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Comic Book Legends Revealed #256

Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and fifty-five.

Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Music Legends Revealed to learn the truth behind the women behind “Rosanna,” “Linda,” and “Nadia’s Theme”!!

This week is a special theme week – all legends related to Jack Kirby!!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Jack Kirby originally drew the Black Panther as wearing a mask that did not cover his entire face, even after the Panther’s first appearance!

STATUS: True

As I discussed in the Comic Book Legends Revealed from a few weeks back, when something in Jack Kirby’s artwork was changed at a later stage, he usually did not let that stop him from continuing to draw it the way that he wanted to draw it.

The best example of this is what I discussed in that column, that Kirby drew the Thing consistent in the early years of the Fantastic Four, the character just appeared differently depending on how Kirby’s inker inked him. It was only when the great Joe Sinnott took over inking Kirby that Kirby began to adapt his pencils to become more in line with what Sinnott made the final product appear.

A similar situation happened with the introduction of the Black Panther, the first black superhero in Marvel history (and most likely the first black superhero PERIOD).

Stan Lee wanted to introduce a black character into the comics, but backed off of his initial idea of having the character be African-American (A few years later, Lee WOULD introduce the first African-American Marvel hero in the pages of Captain America). He tossed the idea to Kirby, who came up with the Black Panther, although initially Kirby wanted to call him the Coal Tiger.

In any event, the Black Panther was an African superhero from the fictional country of Wakanda.

He debuted in Fantastic Four #52…

Notice the famous full face mask that the Panther wears.

Originally, that cover was penciled by Kirby with the Panther in a HALF-face mask, basically just like the cowl that Batman wears.

Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about, from one of Kirby’s old sketch books (courtesy of the Jack Kirby Collector and Roz Kirby’s collection)…

However, for whatever reason, most likely because Stan Lee (or even Martin Goodman) felt that the book would be less controversial if they hid that it was, in fact, a black character (after all, the name itself doesn’t really mean much when you already had a Black Widow and a Black Knight), Kirby’s mask was re-drawn as a full mask.

Kirby continued, though, to just keep drawing the Black Panther with the half-mask over the next few years, and Joe Sinnott just kept inking in the full mask (both in the pages of Fantastic Four and also Panther’s guest appearance in Tales of Suspense, which led into Panther taking over from Cap in the Avengers).

Sinnott missed it once, though!

In Fantastic Four #60, the Panther makes a one-panel guest appearance, and he was inked the way Kirby penciled him.

When Panther joined the Avengers, however, John Buscema drew him with the half-mask outfit, at least for the first few appearances…

before the full mask returned, more or less for, good…

I don’t know if it was an intentional thing or if Buscema had just seen Kirby’s pages and figured that that was what the character was supposed to look like.

By the by, Kirby was irritated that Stan Lee was putting Panther into the Avengers, as Kirby had plans for the character, presumably much of which he did (in one form or another) when he wrote and drew the Black Panther’s first self-titled ongoing series…

By this time, though, Kirby was drawing the full mask.

COMIC LEGEND: The Marvel production staff made a change to the end of one of Jack Kirby’s horror story to remove an appearance of Jack himself!

STATUS: True

Chamber of Darkness, a late 1960s Marvel horror series, was an early instance of Jack Kirby penciling and scripting a book all by himself.

So it was to great irritation to Kirby that one of the stories that he was most pleased with had its “twist” ending removed entirely!

In Chamber of Darkness #4, Kirby wrote a story called “The Monster,” which opens with two “witches” narrating the tale of woe…

It then goes into the tale of a deformed fellow who is treated horribly by his fellow villagers…

That ending, though, was not the original ending.

In the original story, Kirby reveals just who the “witches” at the beginning of the comic were – they were himself and Stan Lee!!!

Here is the original last page, courtesy of the wonderful The Collected Jack Kirby Collector, Vol. 3 (which you can purchase here – 15% off!)

