning the Avengers computers over to Doctor Doom because Geoff Johns WUVS me and puts me over” was annoying.

A Black Panther/Moon Knight crossover would result in some legendary covers.

He’s joining the FF? This I like. Most attempts to mix up the FF’s membership involve characters whose connection to the team is pretty slim, but T’Challa has some real history with them.

Just keep Hudlin away. Far, far away.

- Z

The Kirbydotter

March 10, 2007 at 3:04 pm

At last!
The Main Man!

I bought the first six issues of the new (Hudlin)series of BLACK PANTHER, the ones with the gorgeous art by John Romita Jr. The first issue in particular was an interesting look at Wakanda’s past. I stopped buying after Romita left and Black Panther went into a crossover with the X-Men. I think his wedding with Storm made the series just another mutant-related series. Hudlin should have tried at least to let the character defend himsefl on his own merits before going for the cheezy X-Men crossovers.

I recently bought a full run of Jack Kirby’s Black Panther and will finally get to read the whole series at long last. It was the least Kirby run from the 70′s Marvel that I was missing in my collection. Just glancing the covers it looks like Kirby at his wackiest! Samurais, Yeti, Salomon’s Frog, Black Musketeers…
Man! Can’t wait to read them!

I agree he’s capable and everything. But his visual style isn’t all that great at all. Really kinda plain(by any standard, of any decade)

See, the thing that I liked the most about the Black Panther was that, he was a strong character on his own. The fact that he did a lot of things that no other superhero did, or could do.

His whole stint in the Fantastic Four was crap, basically just a rehashing of the Jack Kirby stories that where fun just for the sake of action, but at least in this stories, he actually CARED about getting back to his home. Hell, he didn’t even mention it the whole time. Meanwhile, back at home, there’s heavy political s&$! goin’ on and he’s nowhere to be found, so his sister’s trying to take care of things, and make sure he still has a throne to come back to, all the while not letting other folks coerce her into stealing it herself.

There’s so many things that they could do with him I just feel like they fall short many times in the big picture.

Still, he’s the best long standing Black Superhero in comics, and even if he comes off as a Batman rip-off, he’s got just as much weight and validity as the bat. That, and he’s generally a much more stable person.

Jungle Action 19 was the first comic I read with the Black Panther. I loved it.

Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.I will make sure to bookmark your blog and may come back someday. I want to encourage one to continue your great writing, have a nice afternoon!

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