Black Panther

Black Panther is coming soon in Captain America: Civil War and it's never too soon to learn more about him. The Black Panther was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966 and is the very first mainstream African superhero. Named simply T'Challa, he's the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He's a skilled hunter and tracker with enhanced strength, speed and agility. T'Challa is a master strategist and a genius inventor and scientist.

Wakanda has a supply of an alien metal called "vibranium"  that can absorb all vibrations. It's the rarest and most valuable metal on the planet and makes the country the wealthiest in the world.

So, if you want to get caught up on the character which comics should you read? Here's a list to get you started.

1. Fantastic Four #52 - #53 (1966)

Writers: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby

Why it's Essential
While most of comics of the time showed Africa as a novelty, this comic dared to show an intelligent group of Africans and, even more amazing, an African superhero. While there had been others, none were in a mainstream comic book. The comic opens with a mysterious man appearing on Baxter Tower and sending an invitation for them to visit an African city called Wakanda. Reed is amazed by the advanced technology, so they make the trip. There, they meet a village of Africans led by T'Challa, the Black Panther. Black Panther is such a formidable hero that he's able to beat the entire team before he reveals himself. The next issue introduces the first appearance of Klaw as the master of sound and his formidable powers. It's a wonderful setup for an amazing hero once you get past the inherent African stereotypes of the time.

2. Avengers #52 (1968)

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema

Why It's Essential
Black Panther is its the avengers mansion and discovers Hawkeye, Wasp and Hank Pym dead. Or appear to be dead. When the police arrive everyone thinks Black Panther kills them. After defeating the villain known as The Grim reaper the best part of their issue is the recognition that Black Panther is equal to any other superhero and deserved his ing running place on the Avengers.  He announces he's giving up his throne to fight "for the greater kingdom...the whole of mankind itself." These words would come back to haunt him and show the struggle of being a king and a superhero.

3. Avengers #62 (1969)

Writer: Roy Thomas
Pencils: John Buscema

Why It's Essential
After giving up ruling his kingdom to be a superhero this story explains his ongoing struggle with being a monarch and a superhero. It turns out while he was saving the world and old "friend" took over ruling the jingoism and isn't happy to give up the throne. Thomas' dialogue is tight and crisp and the visuals are powerful. This is also the first appearance of Black Panther's longtime rival M’Baku the Man-Ape. A guy in a gorilla suit could be played for laughs but in this issue he's truly terrifying.

4. Jungle Action #6-18 "Panther’s Rage" (1973)

Writer: Don McGregor
Artist: Rich Buckler, Gil Kane and Billy Graham

Why It's Essential
Jungle Action was just a low cost comic reprinting cheesy Jungle stories until Don McGregor, a proof-reader, complained that the series' white heroes in Africa were culturally outdated. He said, "The company had nothing even close to such diversity at that time." He added, "I was appalled that Marvel was printing these blond jungle gods and goddesses saving the natives stories, and I mentioned that. I said if they were going to do a jungle strip, they should have a black character as the hero. I wasn’t saying it to get a series to write; I only said it because I had to read this stuff. And I wasn’t particularly thinking about the Black Panther. I hadn’t given it any thought more than that I hated them reprinting a lot of those terribly insulting, often racist, stories."

So, Marvel assigned McGregor to write original material for Jungle Action, but they required that the stories must be in Africa. He decided to use the African superhero Black Panther and read every issue he appeared in up to that time. Since he only had 13 pages every two months to tell a story it made sense to him to make the stories connected.

Running in two years' in issues of Jungle Action, 'Panther's Rage' returns to the African nation of Wakanda in the middle of a civil war and revolution against its king, T'Challa, the Black Panther. The "Panther's Rage" series was the first mainstream comic to have an essentially all-black cast back in 1973. The story is one of the first that focused exclusively on the African kingdom of Wakanda. It's an internal struggle and deals with Black Panther's struggle to reconcile his role as a leader of Wakanda and a superhero. It also has the distinction of featuring the work of African-American comic-book artist Billy Graham. It's been called the first "graphic novel".

5. Jungle Action #19-22, 24 and Marvel Premiere #51-53 "Black Panther vs. The Klan" (1976)

Writer: Don McGregor
Artist: Billy Graham, Rich Buckler, Keith Pollard and Jerry Bingham

Why It's Essential
In 1976, McGregor wanted to do socially responsible stories like the struggles in South Africa about Apartheid but settled on Black Panther fighting the Klu Klux Klan. The story ran and it's brutal. One issue opens with Black Panther escaping from a burning cross. The storyline was abruptly ended when legendary artist Jack Kirby returned to Marvel from DC and ended the storyline to tell stories he wanted to tell of the character he co-created.

