Black History Superhero Month: THE BLACK PANTHER

The Black Panther art by John Garrett

The Black Panther art by John Garrett

Another Black day, another Black superhero. This time we’ll focus on Marvel Comics The Black Panther.

On the surface, the Panther looks really good. He’s fast, strong, smart, and when I say smart I mean very, very intelligent. He’s a respected and extremely formidable opponent who’s really never been played for a joke in the comics.

If you don’t know, he’s like the Black Batman of Marvel Comics. He’s rich, young, handsome and he kicks ass. I appreciate all this, but still, there’s something a little off.

I brought this up in my Luke Cage article, but one of my criteria for Black superheroes in the States is that I need to be able to identify with them. Is this a character that Black America can really get behind?

Unfortunately, no. It’s really too bad because this could have been a very good “role-model” character.

See, the problem is the Panther (real name T’Challa) was the Prince (now the King) of the African nation of Wakanda. The title of Black Panther is an inherited position taken from his father, who was killed by the super-villain Klaw.

Holy crap. That’s a lot to live up to there. Wakanda is an extremely rich nation due to the fact that they hold a majority of the world’s vibranium, a metal mostly known for its presence in the alloy that makes up Captain America’s shield.

Anyway, so right off the bat this guy is way out of the common experience of most of Black America. I remember reading old Avengers comics as a kid and thinking ‘damn I could never grow up and be this guy, he’s an African Prince!’ Crikey.

The Black Panther art by John Garrett
The Panther, just kicking it in Wakanda

So let’s talk about his abilities. Most of the time these Black characters are somewhat underpowered. The Panther isn’t superhuman, but he’s kind of like Captain America with his super-solider serum in that he takes this herb that helps to bring him to the peak of physical perfection. He still trains rigorously and knows all kinds of martial arts, though.

I think he actually beat up Captain America, too. I could be wrong about that, though.

Black Panther also has a connection to some mystical Panther Deity, kind of like a Moon Knight thing I guess.

So I really never felt like the Panther was a bad character. He’s really a very exceptional character, but one who has always played the background. He never really seems to take that center stage. Hell, even I don’t buy Black Panther, again because I really don’t identify with it.

Get this, back in the day, Marvel actually changed the Panther’s name to “The Black Leopard” to avoid confusion or giving the appearance of condoning the Black Panther Party movement of the time here in the States. Damn, Panther, we needed you to be down, man. Damn damn damn…

Moving on…did you guys know Black Panther had a thing with Storm of the X-Men back in the day. Oh yeah, now they’re married. Ugh. You know, it’s kind of the old story, I guess all Black/African people have to know each other in the comics somehow.

I suppose it made sense to Marvel to marry these characters. Storm has always been a huge H.A.M. (HOT ASS MESS) to me, so I just didn’t care that they were married. Anything to keep her away from writer Chris Claremont. Man, just wait until I write up Storm…

So now there’s these two characters that no one in Black America can really feel. Oh well, at least they tried.

At this point, I’m not really sure what it would take to get me interested in the Black Panther. I check out the covers on the stands sometimes and it’s not really enough to pull me in. Actually I think the Panther might be dead now. Damn.

I guess we’ll see him back in a few months if that’s the case.

Here’s a link to the Marvel page on the Black Panther for more in-depth info:’Challa)

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5 thoughts on “Black History Superhero Month: THE BLACK PANTHER

  1. Not sure you need to “relate” in order to appreciate the character as you describe it. For example, Batman was a wealthy rich kid, most readers can’t relate to that aspect, but his tragic story appeals to that inner sense of justice/vengeance that many can identify and sympathize with.

    Black Americans can and should appreciate the character, if promoted properly, because he represents Black excellence.

    A strong, intelligent, African king, representing a scientifically advanced Black civilization?? C’mon now… it’s the same way Black folks from lower class backgrounds can appreciate and support Obama, though most can’t relate to his upbringing.

    There is an intense desire to see the Black man “win” after seeing his image portrayed so negatively for so long.

    It’s too bad you’re not feeling BP, but I say if he even gets a proper series or movie, he’ll blow up big time.

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