Is Black Panther Marvel? Black Panther is a character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist-plotter Jack Kirby, the character first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966) in the Silver Age of Comic Books. Black Panther’s real name is T’Challa, and he is depicted as the king and protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Along with possessing enhanced abilities achieved through ancient Wakandan rituals of drinking the essence of the heart-shaped herb, T’Challa also relies on his proficiency in science, expertise in his nation’s traditions, rigorous physical training, hand-to-hand combat skills, and access to wealth and advanced Wakandan technology to combat his enemies.
Black Panther is the first protagonist of African descent in mainstream American comics, having debuted years before early black superheroes such as Marvel Comics’ the Falcon (1969), Luke Cage (1972), and Blade (1973) or DC Comics’ John Stewart in the role of Green Lantern (1971). In one comic book storyline, the Black Panther mantle is handled by Kasper Cole, a multiracial New York City police officer. Beginning as an impersonator, Cole would later take on the moniker of White Tiger and become an ally to T’Challa. The role of Black Panther and leadership of Wakanda was also given to T’Challa’s sister Shuri while he was in a coma for a short time.
Is Black Panther Marvel?
The late former Marvel editor-in-chief Stan Lee may have been was a major proponent to bringing the king of the fictional nation Wakanda to life, T’Challa, the Black Panther, was never expected to gain long-term success. It’s hard to believe considering how much of a major player he is in the comics these days and how beloved the late actor Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been.
Introduced in the pages of “Fantastic Four,” T’Challa immediately asserted his cunning and strength by incapacitating the team, just a few issues after they managed to fend off the world-eater Galactus. Lee and comic book artist Jack Kirby wanted to introduce more diversity to their comics at a time when marginalized leads were scarce. Thus, the Black Panther was born.
T’Challa premiered in 1966 in “Fantastic Four #52.” When it debuted in the comics, Wakanda wasn’t as developed as it was in the 2018 film despite their abundant supply of vibranium, an extraterrestrial ore stronger than steel bearing properties that made radical technological advancements possible. What catalyzes their technological development is not their own initiative, but the invasion of Ulysses Klaw.
While the Wakandans successfully repelled Klaw’s first attempt to plunder their resources, T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, was killed during the attack. T’Challa became Wakanda’s chieftain after his father’s death and gained wealth by selling portions of their vibranium supply, and with the Fantastic Four’s support, he avenged his father by defeating Klaw.
T’Challa mostly acted as a secondary character after his debut. Even though he joined the Avengers superhero team in 1968, he didn’t headline his own title until 1973 when he got his first solo run in Don McGregor’s “Jungle Action” comic series.
Why is ‘Black Panther’ so significant?
Adilifu Nama: What makes the Black Panther such a significant figure in American popular culture—as well as Black popular culture—is its groundbreaking representation of Blackness as more than a stereotypical and racist trope of inferiority.
We have to keep in mind the historical context of the superhero’s first emergence—in 1966, against the backdrop of the civil rights and burgeoning Black Power movement. That becomes important because in many ways [the emergence of a Black superhero]…marks a racial transformation happening on a political and social level.
What is the significance of the nation of Wakanda?
Wakanda symbolizes a wonderland of possibilities: What would have happened to a society not [affected] by the devastating impact of racism and colonialism? In that sense, the film is a beacon for the Black imagination…what Blackness could be in the future.
Why do you think this film resonated so widely?
I would argue that “Black Panther” as a film project is probably more attuned to being a Black science fiction film than a comic-book adaptation. The groundswell of buzz and anticipation, particularly across Black communities in the U.S. and world, was not a function of millions of comic-book readers that have followed the Black Panther in the various iterations you have in Marvel Comics.
This film speaks to a broader pent-up demand and desire to see a science fiction version of Blackness that is on par with a “Star Wars.” We’ve never seen this kind of visionary…African/Black representation of super science, and technological advancement and social standing outside the historical of colonialism.
Which came first: The ‘Black Panther’ or the Black Panthers?
It’s complicated. Stokely Carmichael gave his famous “Black Power” speech at University of California, Berkeley, a few months after the character’s debut, and that fall founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale named their movement the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
Aidlifu Nama goes on to note that the Black Panther Party borrowed its moniker from Alabama’s Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which had adopted a panther logo. To escape the name’s radical political connotations, Marvel tried having Black Panther go by “Black Leopard” in the early 1970s, but it didn’t stick. And, over the years, the “Black Panther” standalone comic did delve into politics, featuring the titular character fighting racist forces such as the Ku Klux Klan and the “Republic of Azania,” which was an allegory for apartheid South Africa.
How do you think this character, who is such a product of the 1960s zeitgeist, resonates today?
[It is] such a strong allegory [of] our contemporary moment, given the way in which racial tensions—in American society in particular—have come to the forefront. Particularly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the comments by the president disparaging African nations, Black football players standing up by kneeling… Against that type of backdrop, films such as “Get Out” and “Black Panther” have a vivid resonance.
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