The storyline was picked up again later in Marvel Premiere where they explained that Black Panther had ignored the Klan because he had amnesia. It was an unsatisfying end to the story, but later Christopher Priest explains some of the plot holes.

6. Black Panther #1-5 "The Client" (1998)

Writer: Christopher Priest
Artist: Mark Texeira and Vince Evans

Why It's Essential
Many series about Black Panther are revolutionary and this is yet another one. The beginning of Christopher Priest’s run has T'Challa goes from the jungles of Africa to the jungles of the New York City to investigate the murder of a little girl who was the beneficiary of a Wakandan. The story is told through the incredulous eyes of Everett K. Ross, an agent of the Office of the Chief of Protocol. Priest later said the creation of character was one of the main reasons he wrote the series. "I realized I could use Ross to bridge the gap between the African culture that the Black Panther mythos is steeped in and the predominantly white readership that Marvel sells to." It works and is a highly accessible series. The story twists and turns in surprising ways and also introduces the Dora Milaje, who are his female bodyguards and consorts. While most stories focused on how cool Black Panther is, this series focused on how cool and smooth T'Challa is.

7. Black Panther #6-12 "Enemy of the State" (2001)

Writer: Christopher Priest
Artist: Joe Jusko, Mike Manley and M.D. Bright

Why It's Essential
Christopher Priest continues Black Panther's adventures narrated by Ross. While T'Challa is forced out of his nation of Wakanda by Achebe and his step-mother, he also has to deal with a complex plot against him. All the while the story revisits and reinvents his joining the Avengers by showing his true motives. The series is funny, surprising and entertaining.

8. Black Panther #1-6 "Who is Black Panther?" (2005)

Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artist: John Romita Jr.

Why It's Essential
In 2005, Reginald Hudlin took the character and reinvented him while still taking inspiration from the work of Christopher Priest. In part, it's a "retcon" but in many ways it returned the character to its roots. Wakanda is explored and portrayed as a modern African city and its people are the most prosperous and enlightened in the world. Whereas Black Panther's advanced city was technically advanced in his first appearance, the people still lived huts and wore loin cloths. In this series the people are well-to-do and highly educated enjoying all that the world has to offer. Hudlin merges the concept of the oil rich nation of Dubai with its equally priceless supply of vibranium and the isolationist country of China to create a kingdom that is original yet familiar. While the story explores Black Panthers country in new ways it also reinvents the Black Panther's first villain Klaw and makes him into a terrifying master assassin who leads a full on war against Wakanda. John Romita Jr. contributes his lush and detailed artwork as usual.

9. Black Panther #18 - 25 "Civil War" (2007)

Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artist:  Scot Eaton, Manuel Garcia and Koi Turnbull

Why It's Essential
The marriage of King T’Challa and Queen Ororo Monroe (Storm) is a huge event and combines two powerful Black heroes into one powerful union. Hudlin said that once Marvel decided to turn his mini-series into an ongoing series, he "knew the next logical story line was for the Black Panther to get married." Coincidentally, Marvel was launching they're "Civil War" series and Hudlin wrote the couple into the series in a natural way. They begin a diplomatic tour around the world. This series establishes an important seperation between Black Panther and other heroes.

While most of the heroes were fighting one another, T'Challa and Ororos ask themselves an important question. National leaders are above and beyond the squabbling and concerns of the others. He is a king, and has more in common with other world leaders like Doctor Doom and Submariner. His wife is the voice of reason and, as time goes on, he comes to rely on her more and more. Tightly written with insane action that travels around the world his role in the Civil War is essential and hopefully the upcoming movie doesn't sideline his role in favor of the more popular Spider-Man.

10. Black Panther: The Man Without Fear  #513-518 (2011)

Writer: David Liss
Artist: Francesco Frankavilla and Jefte Palo

Why It's Essential
This series takes Black Panther and strips him of everything and returns him to the jungles of New York. When Daredevil leaves, Black Panther takes his place in Hell's Kitchen and is left without all his equipment and resources. Whereas Daredevil has limits, Black Panther has none and, in a brutal situation, he is the most brutal you will ever see him in the comics. This series tells what kind of man T'Challa really is, but shows he's vulnerable at the same time.

Which Black Panther story would you read? Do you have a favorite? Which comics would you recommend?If you enjoyed this, then please use the buttons below to tell your friends about this post! Follow us! Email | RSSTwitter | Facebook


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Bet some of those older ones are worth money. Although I still have most of my DC comics from the 70's and they aren't worth much. And of course, they were well read.

Pat Dilloway said...

I'd have to wait for the price to come down on most of these.


I have to admit I have never read a stand alone Black Panther comic.
Thanks for the recommendations.


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