As you can see, Kirby was going for a sort of meta-fictive thing, where he and Stan “created” this monster and his problems.

Fairly clever stuff, but someone at Marvel (I don’t know who) did not like it and nixed the idea.

This just piled on to the already large pile of things Marvel did to irritate/alienate their star artist at the end of the 1960s, which led to him leaving for DC in 1970.

Thanks so much to Jack Kirby Collector for the page! Awesome!

COMIC LEGEND: Marvel changed Spider-Man’s costume as a preventative matter in case Jack Kirby sued Marvel over his characters.

STATUS: False

I get asked some variation of the following question a lot.

Reader Nick wrote a couple of years back:

I had always heard that because Jack Kirby had designed the classic blue and red costume, and was suing Marvel for rights or royalties, that Marvel commissioned a design for a new costume in the event Kirby won.

In specific terms, the question is false because…

A. Kirby never sued Marvel

and

B. Kirby did not design Spider-Man’s costume, Steve Ditko did

But in more general terms, if Jack Kirby has/had a copyright claim against Marvel Comics, changing Spider-Man’s costume from red and blue to black is not really much of a defense. It WOULD mitigate things, but only very very slightly.

The same with making James Rhodes Iron Man – “Tony Stark isn’t Iron Man, so you can’t sue us over Iron Man! It’s a totally different guy now!” That’s not really much of a defense.

It actually does slightly mitigate it, but only ever so slightly, as the things in common (the name Spider-Man, Peter Parker, webs, swinging, strength of spider, etc.) are a lot greater than the things not in common (black costume, no web-shooters).

So it really just makes a lot more sense that it is the same basic reason that, even today (and more than a few times over the years), Marvel and DC replace heroes or change their costumes – it gets a lot of attention and is a good way to make an event seem “significant,” which was what Spider-Man’s black costume (and She-Hulk joining the Fantastic Four) did for Secret Wars.

So for this one, and all the other “Did Marvel change ___ in the 80s in case Kirby sued?” questions, I’m going with a no.

On an aside, it is interesting to note how much of a big deal the costume change was at the time. I was reading an interview by John Buscema from the time, and even HE was impressed by Marvel’s willingness to change Spider-Man’s appearance, and we all know how little esteem Buscema had for superhero comics, so if he was impressed by the boldness of the move, you know it was a big deal!

Thanks to Nick (and the many other people who have asked if Marvel changed X or Y in case Jack Kirby sued them) for the question!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

As you likely know by now, last April my book finally came out!

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

62 Comments

Having just finished the first volume of the Kirby Black Panther I can say that I think the Avengers stuff was MUCH better.

[...] Comics should be good: Comic Book Legends Revealed #256 [...]

re: Panther…couldn’t the similarities to Batman be enough to warrant the change?

re: Spider-Man … I thought you covered it before…but wasn’t the Motive for the black costume part of the pitch to Mattel (or hasbro or…) to make the toy line a big deal?

I always thought in that panel from FF #60 that Panther had his mask rolled up. Also, I have a reprint of Avengers #52, and Panther has a full mask – I guess it was added at a later date.

Wow, that Monster story is great!

Also, I have a reprint of Avengers #52, and Panther has a full mask – I guess it was added at a later date.

Yeah, the original story is half-masked.

Coal Tiger? I can’t decide if I find that name silly or absolutely awesome :-)

“(R)eader R. Lewis wrote in to me a couple of years ago suggesting that it was due to a racist printer that Marvel used – while I suppose I can’t absolutely prove that it was NOT because their printer was racist, it seems hard for me to believe – any fear of racism was more likely to come on the distribution end than the printing end…”

Although I don’t dispute that distributors in the 1960s may have had concerns about moving books that featured Black characters, as recently as 2001, there was one high-profile incident of suspected racism on the part of a printer. The first issue of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ “Alias” had to change printers from American Color Graphics in Sylacauga, Alabama to Quebecor Printing after American Color Graphics refused to print the issue due to what it alleged was “offensive” content. The printer didn’t indicate what part of the issue he found offensive, but bear in mind that this was the issue that featured the much-discussed interracial sex scene between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. I hate to ascribe ACG’s reluctance to print the book to some lingering prejudice, but I shook the Magic 8-Ball and it said “All Signs Point To Yes.”

