Who is Marvel Black Panther? Like some Jewish baseball fans, many dedicated Jewish comic book readers keep a running roster of Jewish heroes that have appeared in the “major leagues” of the comic world: Marvel, DC and some independent publishers’ titles.
Many know the handful of often-discussed Jewish characters: The Thing, whose adult bar mitzvah and Jewish wedding were major storylines; the Jewish star-wearing X-Men character Kitty Pryde; one-time Batwoman Kate Kane; and the popular supervillain Harley Quinn, to name a few. Moon Knight recently became the first overtly Jewish character to appear in the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe, with his own show on Disney+ starring Oscar Isaac.
But not many readers are aware that, for a brief period exactly 20 years ago, the most overtly Jewish of all mainstream superheroes was the Black Panther.
Who is Marvel Black Panther?
Black Panther isn’t the name of a singular hero in Marvel Comics, but is instead a mantle that is passed down by the ruler of Wakanda to their successor. Over the course of history in the Marvel Universe, there have been a ton of Black Panthers that readers have never even met.
As of now, readers have been introduced to 10 different characters who have borne the mantle of Black Panther. Since they all consumed the heart-shaped herb in order to gain the powers of Bast, they all share the same baseline of powers. However, through their impressive feats and additional resources, some Black Panthers have proven themselves more powerful than others.
The First Black Marvel Superhero
According to Digital Spy, Black Panther represents the first Black superhero in the Marvel Universe. Legendary writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby co-created the character for Fantastic Four #52 in 1966. The character emerged because both Lee and Kirby felt that their Black readers were being underserved in the comics.
Black Panther’s success led to other Black superheroes in the Marvel Universe thereafter, like Sam Wilson, The Falcon, Miles Morales, and the X-Men’s Storm. Other publishers followed Marvel’s lead and introduced Black heroes in their stories, with the most notable one being John Stewart as Green Lantern in DC Comics.
Black Panther Married Storm
The movie reveals that Nakia gave birth to Prince T’Challa during The Blip. This likely cuts off any potential for a major arc comic book fans might have been expecting, as Black Panther married Storm, among the most powerful X-Men, in the comics. This cemented a lifelong friendship and wed two powerful spheres in the Marvel Universe.
Storm and Black Panther eventually divorced, with their marriage fracturing during the cataclysmic Avengers vs. X-Men storyline that left Wakanda in ruins thanks to the Phoenix Five.
Member of The Avengers
Though he started in comics as a Fantastic Four ally, Black Panther quickly became an Avenger. He joined in The Avengers #52 in 1968 and along with Captain America, Thor, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch, formed arguably the best Avengers roster ever. He fought with them during several major battles in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Black Panther leads modern Avengers rosters as well. As the team captain, T’Challa displays the leadership and guidance that has made him a successful ruler of Wakanda since his introduction.
Star Of Marvel’s First Graphic Novel
Black Panther pioneered another important chapter in comic book history with “Panther’s Rage,” which is considered to be one of if not the first Marvel graphic novel (via Polygon). Among the earliest examples of serial storytelling in the Marvel Universe, it ran in Jungle Action #6-#18 beginning in 1973.
Written by Don McGregor, the story explores Wakanda as an important fictional Marvel Comics country as well as the brutal impact of an uprising against T’Challa that is led by his chief rival Killmonger. This graphic novel served as a key story that established the ongoing rivalry between Black Panther and Killmonger, which would later take center stage in the 2018 Black Panther film.
The Man Without Fear
For a brief time, T’Challa moonlighted as Daredevil, the Man Without Fear. He took over the role as guardian of Hell’s Kitchen in 2011, with issue #513 of what was then retitled Black Panther: The Man Without Fear. The previous incarnation, Matt Murdock, left New York City after the traumatic Shadowland storyline, which saw the hero become possessed by a demon.
The opportunity for T’Challa to become the city’s new protector came about as a consequence of Doomwar. Doom’s machinations displaced T’Challa, leading him to become Daredevil after he had seemingly lost everything. The resulting stories depicted the former king in a grim and gritty context, with T’Challa investigating street-level crimes as a modern-day Sam Spade.
The Wakandan Galactic Empire
Black Panther’s empire expands dramatically in recent comics, including into outer space. The Wakandan Galactic Empire features prominently in the recent acclaimed run by writer Ta-Nihisi Coates. Fans first discover this interstellar extension of Wakanda in Marvel Legacy #1 in 2017.
T’Challa sent space explorers to locate the origin of the Mena Ngai, the source of Wakanda’s vibranium. After being stranded in the past, they created the galactic empire. With the huge cosmic canvas the MCU builds in the movies, this fascinating arc may appear on the screen.
Shuri Becomes Black Panther
Shuri became Black Panther during Doomwar when T’Challa was left in a coma. She eventually yielded the title back to him when he recovered, but her time as the hero and leader of Wakanda strengthened and deepened her character, as it has in live-action as well, making her a powerful Black Panther variant.
Shuri faced numerous challenges during this period, including Klaw’s invasion to seize vibranium. He led an army including several villains but ultimately failed. She killed Radioactive Man with the Ebony Blade during the battle, displaying her courage and determination in one swift strike.
Shuri Destroyed Atlantis
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever builds off the enmity between Namor and Black Panther from the comics. The two leaders often clash, and during Shuri’s reign, she sought justice for the grievous injury Namor inflicted on Wakanda in Avengers vs. X-Men. In this storyline, he unleashed a tidal wave that swamped the country.
In retaliation, Shuri launches an all-out attack on Atlantis. She destroys the underwater kingdom as Namor breaks bread with her brother, a startling act that she pulls back from in the movie.
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