With the Black Panther movie doing so well, I thought that I would reread his Epic Collection "Panther's Rage!". I had forgotten that it also included his first appearance in Fantastic Four #52-53 (Jl-Au'66) and those got me all a'wondering again!

1) In T'Challa's flashback where he speaks of his father's death, Wakanda appears to have no advanced technology and were helpless against Klaw's men's machine guns. Indeed it was only when a young T'Challa used Klaw's own weapon against him did he prevail. Also his village is consumed by fire and are seen as huts.

Yet "ten years later", Wakanda is a technological paradise its people now have weapons both modern and futuristic, all created by the scientific genius of the Black Panther. Wouldn't that cause some sort of culture shock? That's a small period of time to give any population those kind of advances.

2) That ten-year period also implies how young T'Challa is. He must be in his early twenties and was said to have studied abroad which was confirmed in Avengers #87 (Ap'71). How could someone of that genius at such a young age not be on anyone's radar?

3) The Black Panther was said not to have super-powers but he had to. Beyond his superior strength, speed and agility, he also hyper-senses of hearing and smell and could see in the dark. That would put him on par with Daredevil and Wolverine yet those were largely ignored.

4) He would leave Wakanda for America soon after as his meeting with the Fantastic Four seemed to alter him from an isolationist to an internationalist though he kept Wakanda secluded.

5) During his travels, he seemed to waver if he wanted to be king at all. He liked his freedom and again, he was young. His "Luke Charles" identity was almost like the person he wanted to be while T'Challa was the person he had to be,

6) And Wakanda was no utopia with open rebellion and betrayal around every corner and Panther story with Man-Ape and Killmonger as the most blatant examples.

7) His Silver/Bronze Age girlfriend, the singer Monica Lynne, was met with disrespect and distrust in Wakanda. She was even framed for murder there!

8) For the longest time, the Black Panther was the Avengers' only African-American member. Did that keep writers from adding more? Remember, in story, the Falcon only became a member because the Panther did not want to rejoin the team due to government requirements. Was one considered "enough"? Why wasn't Power Man, Storm, Black Goliath, Thunderbolt, the Prowler, etc. given a chance to join? It's very similar to the Wasp and Scarlet Witch "crowding out" other women for long term stints.

9) When he did join the Avengers in #52, he was wearing his half-mask which in places looked to me like it was redrawn. Also his costume was shredded which showed off a lot of his flesh. Was this to show how tough he was or was it an act of defiance to show certain dealers that there was a black Avenger. Later he would go back to his full mask probably because it looked cooler.

10) Is the Silver Age Black Panther an outdated character with troubling implications or an amazing achievement of its time? Did he break barriers or reinforced stereotypes? Or both?

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These are some tough questions! I'll give my two cents, and hope others can help out where my memory/reasoning fails.

1) In T'Challa's flashback where he speaks of his father's death, Wakanda appears to have no advanced technology and were helpless against Klaw's men's machine guns. Indeed it was only when a young T'Challa used Klaw's own weapon against him did he prevail. Also his village is consumed by fire and are seen as huts. Yet "ten years later", Wakanda is a technological paradise its people now have weapons both modern and futuristic, all created by the scientific genius of the Black Panther. Wouldn't that cause some sort of culture shock? That's a small period of time to give any population those kind of advances.

My assumption then and now is that Wakanda has been 20-25 years ahead of the rest of the world for a very long time, but when they dealt with the rest of the world they pretended to be primitive with no natural resources worth exploiting. Hence, when T'Chaka was dealing with an outsider like Klaue. he was putting on an act. If the book specified otherwise -- that everything was due to T'Challa -- I'm prepared to write that off as an early misstep.

2) That ten-year period also implies how young T'Challa is. He must be in his early twenties and was said to have studied abroad which was confirmed in Avengers #87 (Ap'71). How could someone of that genius at such a young age not be on anyone's radar?

He was black.

3) The Black Panther was said not to have super-powers but he had to. Beyond his superior strength, speed and agility, he also hyper-senses of hearing and smell and could see in the dark. That would put him on par with Daredevil and Wolverine yet those were largely ignored.

Didn't the discussion of the heart-shaped herb say that it enhanced him? Whenever the Panther exhibited superhuman abilities, I assumed the herb had something to do with it.

4) He would leave Wakanda for America soon after as his meeting with the Fantastic Four seemed to alter him from an isolationist to an internationalist though he kept Wakanda secluded.

The Panther stayed in Wakanda after his Fantastic Four adventures until at least Tales of Suspense #99 where he had an adventure with Captain America. Because of that, Cap suggested T'Challa for Avengers membership and he joined in Avengers #52. The in-story reason T'Challa left Wakanda and joined the Avengers was to evaluate whether they were a threat to Wakanda. In the current series, though, he's realized that he was lying to himself -- that being a do-gooder is what he always wanted to be. "I didn't become a superhero to join the Avengers," he thinks in a recent issue, "I joined the Avengers so I could be a superhero." 