Link to an interview with Bendis detailing the controversy: http://www.jinxworld.com/interviews/cinescape/cinescape08-04-01.htm

So I guess Tom DeFalco’s naming the Black Panther’s son Coal Tiger in A-Next was a tribute to the King, huh? I didn’t know that.

[...] wanted to share some news, I saw on Newsarama on the Black Panther and his switch to a full mask in his 1st appearance. Evidently Jack Kirby drew him with a half mask as seen in  the picture but [...]

Bob Harras also had the analogue to Black Panther be the Coal Tiger during the Gatherers storyline in the Avengers.

Wow, I’d always heard that the Panther’s mask was changed to a half mask in The Avengers to make it obvious that he was a black man. Never knew that Kirby originally designed it that way.

“Audio-screen”? Really? :)

“The Monster” was a great story, but does anyone else think that on the second page, third panel Andreas Flec really looks like Swamp Thing with hair (& a felt top hat)?

Wow, I’d always heard that the Panther’s mask was changed to a half mask in The Avengers to make it obvious that he was a black man. Never knew that Kirby originally designed it that way.

That very well could be why they changed it for the Avengers. And perhaps once they’ve established to everyone that he was black, they then added the mask back because it looks cooler.

Andrew Collins

April 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

it seems hard for me to believe – any fear of racism was more likely to come on the distribution end than the printing end, and even then it was more likely caution rather than “Oh yeah, that guy is totally racist, let’s not let him see that we’re doing a black character,” but, again, I can’t prove it either way, just that they did actually change it).

This reminded me- didn’t Marvel have an issue just a few years ago with an Alabama-based printer who refused to print Alias #1 because of the interracial sex scene?

I always wanted to see Black Panther and the original White Tiger team up, more because of their similar costumes than anything else.

I thought there was a panel or two of dialog between T’Challa and Jarvis to the effect that perhaps it was time that Black Panther made a declaration of race. Many years ago…but that’s the way I remembered it.

I like how the realization that the monster had a creepy realdoll prompted the villagers to reevaluate themselves.

I believe that the printer refused it because of the Anal Sex . Not because because it was interracial.

Plus sex laws in Alabama prevent any publication or movie to made in that state featuring Anal Sex.

When Marvel changed Iron Man’s armor to Red and White I knew it was only a matter of time before he had a new suit for everyday of the year.

http://www.thebookingsheet.proboards.com

Hey Brian, didn’t Kirby also have a rather gaudy costume design to go with the (frankly terrible) Coal Tiger name? I seem to recall seeing one somewhere.

Re: Black Panther

“most likely the first black superhero PERIOD”

I’ve seen this discussed somewhere (probably 4-6 years ago), but I don’t remember where. I seem to remember that it is not so, but then again, I can’t even bring to mind where I might have read it. Any web-savvy person out there care to try to find it?

Bicycle-Repairman

April 16, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Mandrake the Magician’s sidekick Lothar might be the first black hero in comics, debuting in 1934, but although he was very strong he might not be considered super-human.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

April 16, 2010 at 4:37 pm

@ Scavenger: The Panther isn’t especially similar to Batman in his early appearances — dozens of characters have had variants of Batman’s cowl, ears included — not least because prep-master Batman is a much later take on the character. But mor egenerally, Panther gets his powers from a secret jungle herb, he’s royalty, his title and costume are inherted from many generations before him, and his technology is built around a super-metal. Now there’s a case that without the Vibranium he’s uncomfortably like Lee Falk’s Phantom….

