Black Panther

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Jungle Action #10 © 1974 Marvel Comics. (Cover art by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia.)

Black Panther

(pop culture)

Within the course of one incredible year in the pages of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four, the writer/artist duo Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created characters like the Inhumans, the Silver Surfer, Galactus, and the Black Panther—comics’ first black superhero. To have debuted him in 1966 (in Fantastic Four #52) shows both bravery and prescience on Marvel’s part; to their credit, the Black Panther would go on to take a central role in their comics for years to come. The Panther was T’Challa, chief of the hidden African country of Wakanda (traditionally, in comics,, African countries are always hidden). Wakanda was depicted as a peculiar mix of high-tech machinery and mud huts, its futuristic technology being derived from “vibranium”, a metal found in a meteorite. The Black Panthers had been developed as a succession of elite guards, each in turn protecting the meteorite with the aid of sacred herbs which granted them fantastic strength and agility. T’Challa was the current inheritor of the Black Panther mantle (and all-black costume). After meeting the Fantastic Four, T’Challa decides his powers would be put to best use protecting the whole world (or at least America), and so he flies off to New York, leaving his people, and his rather impractical cape, behind.

For the next couple of years, the character flitted about from comic to comic before joining the Avengers in 1968, where he became a mainstay for the next seven years, save for the occasional jaunt back to Africa for the odd chunk of vibranium (which handily seemed to defeat most criminals). Marvel rarely made much of the Panther’s color in the 1960s, but in the more radical 1970s he acquired a forthright, liberated girlfriend, Monica Lynne, and briefly became a teacher in the ghetto, while the Avengers took on the racist Sons of the Serpent. Although it seems to have been pure coincidence, Marvel could not help but note that one of their leading characters shared his name with the radical black-power movement the Black Panthers, and briefly changed his name to the Black Leopard. One month later, however, he was back to being the Black Panther again, and in 1973 was finally granted his own strip.

“Panther’s Rage” ran for two years in the wonderfully titled Jungle Action, series written by Don McGregor and drawn for the most part by the African American artist Billy Graham. Reflecting the times’ interest in African roots and black consciousness in general, the strip returned T’Challa to a Wakanda riven by infighting and sedition, where he managed to balance superheroics with musings on colonialism and democracy. The more overtly political material was leavened by the Panther’s romance with Monica, which was surprisingly passionate for the time. For the duration of the tale, the strip featured an all-black cast, something that had never been attempted in comics before, and the innovations continued in a later story, which saw the Panther take on the Ku Klux Klan in Monica’s native Georgia.

Poor sales prompted Marvel to cancel Jungle Action before the Klan story was finished, and replace it with a new Black Panther title by his creator, Jack Kirby. This new direction was as far from the gritty realism of McGregor’s tales as it is possible to imagine, as the hero encountered the likes of King Solomon’s Frog, the Yeti, and the Black Musketeers. Not surprisingly, this title, too, was short-lived. Sporadic appearances over the next two decades kept the Panther in the Marvel firmament, but he was increasingly marginalized. Miniseries in 1988 and 1991 were solid, if unspectacular, attempts at revitalizing what was effectively a lapsed franchise. The first tackled apartheid while the second dealt with the Panther’s search for his mother, but neither led to anything substantial. With black characters no longer a comics novelty, and with role models such as the characters of Milestone Comics— which had more relevance to their readers than a wealthy African king—it seemed as if the Panther’s time had passed.

However, in 1998, out of the blue, writer Christopher Priest reintroduced the hero as part of the slightly more adult “Marvel Knights” line, in a series that was acclaimed in every venue from the fan press to Entertainment Weekly, and continued for six years—by far the character’s most successful run. For this reinvention, a now aging T’Challa returns to the urban jungle of New York armed with claws and the occasional gun, and after thirty years he once again sports a cape. In a series of hard-hitting tales, he abdicates, witnesses his daughter’s murder, and then temporarily passes on the mantle of the Panther to a young cop, Kasper Cole.

Film director Reginald Hudlin was the initial writer on both the Black Panther series that ran from 2005 to 2008, and the next one, which began in 2009. T’Challa is now wed to Storm of the X-Men, in a marriage that unites Marvel’s most prominent male and female African superheroes. —DAR & PS

References in periodicals archive ?
In this insight, the reader learns that Joan Tarika Lewis was an English and math tutor at the Pan-African Cultural Center (1967) founded in Oakland, California by Fritz Pointer and Dave Patterson (many of the original cadre of the Black Panther Party were recruited from the center), and was one of the first female members of the BPP at age 17, who became the BPP minister of culture, and was later purged in 1969 after complaining of the mistreatment of the membership by the leadership.
Evidence of Black Panther in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" was first seen in the trailer released in October, 2014 featuring Andy Serkis' character.
11) Solidarity formed through this shared sense of adversity and transnational networks were established between the US Black Panthers and activist groups in Australia and New Zealand (Anae 2006; Black Panther Party 1974; Foley 2001).
Still, Bloom and Martin's claim of unprecedented mining of the Black Panther must be credited.
The commissioning was held at INS Hansa which would be the base for Black Panther squadron along with other fighter aircraft squadrons of Indian Navy.
DEAD Serial killer Donald Neilson, known as the Black Panther
The Black Panther had got his nickname from the way he dressed all in black, hid his features behind a balaclava and sneaked stealthily around in the dead of night to commit his crimes.
The Black Panthers are represented in the exhibition itself: Mounir Fatmi's installation "Out of History" contains a video interview with former Black Panther chief of staff David Hilliard overlaid by scans of government documents relating to the party -- acquired using freedom of information requests.
Divided into four parts, this book examines certain ideals of the Black Panther Party in an effort to provide a model for establishing social-service programs for the benefit of the people.
Michael Mukasey in January asked a federal judge to declare the two men caught on videotape, an associate and the New Black Panther Party in violation of the Voting Rights Act and to enjoin them and their ''agents and successors'' from blocking polling places dressed in uniforms or carrying weapons.
At the forefront of this struggle was the Black Panther party, a grass roots self-defence movement that epitomised the growing civil unrest in 1960s America.
Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas" (moca Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles) Former minister of culture for the Black Panthers and art director of its paper from 1967 until 1980, Douglas applied the ethos of his party's motto--"A thing is only good when it brings real benefit to the people"--to his art.