5) During his travels, he seemed to waver if he wanted to be king at all. He liked his freedom and again, he was young. His "Luke Charles" identity was almost like the person he wanted to be while T'Challa was the person he had to be,

I never bought the Luke Charles thing at all -- I thought it diminished the character. He was a king, for crying out loud! Why would he go slumming in New York? Why would he hang out in America at all? Even Grace Kelly gave up her glamorous day job and left the U.S. when she became royalty, and she was just a figurehead with a fraction of T'Challa's responsibilities. My thinking is that the writers had no idea what to do with him (with the exception of Don McGregor), so they tried to turn him into a New York superhero like all the rest. Square peg, round hole, as far as I was concerned. Your explanation sounds pretty good, so I'll go with that!

6) And Wakanda was no utopia with open rebellion and betrayal around every corner and Panther story with Man-Ape and Killmonger as the most blatant examples.

I actually kinda liked that aspect, that Wakanda had its own politics, various religions and cultural divides. McGregor was far from perfect, but he had the good sense to keep the Panther in Wakanda and world-build around him.

7) His Silver/Bronze Age girlfriend, the singer Monica Lynne, was met with disrespect and distrust in Wakanda. She was even framed for murder there!

I can easily buy that. Wakanda had been isolationist for centuries. Xenophobia would be ingrained in the national culture.

8) For the longest time, the Black Panther was the Avengers' only African-American member. Did that keep writers from adding more? Remember, in story, the Falcon only became a member because the Panther did not want to rejoin the team due to government requirements. Was one considered "enough"? Why wasn't Power Man, Storm, Black Goliath, Thunderbolt, the Prowler, etc. given a chance to join? It's very similar to the Wasp and Scarlet Witch "crowding out" other women for long term stints.

I don't really know if there were any in-house prohibitions at Marvel. From your list, though, very few would have been Avengers material. Luke Cage wouldn't have joined even if asked, for example. He was working for a living -- he only joined the FF because Reed was paying him more than he could make on his own. Storm was introduced in 1975 when the X-Men were extremely segregated from the rest of the MU, and mutants only joined mutant teams at the team. Ditto The Prowler -- he was a Spider-Man character, and Spider-Man's world didn't cross with the Avengers much (and it would make more sense for Spider-Man to join before the Prowler, and as we all know, he didn't). 

Black Goliath, though, seems a likely candidate. I don't remember if that was addressed in-story.

And who is Thunderbolt? Peter Cannon? Cei-U? Thor's wacky sidekick? 

9) When he did join the Avengers in #52, he was wearing his half-mask which in places looked to me like it was redrawn. Also his costume was shredded which showed off a lot of his flesh. Was this to show how tough he was or was it an act of defiance to show certain dealers that there was a black Avenger. Later he would go back to his full mask probably because it looked cooler.

I think at the time it was mentioned that it was to show that he was black to attract black readers. I don't know where I read that, though, so it might be apocryphal.

10) Is the Silver Age Black Panther an outdated character with troubling implications or an amazing achievement of its time? Did he break barriers or reinforced stereotypes? Or both?

There are some eye-rolling moments in the early issues from a 2018 viewpoint, that's for sure. But I read it fresh in 1966, and I thought it was awesome. I'd never seen black people written like that, and I wanted more of it. Heck, I wanted the real world to be more like that. This was the heart of the civil rights era, and even to my young brain it seemed like the problems were intractable. Then Black Panther showed a world with inspiration. hope and endless possibility. Isn't that what good comics do?

Thunderbolt was a short-lived superhero who debuted in Power Man #41 and died in Power Man & Iron Fist #62. He had super-speed and a flashing visor. But he had actual super-powers, just not the exposure.

Wow, I completely forgot him, despite owning all those issues. I guess being dead kept him from Avengers membership. (Although it never slowed down Wonder Man!)

At the time, unfortunately, if black characters were in the average TV show or comic they would be a "token." No thought was apparently given to having more than one character from the same minority group. If they could, this character would be a member of two minority groups and would be called a "twofer." One comedy show, I think 30 Rock, had a character actually named Twofer to satirize this. 

One time I was somewhere and two young white women were talking about Deep Space Nine and how odd it was that there were two or more black characters. I didn't know them or I probably would have said something.

"For the longest time, the Black Panther was the Avengers' only African-American member. "

I know what you meant, but it bothers me when people say T'Challa is African-American. 

