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Black Panther: Exploring an African Superhero

Updated on June 7, 2012
The Black Panther
The Black Panther

The Black Panther introduced in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four #52, is considered to be the first “African”/”African-American” superhero in modern comics. Since his inception

the character has been plagued with concerns and controversy. The former stemmed from the fact that the name of the character might be associated with the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and that the concept for the Black Panther may have been “borrowed” from the 1947's All Negro Comics character Lion Man created by Orin C. Evans and George J. Evans Jr. The latter for the character's fictitious battle with the Ku Klux Klan, his fighting a team of racist superheroes called the Supremacists, dealing with the subject of South Africa's Apartheid system and allegories to both the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements with stories that included the luminary Malcolm X. All this helped to make the Black Panther one of the most politically charged comics around.

Black Panther in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Writing A Warrior People.

In order to tap the potential of the Black Panther the writer must be able to re-imagine Afrakan culture from the mindset of an Afrakan people who have never been subjugated. It would then be necessary for the writer to contradict the image of Afraka being a conurbation of poverty and despair. This requires manifesting a new centeredness which negates the image of Afrakans as enslaved captives, powerless victims and cultural primitives.

The writer must conceive of Wakanda (homeland of the Black Panther) as the nexus of the universe (similar to the way New York and Gotham serve Spider-man and Batman respectively) replete with details concerning its antiquity, language and political structure. Consistent landmarks i.e. the Techno Jungle, Warrior Falls and the Royal Palace will not only help the reader get their bearing but will also serve as an emotional compass in the same capacity that the Daily Bugle, the Batcave and Arkham Asylum do. These are necessities for in-depth storytelling. Past Black Panther writers Don McGregor and Christopher Priest contributed significantly in this area.

It is the writer's responsibility to reinforce the fact that the Wakandans are highly advanced Afrakan warrior society that has never been conquered. They are a society with its own mores and institutions steeped in a tradition of securing their culture from the hostile incursions of neighboring tribes, Asians, Europeans, Arabs and any other group. As such Wakanda is a military power of the first order exceeding the war capabilities of any of their contemporaries. The Wakandan people should seen as physically imposing and deeply committed to their spiritual beliefs about the Panther spirit. After all they were a people who were unfettered by the yoke of Christianity and Islam. Their's is a cultural hegemony that borders on arrogance and xenophobia. Examples of such were evident in Reginald Hudlin's Black Panther: The Animated Series.

The Enemies of the State.

The Black Panther has a vast cadre of rogues. I took creative license in enhancing some of their powers. I underlined where I did such. Klaw a being composed of living sound, the arch nemesis of Black Panther and murderer of his father. Killmonger shrewd, highly intelligent international businessman and political leader with superhuman strength and steel hard skin. Solomon Prey, a patrician and drug trafficker who can morph into a gargoyle. Achebe an Afrakan version of the late great Heath Ledger's Joker. Silverback a name I prefer over the Man Ape (who incidentally is the villain of choice for the Black Panther in the well done cartoon Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes) with the physical stature of the Hulk and strength of the fabled white gorilla from which his ancestors based their religion.

The evil mystic Sombre, high priest of the Worshipers of Resurrection who's sorceries may rival that of Dr. Strange himself. The Supremacist a criminal organization like Hydra and A.I.M. with tech to match and a host of meta human agents. They practice a form eugenics that creates a new kind of trans human and see the Wakandans as the players on the other side. These are just some of the villains and ideas a committed writer can work with.

T'challa, the Black Panther.

Today the Black Panther is known as the man without fear as he protects the citizens of Hell's Kitchen. (For explanations for such occurrences one may investigate Deadliest of the Species , Doomwar and the current Black Panther: The Man Without Fear ). Before the Black Panther borrowed Daredevil's tagline he was known as a king and a scientific genius. A master strategist and combatant, an avatar of the Panther spirit. He was known as the son of T'Chaka and as the African Avenger. As characters go the Black Panther comes with a plethora of the necessities for a successful superhero. A tragic origin. His mother kidnapped, his nation invaded for its most valuable natural resource vibranium. His father the great king T'Chaka killed by treachery while defending his country. The young Tchalla routing the invaders and then undergoing a sacred ritual to become the Black Panther. To test himself, he tricks the Fantastic Four into combat. Using guile he joins “Earth's mightiest heroes”, the Avengers to see what kind of threat they may represent to his kingdom. Tchalla and Ororo meet as children when she came across his attempted kidnapping by South African mercenaries. They fall in love and though they part, they are destined to meet again. Storm of the XMen becomes Queen of Wakanda when she marries the Black Panther. Tchalla has successfully defended his country against super villains, invading nations, the Lord of Hell and even a galactic empire. 

Did I mention the Black Panther has one of the best costumes in comic books.

Technically the Black Panther doesn't wear a costume but the sacred habit of the Panther cult. It does however come fully equipped with morphing vibranium microweave which provides protection against bullets and projectiles. This also provides impact resistance and immunity to vibration and magnetism. His cowl has infra red lenses for night vision and chemical gates as filters which protect against the inhalation of toxins. The gloves have claws made of the anti-metal vibranium, which could penetrate Captain America's nigh indestructible shield or slice through the adamatium of Wolverine's skeleton. The boots are styled with vibranium powered active phase resonators. These provide some wondrous feats, such as leaping safely from great heights, scaling walls and running on the surface of water. I neglected to mention two things, the Black Panther has light armor that morphs out of habit and he can cloak, so watch out Iron man.

Where to take the Black Panther?

The legacy and mythos of the Black Panther are replete with story telling potential. Tchalla and Ororo have yet to have their children. Off world exploits in search of the source of the vibranium meteorite. Saving the earth from Galactus. The team ups with the XMen. The historical recounting of tales of Wakanda told in the epic scale of The Lord of the Rings or in the creative complexity of Avatar the Last Airbender. The Black Panther is primed to do comic books, cartoons, video games and live action feature length films. The Black Panther is in fact ready to take on the world.

(The word "Afrakan" is spelled this way to be more accurate to its definition and will be used in place of African, African-American, Afro-American, Black, Negro or Colored)

The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, Season 1- Episode 11 Preview

Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther
Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther

Deep in the heart of Africa is Wakanda, a technologically advanced civilization of great power and mystery. During the last ten centuries, as European colonial powers spread their guns, armies, and undisputed domination throughout the continent, Wakanda has stood alone as an unconquerable land inhabited by undefeatable warriors. Governing this nation is a lineage of warrior-kings possessing enhanced speed, strength, and agility. Today, T'Challa is the latest in this famed family line, the great hero known worldwide as the Black Panther. Despite the futile defeats of the past, outsiders are once more assembling to invade Wakanda and plunder its riches. Leading this brutal assault is Klaw, a deadly assassin with the blood of T'Challa's murdered father on his hands. Klaw brings with him a powerful army of super-powered mercenaries, all hell-bent on raining death and destruction on this pristine land. Even with Wakanda's might and his own superhuman skills, can the Black Panther prevail against such a massive invading force? This title collects "Black Panther", numbered 1-6 and "Fantastic Four", numbered 52-53.



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