The Black Panther From the Comics to Movies - Who is this Marvel Super-Hero?
“I really need too see this movie.” So says many Marvel fans, as they express their feelings on twitter, Facebook and YouTube videos.
So why all the excitement? Who is this superhero causing all the excitement leading to sold-out theaters and long lines?
Origins of the Black Panther
To explain the Black Panther we need to explore the times he originated. By 1966, Marvel already had many popular characters based on the following template. What if a regular person with human flaws suddenly develop super powers? Thus, came Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk, Thor, Iron-Man and their first flagship characters, The Fantastic Four. So what gives? T'Challa (Black Panther) is Aftrican, exotic and regal. Why doesn’t the Black Panther fit this template?
Marvel Explores New Themes in 1966
Unlike Spider-Man, who fought characters such as the Green Goblin and the Lizard, The Fantastic Four explored the cosmic boundaries. By this time, they fought the planet gobbling Galactus, met the metaphysical Silver Surfer, and rubbed elbows with the Inhumans. The Inhumans were an isolated people who had genetic powers similar to X-Men, but chose to live separately from the human race. However, some of them wanted to be part of the human race. So Medusa and later Crystal and her teleporting dog Lockjaw would explore our world and meet the Fantastic Four. The FF would later visit their hidden city of Attilan in the Himalayas, where they helped the Inhumans against the Mad Maximus. What does this have to do with the Black Panther?
By 1966, Marvel Wanted to Expand
Co-cretors Stan Lee and Jack Kirby wanted to continue to develop new characters. But instead of the original template, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would explore more extravagant themes. Thus, by the time of the first appearance of the Black Panther, cosmic characters such as of Galactus, Silver Surfer, Inhumans and others were established and popular.
By 1966, Time For A Black Super-Hero
Also, Stan and Jack wanted to create a black hero, which would be the first. Although, they already had Gabriel "Gabe" Jones of Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, he was a minor character in the 1963 multi-ethnic Special Operations teaml with stories taking place in WWII.
So they came up the Black Panther as the powerful King of technologically advanced, but isolated kingdom of Wakanda.
Similar to the Inhumans, there would be an isolated country with palace intrigue and the bad-guys would not be The Black Panther himself. This is another aspect of the Marvel method. In the introductory cover of FF #52 it says “Introducing The Sensational Black Panther”. Many of the characters introduced were not villains, although they may battle the other heroes. For example, the Hulk fought the Thing of the Fantastic Four. Spider-Man fought the X-Men. The X-Men fought the Avengers in the comics. So instead of the simplistic villain versus hero of DC comics, Marvel would show conflict among their popular characters, just like in real life.
Not a Black Spider-Man or Daredevil
Now if Black Panther were a New York City kid who received Panther-like powers, he might have been somewhat popular. Luke Cage would later become such a character for Marvel.
But this character came out of the Fantastic Four. Only two issues after the Galactus saga, a NYC kid with powers would be crushed by the FF.
First Appearance of the Panther
In FF #52 (July 1966) the Fantastic Four are presented with a gift of advanced aircraft from Wakanda, with an offer to visit Wakanda. Out of curiosity because of the advanced nature of the craft, the four agree and are brought to the secret country. The craft is so advance, it remotely flies them to the hidden country. No pilot. But as they are brought in, they begin to worry. They had good reason to worry. As soon as they exit the craft in a mechanical forest, they are attacked, by none other than the Black Panther himself! (But don’t panic). After a brief battle in which the FF wins, he is unmasked and explains. He needs their help but wants to be sure they are capable warriors. (Okay. It’s a little hokey, considering a battle of super-powered people could have gotten someone killed). But comic book fans like to see action and if he just brought them in and started talking, it would have been boring.
T’Challa explains his country is under attack by super-powered Klaw and his army, who want their Vibranium, a precious metal with powers.
This Vibranium came to Wakanda in a huge meteor thousands of years ago. It’s properties allowed Wakanda to become the most technologically advanced country in the world. So how come the world never heard of them , you might ask? As people outside their country became aware of Vibranium, there would be failed raids to get it. Also, the Wakandans wanted to protect themselves from colonialism. So although Wakandans would venture into the world, because of their wealth, they shielded the country itself. But now, with the attack of a super-powered Klaw and his army, T’Challa felt the Fantastic Four would be the ideal team to help.
So in Fantastic Four #53, the FF and Black Panther stand together in their successful battle against the raiders. The FF return home and promise to keep Wakanda a secret.
Black Panther name - 1966 Controversy
So, how come the Black Panther name? The publication of Fantastic Four 52 was in July 1966. With six months lead time that would be the end of 1965.
The Black Panther Party wasn’t founded until almost a year later in October 1966. Unfortunately, people didn’t realize that. Even though he was popular, Marvel temporarily reduced his appearances. They even changed his name to Black Leopard for awhile (which people didn’t like. However, after the BPP group was out of the headlines and TV news, Marvel restored his name and even gave him his own comic book in 1977. He had since been a pivotal part of the Marvel Universe.
So when it was announced that Black Panther would have his own movie, comics fandom erupted. But would he be good? Because Marvel Studios is doing the movie, they assumed it would be. Based on his introduction in Captain America – Civil War, fans were happy. When the Black Panther trailer came out, the fans optimism was confirmed. The movie trailer looked as if he was faithful to the comic.
That’s the most important thing. Marvel Studios, for the most part, held faithful to the source material.
Also, although Wakanda is a fictional country, Marvel created a bright, exotic, futuristic look that looks truthful to the comics and to the African Diaspora.
Why the Avengers and not the Fantastic Four?
Simply put, Marvel sold the FF movie rights to Fox. So since Captain America had battled the Panther, later in the comics, they could bring the Panther to Captain America and Avenger movies.
Little known fun facts about the Black Panther in the comics
T’Challa married Storm of the X-Men. They later divorced.
The Black Panther was temporarily a member of the Avengers.
The Black Panther was temporarily a member of the X-Men.
The Black Panther was temporarily a member of the Fantastic Four.
In 2009, an animated series of Black Panther came out and can be found on Netflix.