Hoy

I never watch the home shopping network shows, but caught a ridiculous bit on one by accident. They were selling lead soldiers or the equivalent. It was from the war between the British and the Zulus. They referred to the figures of the tribesmen as African-Americans.

My apologies, Hoy. I knew that it wasn't the right description but I was trying to shorthand it.

Hoy Murphy said:

"For the longest time, the Black Panther was the Avengers' only African-American member. "

I know what you meant, but it bothers me when people say T'Challa is African-American. 

Hoy

Some of these questions are asked and addressed in Priest's run. For instance, it wasn't just Monica that had problems with the Wakandans, but also Ramonda, T'Chaka's widow, and Hunter, T'Chaka's adopted son. Priest portrayed the Wakandans as very isolationist, and T'Challa as not being universally popular within his own country.

Also, yes, the Heart-Shaped Herb did enhance T'Challa, similarly to how the Super Soldier Serum enhanced Steve Rogers. Like Captain America, he has super stamina and agility, and the herb also pushed his body to peak ability. However, it was also stated that the herb could only be ingested by someone worthy, otherwise it would probably kill the person attempting to swallow it.

The absence of black lead characters from Golden Age comics stands out. The ones I can name are the heroes of All-Negro Comics #1 (1947; the only title of its publisher), the jungle lord Voodah in McCombs's Crown Comics #3-#5, #13 (1945-46, 1948; he was white in his other stories), and Waku, Prince of the Bantu from Marvel's Jungle Tales #1-#7/Jann of the Jungle #8 (1954-55).

Golden Age black supporting characters tend to be stereotypes. I can think of Ebony from "The Spirit", Steamboat from "Captain Marvel", Gargantua Potts from "Mr America", and Whitewash Jones from Young Allies.

Wikipedia notes Parents' Magazine Press published two issues of a non-fiction title called Negro Heroes (1947-48), and Fawcett published Jackie Robinson #1-#6 (1949-52), Joe Louis #1-#2 (1950), and Negro Romance #1-#3 (1950). Charlton reprinted Negro Romance #2 in 1955.

At DC Jackie Johnson appeared irregularly in "Sgt. Rock" from Our Army at War #113 (1961). Gabe Jones debuted in Sgt. Fury #1 (1963) and appeared irregularly in the SHIELD feature in Strange Tales from #137 (1965). 

Dell published Lobo #1-#2 in 1965-66. I think this was the first US title with an original eponymous black hero. The comic was a Western.

The Black Panther was treated as a major character from his 1966 debut, but he didn't get his own feature until Jungle Action #6 (1973). Some of earlier appearances were effectively Black Panther stories. His Jungle Action started in #5 with a reprint of one of those, The Avengers #62.

Bill Foster, later Black Goliath and Giant-Man, debuted in The Avengers #32 (1966).

Robbie Robertson was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #51 (1967).

Shadow Lass debuted in Adventure Comics #365 (1967). She was blue rather than black.

Randy Robertson was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #67 (1968).

Joshua from Teen Titans #20 (1969) was originally supposed to be a black hero called Jericho, but Carmine Infantino rejected the original version of the story.

The Falcon debuted in Captain America #117 (1969).

I don't mean to cover villains, but I'll include the Prowler for context. He was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #78 (1969).

Mal joined the Titans in Teen Titans #26 (1970).

The Falcon became the first black hero to co-headline a Marvel title when his name was added to the masthead of Captain America with #134 (1970).

Vykin debuted in The Forever People #1 (1970).

Skywald's Bravados, a team of Western heroes, included a black man named Gideon. They appeared in Wild Western Action #1-#3 and The Bravados #1 (all 1971).

Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #121 introduced Lois's roommates. One of them was a black woman named Julie Spence.

Two black characters appeared as members of the Deadly Dozen, Jake Jensen and Michael Miller. Combat Kelly #1 (1972) came out the same month as Hero for Hire #1, but the Deadly Dozen debuted in Sgt. Fury just before that.

The first black hero to headline a Marvel title solo was Luke Cage, who debuted in Hero for Hire #1 (1972).

Marvel's next black lead was a Western one, Reno Jones. He co-starred in The Gunhawks #1-#6 (where he was billed first above the title) and was solo-featured in Gunhawk #7 (1972-73).

A black woman named Georgia Jenkins was one of the three stars of Night Nurse (1972-73).

Melba Manton starred in back-up stories in Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #132 and Supergirl #6 in 1973.

Shilo Norman debuted in Mister Miracle #15 (1973).

The Living Mummy debuted the same month in Supernatural Thrillers #5, but didn't become an ongoing character until #7 the next year.

Blade debuted in Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973). M'Shulla from "Killraven" debuted the same month in Amazing Adventures #19. That was also the month Jungle Action #5 came out.

