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Did Jack Kirby Create Black Panther?

Stan Lee is well-known and revered as the creator of the Marvel Universe, credited with inventing such classic heroes as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Captain America. His name and writing style have been associated with comic books throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and right now he's getting a lot of press as the man who created the Black Panther. However, there has been controversy arguing that his contribution has been overstated. In fact, longtime Marvel artist Jack Kirby has claimed he created Black Panther.

One incident of Kirby's claims came in 1990 with an interview with the Comics Journal. There, he was asked how he came up with Black Panther. Kirby said: "I came up with the Black Panther because I realized I had no blacks in my strip. I’d never drawn a black. I needed a black. I suddenly discovered that I had a lot of black readers. My first friend was a black! And here I was ignoring them because I was associating with everybody else. It suddenly dawned on me — believe me, it was for human reasons — I suddenly discovered nobody was doing blacks. And here I am a leading cartoonist and I wasn’t doing a black."

While the use of the term "a black" might not be politically correct today, the sentiment is noble.

The Jack Kirby Museum also has a big problem with Stan Lee claiming to have created Black Panther, and dedicated an entire article in 2012 to the argument in favor of Kirby. For instance, there's early concept art by Kirby for his early concept, Coal Tiger.

The Museum said: "I’ve never heard anyone suggest before Lee consciously wanted to create a black superhero in 1966, so he created Black Panther. Plus Jack was handling the stories at that point, and had been doing so for about 2 and 1/2 years, so does anyone out there really think Lee suddenly decided to become a social activist and so he created Black Panther? I think this is another piece of Lee fiction. Yes, Lee did caption Jack’s story and ask for changes as editor — so I think he was a part of the creation process — but for him to suggest he came up with the idea of a black superhero and he created the character because of that… it’s just ridiculous and once again insulting to Jack."

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. For much of their history together, Lee and Kirby worked together on concepts and stories. There's a debate on how much each relied on the other, but there's no question that the two influenced each other.

What do you think? Did Kirby create Black Panther? Let us know in the comments!

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