@ Bert Duckwall: Naw, you knew that back in 1963-4 when he went from grey to solid gold and then much later to red ‘n’ gold. Or when they ditched the horned helmet for the riveted one, and then ditched the riveted look. Or when that nose came and went. Let’s face it. Iron Man’s been getting big redesigns from day one.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

April 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm

@ Bicycle=Repairman: But as you point out, Lothar’s the sidekick, not the hero. Nor is he really much of a superhero, since he has neither a costume nor a codename.

Drusilla lives!

April 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Honestly, I never thought that the changing Spidey’s costume to b&w was a way of short-circuiting a Kirby law suit… but I did think it was a poke at Ditko.

Black Panther may have been the first Black superhero, but were there a lot of Black supervillains in those early days? Could be fodder for a future legend.

Brian K Vaughn and Jim Mahfood did a funny Black Panther story in the Wha…huh? one shot a few years ago where it turns out he’s actually white (from South Africa) so The Avengers revoke his membership because he doesnt fill the affirmative action quota.

Didn’t Kirby design Spider-Man for Lee, and then back out of the project because he was too busy with the other titles he was working on for Marvel? I thought I remembered reading about that in Eisner’s Shop Talk, or one of the other interview books i have.

Didn’t Kirby design Spider-Man for Lee, and then back out of the project because he was too busy with the other titles he was working on for Marvel? I thought I remembered reading about that in Eisner’s Shop Talk, or one of the other interview books i have.

Ditko designed Spider-Man.

Kirby and Joe Simon’s involvement in Spider-Man’s creation is pretty hard to pin down (although I gave it a shot in my book!).

It seems to me that Marvel wanted the Black Panther’s face with the full mask because they feared the book would not be distributed in the South. Remember, in these times some of NBC’s southern affiliates refused to carry Star Trek because of Nichelle Nichols being in the cast. I recall some of them pre-empted the episode where Kirk kissed her.

It actually does slightly mitigate it, but only ever so slightly, as the things in common (the name Spider-Man, Peter Parker, webs, swinging, strength of spider, etc.) are a lot greater than the things not in common (black costume, no web-shooters).

To be fair, it would be possible (although that’s clearly not what happened in this case) for someone to invent a character, and then get someone else to design a costume for the character, and in that case, all things being equal, the second person could hold copyright over just the costume, and if the character were to get a new costume the second person’s copyright claims would be completely annulled.

funkygreenjerusalem

April 16, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Man, I never knew Kirby did horror.

His style suits it so well.

Didn’t see what the problem was in changing the ending of the story in Chamber of Darkness #4; it was popular in Fantastic Four Annual #3…..

[...] Comic Book Legends Revealed #256 (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) [...]

I had no idea Stan had a beard in 1969-70.
To CAS– I think the difference was that in Fantastic Four, Stan and Jack had been known as the writer and artist from the very beginning, and most readers would be expected to know who they were. Whereas in a one-off horror story, the readers might not be expected to be so familiar with the creators. Also, in the Fantastic Four their names were mentioned in the dialogue (which is the only way to indentify them, actually, as their faces weren’t shown), but the story shown here only has their faces, with no way for the unfamiliar to recognise them. Don’t forget that their faces were not nearly so well known to readers back then. Even today, readers are much more likely to recognise names than faces. (There are very few comic-book writers or artists I could identify in a picture, for instance.)

I had no idea Stan had a beard in 1969-70.

I didn’t either, but that might explain why Funky Flashman has one.

Daniel O' Dreams

April 17, 2010 at 12:07 am

Wow after killing him just because he’s ugly they have the nerve to say he should have been in an asylum where he’d be “safe” as opposed to, you know, his own HOUSE. “We were the monsters” indeed! Stan may be heavy handed but that last page is amazing.

Couple of things:

1) “Coal tiger” was a term used in newspapers of the 1960s to refer to up-and-coming African nations rich in natural resources such as coal.; it was not meant as a derogatory or pejorative term, but rather in the sense today that we view China as an economic force to be reckoned with. This is where Kirby came up with the original name for the character who would become the Black Panther. It’s also likely why Wakanda is portrayed as an emerging power on the world stage, with a highly desirable natural resource (Vibranium).