Brother Voodoo debuted in Strange Tales #169 (1973), the same month Jungle Action #6 came out.

The line-up of the Green Team from 1st Issue Special #2 (1975) included Abdul Smith. Non-Fat of the Dingbats of Danger Street from #5 (1975) was drawn black but coloured white. 

Josh and Rosabel Newton appeared in Justice, Inc. in 1975.

Bill Foster's Black Goliath identity was introduced in Power Man early in 1975, and he received a title later in the year. He was based on the west coast, so he guested in The Champions.

Machiste was introduced in Warlord #2 (1975).

Tyroc met the Legion of Super-Heroes in Superboy #216 (1976) and joined two issues later.

Black Lightning debuted in Black Lightning #1 (1977).

Zula was introduced in Conan the Barbarian #84 (1977).

I've used on-sale dates.

(corrected)

For further context I'll mention Archie's Valerie Smith (1969), Chuck Clayton and Coach Clayton (1971); Big Sonny, who appeared in one-pagers in misc. DC teen humour titles in 1971; and Calvin, the star of Marvel's Li'l Kids #10-#12 (1972-73).

Fitzgerald Publications published Fast Willie Jackson in 1976-77, and a title about black men and women of history called Golden Legacy.

Black Goliath being on the West Coast might account for not being invited to join the Avengers, despite his connection to Henry Pym. And I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's read the issue of Champions Luke refers to lately (it's been 40 years or more for me). Did they offer him membership? If so, why did he turn it down (since he obviously didn't join)? 

Luke, your mention of Shadow Lass made me wonder if you thought she was supposed to be black, but came out blue. Was she? Is there some story about this I haven't heard? Otherwise, if we're mentioning non-white Legionnaires, Brainiac 5 and Chameleon Boy preceded her. Tyroc, who was very deliberately black, came after.

You didn't mention Lothar, who was Mandrake's assistant and later his full partner. Mandrake made it to comic books as early as 1960 (some publisher named "L. Miller"), and I just finished reading the King comics run (1966-67). He still spoke pidgin English in those, but he didn't appear to be a servant -- Mandrake and Lothar refer to each other as friends, and Lothar doesn't carry the luggage or otherwise act like a servant (at least on panel). He acts heroically on his own initiative, and while he takes Mandrake's orders he doesn't appear to be subservient. He's more partner than sidekick in these issues, but probably somewhere in between.

Reno Jones starred solo in Gunhawk #7 because his white partner was killed in issue #6. I don't know if that was always the plan, or if they were trying to goose sales on a dying title. I'd sure like to know the backstory on that title. since -- as you noted, Luke -- the black guy had star billing from the get-go. Was it meant to jump on the blaxploitation bandwagon?

Chiming in on Randy's discussion of the heart-shaped herb, I also thought of the parallel with the Super-Soldier Serum, and it seems apt. Both Cap and Panther are theoretically "peak human," but both seem to operate on a level slightly higher level than that. Both have achieved eye-popping superhuman feats. and some of what they do daily -- Cap figuring shield-bounce angles, Panther's tracking abilities -- are clearly superhuman.

Incidentally, Panther lost his Panther abilities when he went into a coma and Shuri became the Panther. But he has new abilities granted by the Oshira, the Wakandan gods. For one thing, he now tracks people by their souls, not their smell. And he is "King of the Dead," able to communicate with his ancestors. 

And it was indeed Priest who established that the herb was toxic to those not of the royal line, which is why it poisoned Killmonger. I may be speaking out of school here, but I think Ta-Nahesi Coates has established that it isn't royal blood that is the determinant, but whether or not Bast deems you worthy. If she gives you the thumbs down. then you're poisoned instead of Panthered. I'm a little fuzzy on that, so I could be wrong.

I should note here that Killmonger was of royal blood in the movie, whereas he was not in the comics. So his herb experience doesn't teach us anything beyond what Priest established.

And yes. the Orisha -- the Wakandan gods -- are very real in Coates' Black Panther. Which should hardly be surprising. since various other pantheons are real in the Marvel U, including the Norse. Greco-Roman, Inuit and Egyptian. One of the Hercules miniseries included some Asian gods, but I can't remember what they were. Japanese? Chinese? Korean? Hopefully someone here remembers.

Captain Comics said:

Luke, your mention of Shadow Lass made me wonder if you thought she was supposed to be black, but came out blue.... Is there some story about this I haven't heard?

There's no story you haven't heard. I think it's possible she was intended to suggest a black person, but I've not seen that stated.

Mike Grell may have drawn her to look non-Caucasian in the 1970s, but with his style it's hard to tell. For example, on the splash page of the second story from Superboy #211 she could be non-Caucasian, but her features are similar to Cosmic Boy's.

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