With Black History Month coming to a close, I dedicate this segment of MMP to the first Black Superhero of Comicdom, Tchalla, mostly known as The Black Panther who shall make his cinematic debut in Captain America: Civil War! Also of note; July of 2016 will mark the African Avenger’s 50th Birthday!!
“Why are they’re not (Black people) in comics? Why aren’t they being represented”?
-Jack Kirby when discussing why it was his idea to create Black Panther.
This obscure interview will always resonate within my geek soul as it lends further credence that Jack Kirby was responsible for a character who was a concept ahead of its time (the racially charged 60’s and the Civil rights era.) in both pop culture and most importantly, racial identification. It’s somewhat true that Stan Lee helped to further embellish and establish BP’s concept but the idea was originally Kirby’s as were Silver Surfer among a few other characters and concepts from the House of “Ideas”.
Take a character who is a ruler of a fictional isolationist African nation imbued with super strength, speed and scientific intellect and what you have here is a force to be reckoned with!
Synopsis: Wakanda, a nation located within the heart of Africa which sacred mounds are enriched with a certain rare element, you know the one that is responsible for Captain America’s shield. And it was due to that same element known as Vibranium, T’challa’s father and Chieftain, T’chaka was killed by the Dutch Scientist Uylsses Klaw, when he refused to hand over the allow to him and thus began T’challa’s destiny as the new monarch of Wakanda and its guardian; The Black Panther!
“One of the titles was Jungle Action, a collection of jungle genre comics from the 1950s, mostly detailing white men and women saving Africans or being threatened by them. I voiced a lament that I thought it was a shame that in 1973 Marvel was printing these stories, and couldn’t we have a black African hero.”
-Writer Don McGregor of Marvel’s critically acclaimed Jungle Action featuring Black Panther
What sets Black Panther apart from other characters at the time, would be that he is more dignified without the need for stereotypical tropes (I’m looking at you, Luke Cage!) is that he’s highly educated, does not conform to the wishes of other nations, devoid of corruption unlike certain real life African leaders, Politicians and so forth.
Also he is capable of holding his own against the likes of The Fantastic Four, Avengers which he eventually joined. With his status as a scientist, inventor, martial artist, acrobat and tactician, these traits put BP on equal ground with well-established characters such as Captain America, Reed Richards and Batman!
As a matter of fact, Black Panther has been often compared to the latter because of a few similarities; both lost their parent(s) to a murderer, both are scientists/inventors, have some mysterious dark presence, Animal themed nomenclatures and of course T’challa and (Bruce) Wayne have impeccable hand to hand fighting techniques and prowess. (See Batman vs Black Panther fanboy faceoff.)
Ranked as the 51st greatest comic book hero, Black Panther deserves his place among the likes of other major comic characters. For more about this legendary character, here are a just a few recommended trades you can find via Amazon Kindle store or Comixology. (They’re actually the same damn company since Amazon acquired the digital Comicbook retailer.)
- Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?
A Nation in Crisis! Klaw! Captain America gets neutered! Deathloks?!!?
This is one of my favorite reads if not the favorite of Black Panther. Writer Reginald Hudlin throws in the kitchen sink with this reintroduction of the titular hero. The plot comes off pretty much like a political thriller filled with suspense, intrigue and even better-a nice sick burn aimed at the Bush Administration.
The 4 volume comic has its share of interesting flashback sequences in order to fill in any plausible gaps relating to the protagonist’s background and one that stands out in particular, is T’Chaka’s run in with a certain Star Spangled Avenger and it’s somewhat controversial, but credible.
Artist John Romita Jr provides a simplistic but comprehensible approach toward the series and if you like his previous works such as Kick-Ass or Daredevil: The Man without fear, you won’t be disappointed with the aesthetics. The Comic could’ve easily have been adapted into a Movie but instead Marvel & Black Entertaiment Television took the cheaper animation route and the results are pretty good for what I deem as a “Motion comic”.
- Black Panther Vol.1&2 (Jack Kirby)
Reach into your wallet a bit deeper because it’s gonna cost you a pretty penny! The King does an amazing and unappreciated run of this short lived comic. The King Solomon Mines arc preceded some of the things that are now witnessed from the Indiana Jones series. Of course Kirby’s art packs a mean punch and there’s the somewhat hokey dialogue. But it’s entertaining nonetheless.
- Black Panther: Civil War
Also from Hudlin, is the then married King T’Challa and Queen Ororo, who embark on a honeymoon and most importantly a diplomatic world tour that will have them spanning the globe while running into familiar faces Dr. Doom, Namor and to POTUS just to name a few. T’challa finds himself at odds with both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. It’s a solid tour de force with interesting dialogue, good art and action sequences I rate this as one of the better tie in issues for the Civil War storyline. BP Civil War gives a refreshing take on an outsiders approach to heroes (who are also his friends) divided.
- Captain America: Flags of our Fathers
For the first time ever, read the full story of the first encounter between Captain America and the Black Panther! (Think of it as an expanded scene from the fight between Cap and then Panther, T’chaka!) Set during World War Two the Black Panther, featuring a young and somewhat inexperienced Steve Rogers battles that Nazi of Nazis-The Red Skull! Part of the storyline is told from Corporal Gabe Jones’ perspective as an enlisted member of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos-also, he’s Black so right off the bat there’s interesting material of the treatment of Black soldiers who served in WW2. Hitler plans to launch a Missile within the United States and the only source that can prevent it from being knocked off its trajectory is Vibranium.
This leads to the Nazis attempt at invading Wakanda of course and all hell breaks loose and by that, I mean, Tchaka rips a new a-hole into Hitler’s invading forces! Flas of our fathers served as yet another solid effort by Hudlin and this time, Denys Cowan who was responsible for the Black Panther miniseries over 30 Years ago. If you happen to be a fan of both Cap and Panther like I am, this is the book for you!
“In time you will represent to your people what the Black Panther represents to Wakanda.
And that is a good thing. But today, I must teach you a lesson”.
5. Marvel Masterworks: The Black Panther Volume 1 & 2
If you happen to have disposable income, this is the groundbreaking collection to seek after!
Critically acclaimed series courtesy of Don McGregor (Killraven) and Rich Buckler (Deathlok) T’challa ‘s plight and fight goes from the deep dirty American south, into the deepest jungles and high above the snow-topped mountains of Wakanda. This collection no doubt would define T’Challa, give depth and further elaborate on T’challa and his Wakandan culture, and in doing so going up against Killmonger for control of the kingdom. A challenging storyline and a must have hardcover classic! Hopefully, this series will soon go the digital route.
Anyway, these are but a sample of recommended Trades of this gamechanging hero that you can find at the aforementioned retailers.