2) The first black superhero was probably Lion Man, circa 1947 (who bears some interesting similarities to the Black Panther, emerged some 20 years later):

http://www.tomchristopher.com/?op=home/Comic%20History/Orrin%20C.%20Evans%20and%20The%20Story%20of%20All%20Negro%20Comics

3) Here’s a picture of Stan Lee in 1968:

http://www.solcomhouse.com/images/stan1968.jpg

I think that with the half-mask the Black Panther looks a lot like DC’s Wildcat character… Minus the weird “cat cheek” things WC has!

Dr. Manta's intern

April 17, 2010 at 7:53 am

Have the Kirby sketches for his version of The Spider ever been released publicly, or are they lost? I’ve read many times about it but don’t recall ever seeing them.

re: Spidey: I recall hearing a similar story about the Fantastic Four’s costume redesign. There were a lot of redesigns/reimaginings/etc. going on at that time. Also, just because something wouldn’t hold up in court that doesn’t mean the reason behind a decision wouldn’t be to act as a positive defense. Somewhat similarly, recall that King Features “created” the character of Brutus as an antagoinst for Popeye because they thought they didn’t have the rights to Bluto, but it turned out they did. One hand doesn’t necessarily know what the other is doing, or has the rights to , etc.

Thanks for showing one of my favorite run of all time. Avengers vol.1 52-62 is some of the GREATEST Avenger stories ever printed and I love them. Highest Possible Recommendation.

Marvel/Atlas actually published a comic with a black man as lead prior to the Black Panther. “Waku, Prince of the Bantu” in Jungle Tales.

It is interesting to see how little of the classic Marvel style needed to change to make an effectively little horror story. Kirby’s original is much better paced, I think.

I think (I might be wrong!) that the sketches for Kirby’s Spider are in Joe Simon’s ‘Comic Book Makers’ (I might even have the title of the book wrong too!)

I recall a Jack Kirby interview, maybe one of the ones in the Fantagraphics Kirby collection, where Kirby commented on the various Marvel character changes in the 1980′s. If I remember right Roz was present for the interview. They talked about Marvel characters in the 80′s with different costumes and different people as the heroes, and they speculated it was to avoid a lawsuit with Kirby. Though Kirby never sued Marvel, he and his associates, as well as some of the sycophants that surrounded him in his later days, contemplated it, and the idea that the black suit change was made for legal reasons wasn’t unheard of.

Matt Adler, so,

“1) “Coal tiger” was a term used in newspapers of the 1960s to refer to up-and-coming African nations rich in natural resources such as coal; it was not meant as a derogatory or pejorative term, but rather in the sense today that we view China as an economic force to be reckoned with. This is where Kirby came up with the original name for the character who would become the Black Panther. It’s also likely why Wakanda is portrayed as an emerging power on the world stage, with a highly desirable natural resource (Vibranium).”

Wow. I always let it slide that Jack didn’t seam to know that there aren’t any Tiger’s in Africa, so that a country there would call their leader `something Tiger’ wouldn’t make much sense (without some kind of historical background, like why England uses a lion on their cot of arms) but that newspapers didn’t know (or care) about that either is a bit shocking!

I’m not sure they were using “tiger” in the sense of a metaphor applying to Africa’s wildlife, but rather in the way that the tiger has been used for a long time to describe an agile, vital, powerful entity that has to be reckoned with (ie; “ride the tiger”). A 1968 Business Week headline read “Putting a coal tiger in your tank”, a pun on Exxon’s long-standing slogan, as well as a reference to oil being one of the desirable natural resources those emerging African nations possessed.

