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How Did Black Panther Get His Name?


Find out where Black Panther get his name from. One of the complaints from some moviegoers is that the movie Black Panther is based on the group known as the "Black Panther Party" which means he's a part of the controversial group. Is that true? Does the movie have anything to do with the militant revolutionary group?

Black Panther is a fictional superhero appearing in Marvel comics starting in Fantastic Four #52 (1966). He was created by two legends in comic books. Two white guys named Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

In the comics, T’Challa is known by the ceremonial title Black Panther and is the leader and protector of the fictional African country of Wakanda. He and his people worship a panther god named Bast and he derives his power and guidance from Bast, the "panther god". That’s why he’s known as Black Panther.

 But why in the world did Lee and Kirby call him Black Panther? Is Black Panther named after the 70s African-American civil rights group called the Black Panther Party? Did the group name themselves after the first mainstream African superhero?

Who Are the "Black Panther" Party?

First some history of the Black Panthers. The name predated the group by several years. In World War II there was a segregated military group known as the Black Panther Tank Battalion. They were known as the "Black Panthers" after their insignia and motto "Come out fighting".


But the group that’s best known as the predecessor of the Black Panthers is a voting campaign in Lowndes County, Alabama, known as the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LFCO).

The LFCO chose a logo to differentiate itself from the Democratic party. While the Democrats used a White Rooster they chose a Black Panther. LFCO chairman John Hulett said it’s because it "is an animal that when pressured moves back until it is cornered, then it comes out fighting for life and death. We felt we had been pushed back long enough and that it was time for Negroes to come out and take over."


The black panther slowly became the symbol for all black civil rights movements across the country. Pretty cool but when young Huey Newton at the UC Berkeley campus saw a voting pamphlet from Alabama everything changed. He saw the logo and decided it’s legacy would help inspire his and Bobby Seales new Oakland group. At that moment the group became known as the "Black Panther Party for Self-Defense" and later just the "Black Panther Party".


So the Black Panther Party wasn’t inspired by a comic book.  But were Stan Lee and Steve Ditko inspired by the Black Panther party?

Black Panther was not the first black Marvel hero. The first black Marvel hero was the soldier Gabe Jones of "Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos" in 1963.

In one interview Lee said that there was a hero from the pulp novels that had a Black Panther as a sidekick. He thought that was pretty cool so he decided to name his new hero Black Panther. Lee has a thing about animals and insects inspiring his characters. That’s why we have guys like Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus. So why not a panther?

One of the first costume designs by Ditko had him with a goofy yellow and black striped costume.

You may think that’s silly but you should see Daredevil's original yellow suit. It hurts your eyes if you look directly at it.

That often shared image of Black Panther suggested the two wanted to call the hero "Coal Tiger" but that’s ridiculous. There’s no way two white dudes would dare to call a black man "coal" in the 1960s. The building would be burned to the ground. Stan Lee has a pretty dry sense of humor and it’s just a play on the name. Coal for Black and Tiger for Panther. Good one Stan.

There actually is a superhero named Coal Tiger though. In an alternate comic universe, T’Challa's son takes on the name Coal Tiger and wears the terrifying bee suit.


In 1972 Stan Lee tried to pull Black Panther tried to change his name. In Fantastic Four #119 Black Panther started calling himself Black Leopard.

Why in the world would he change his name? It’s kind of like Coca-Cola changing its name to Brown Sugary Cola drink.

When The Thing asked T’Challa about the name change T'Challa explained it’s because he didn’t want to be seen as an African king involving himself in American politics.

"I contemplate a return to your country, Ben Grimm, where the latter term has —political connotations," he said "I neither condemn nor condone those who have taken up the name, but T'Challa is a law unto himself. Hence, the new name - a minor point, at best, since the panther is a leopard."


It didn’t stick though and soon he was back to Black Panther.

So there you have it. The most well known African superhero coincidentally shares the name of the most influential African black civil rights group.

What do you think of the Black Panther's name?

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