What’s most interesting to me is how perceptions have changed; at the time, when these nations had relatively recently emerged from colonial rule, the West viewed them with a mixture of nervousness (“They have all these vast resources– will they side with us, or the Soviets?”) and envy (“I hope they’re willing to do business with us!”). Today, we seem to view Africa either as a charity case, a place of anarchy, or of brutal dictators (probably not in the least because of Cold War politics). But it seems things could have taken a very different path, and maybe still could.

Well, a few African countries managed to take a different path, most notably Botswana, and some others have managed to turn things around somewhat in the last two decades. None can really qualify as rich, unfortunately. And the recent depiction of Wakanda as the greatest country in the world seems to come as a desperate act of wishing the truth away.
But there is still real hope for Africa. Some of the changes of the last twenty years would’ve seemed like pipe dreams just a decade earlier. Despite its problems, South Africa has managed a far more peaceful transition than many people dared dream.

The crazy thing is, technically speaking, they are rich; they’re just not making proper use of their vast wealth. I kind of think the only way permanent stability will come is if the African Union transforms into more of a NATO-like organization, so they can intercede in situations the way NATO did with Kosovo.

I think the current depiction of Wakanda stems from the original ’60s portrayal, back when there was more reason to believe that was possible.

Ah, that makes sense.

And yeah, I’ve seen heaps of statistics of surprise comparing asia’s huge beyond expectations economic growth with africa’s so far behind meeting expectations of the last 40 years and various theories, both evidence backed and not so much, as to why.

Glad they went with Black Panther for the name though. Cause it may make sense for the newspaper slogan, but wouldn’t have for the hero! (or for his subordinates. Like how Casper Coal called himself White Tiger for a while. Fine as a super-hero name, but didnt really work on the `well I want to be like black panther’ in story justification when there are White Leopard’s anyway… yes I know it was just an excuse to get a new white tiger, but then we got another one. Whatever happened to Casper anyway?).

Y’know, as Stan was editor of Chamber of Darkness, it was likely his call to change the final page. Which of course would have added to Jack’s ill feelings toward the man as well as the company.

Actually, the question about Marvel changing aspects of a character to avert or mitigate a creator lawsuit isn’t THAT crazy. When Marv Wolfman sued Marvel over the BLADE rights, my understanding was that the defense successfully convinced the judge that Marvel had changed the character so much over the years (and in the film development process), that Blade was the same character in name only.

Is this an accurate version of what went down? Was it covered in a previous Comic Book Legend?

As I recall, around 1970 or so, Marvel briefly changed T’Challa’s name to the Black Leopard, as the name Black Panther was so linked in the public mind with the radical black organization, and Marvel wanted to avoid any political overtones with their character.

And as for Spider-Man’s costume change, I just assumed at the time it was done for the most basic of reasons: to boost sales. And once sales had leveled off again, they went back to the original (and more marketable) red ‘n blue union suit.

You’d have to ask Christopher Priest about Kasper Cole’s whereabouts – he was last seen, IIRC, in The Crew #7.

[...] Jack Kirby originally drew the Black Panther as wearing a mask that did not cover his entire face [...]

Wow. Look at the cover to Avengers #52 up there in the first legend. How glad am I as a comic fan that they changed the Grim Reaper’s color-scheme in later issues? I mean, he’s always been kind of goofy looking (especially for someone with such an iconically chilling name), but the Technicolor version was so much worse.

More on costumes-

Yesh TJ, he looks more like the Grim Goblin.

But really, it was about how little details can change a costume. BP has one of the coolest costumes out there…but it’s so much less so without the full make. Compare him (to the mentioned) Wildcat; which sure, has whiskers and all, but even without still seems a little goofy, compared to how sleek the Panther looks, even though they’re essentially the same thing. And Batman, who also would be very similiar to an open face Black Panther manages to carry it off, probably mostly due to accessorizing. The cape, the belt (and maybe even the trunks) break it up enough that still can look menancing. I’m not sure Wildcat has ever looked menancing.

“Stan may be heavy handed but that last page is amazing.”

Jack Kirby wrote this story.

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