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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Richard Willis said:

I read most of the Sgt Fury title when it was originally published. I don't remember if they ever addressed (faced the reality of) the segregation in the military at the time. Did they explain how Gabe Jones was able to be in the Howling Commandos? I hate when fiction pretends things were always the same as today.

I'm not a devotee of Sgt. Fury, so I don't know the answer to your question. Over at DC, Sgt. Rock's Combat-Happy Joes of Easy Company included a Black man (Jackie Johnson, modeled on boxer Jack Johnson) and an American Indian (Little Sure Shot). Very late in the run, Jackie Johnson's presence was explained by Rock in a throwaway line of dialogue: It was a fluke. 

And there was this issue of JLA from 1967.

Jim Wilson first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #131 (1970).

Flippa Dippa of the 1970s Newboy Legion debuted in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #133 (1970).

Leia Taylor, the Falcon's radical girlfriend, debuted in Captain America #139 (1971).

John Stewart first appeared in Green Lantern #87 (1971). He guested in Justice League of America in 1973 but didn't become a regularly-used character until the 80s.

In the early Counter-Earth Adam Warlock stories he had a group of young followers. They included a black youth named Jason Grey. They debuted in the feature's brief Marvel Premiere run, in 1972.

Abe Brown of the Sons of the Tiger debuted in The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1 (1974).

Dandy Dandridge was introduced in Captain Marvel #34 (1974).

Glory Grant was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #140 (1974).

Misty Knight, Marvel Team-Up #1 retcon aside, debuted in "Iron Fist" in Marvel Premiere #21 (1974). The GCD tells me her name was mentioned the previous issue.

I forgot to include Storm (1975) in my timeline.

DC published a licensed Welcome Back, Kotter title from 1976-77.

Gravedigger was introduced in Men of War #1 (1977).

The Human Top of the Kid Commandos debuted at the start of 1978, in The Invaders #27. 

At the same point the "Superman vs. Muhammad Ali" tabloid appeared. Also Power Man became Power Man and Iron Fist on the covers with #50. (Iron Fist, Colleen and Misty had been introduced into the title two issues earlier.)

Lucius Fox first appeared in Batman #307 (1978).

Rhodey debuted the same month in Iron Man #118 (1978). But he wasn't immediately the important supporting character he became.

Further supporting characters from the 1970s Super-books include activist/columnist Dave Stevens, policeman Jim Corrigan, Tina Ames, and Frank Morris, the doorman of Clark Kent's apartment building.

Richard Willis said:

I don't remember if they ever addressed (faced the reality of) the segregation in the military at the time. Did they explain how Gabe Jones was able to be in the Howling Commandos?

They were a hand-picked unit.

The net tells me the Unknown Soldier had a black aide-de-camp early on. I can't speak to how often he appeared. He can be seen on the cover of Star Spangled War Stories #156 (1971).

Chat Noir first appeared in Star Spangled War Stories #155 (1970). I can't be specific about when he became a recurring character.

Let’s not forget Weird Fantasy #18 (1953) “Judgement Day!”

Other Silver Age anti-racism stories include "The Hate-Monger!" (Fantastic Four #21, 1963), "The Fangs of the Desert Fox!" (Sgt. Fury #6, 1964), "What's the Color of Your Blood?" ("Sgt. Rock", Our Army At War #160, 1965), and the first Sons of the Serpent story (The Avengers #32-#33, 1966).

As to the Avengers membership in the early to mid-70s, it helps to recall that it was largely based on what characters the writer wanted to use with little editorial mandate.  When Roy Thomas took over from Stan Lee in the mid-60s, Lee maintained editorial control and wanted use of the Big Three (Thor, Iron Man & Captain America) to be very limited and while I’m not sure I believe it was Lee’s instruction to have Cap written out of the title and replaced by the Black Panther circa 1967.  Although the Black Panther was reputedly specifically created with the idea of giving him his own title in 1966, along with Wyatt Wingfoot and Black Bolt and the other Inhumans, publisher Goodman was unable to expand Marvel’s titles at the time and, I would guess, by the time Marvel was released from contractual restrictions in 1968 as to the number of titles Marvel could publish each month, Goodman apparently got cold feet about releasing a title starring a black character.  By 1971, Lee had relented to allow Thomas to bring back the Big Three in the Avengers, and when Thomas took over as editor and gave the writing job to Steve Englehart, Englehart had more freedom to use whatever characters he wanted, or create new ones, although likely Thomas and later editors insisted that at least two of the Big Three continue to maintain a regular presence in the team for the sake of attracting more readers.  Under Englehart and later writers, there were usually at least two significant female characters in most stories, mainly Wanda and Mantis (the first and so far as I know only Asian – or at least half-Asian – character to be a regular character in the Avengers, not counting irregularly appearing Asian villains such as the Mandarin and Radioactive Man) for most of his early run, then, after Mantis’ departure, adding Moondragon and Patsy Walker/Hellcat for the remainder of his run.  Jim Shooter and other writers also usually included more women in their Avengers stories. 

As to black characters, there weren’t too many of those during at least the first 25 years of Avengers history, limited to the Black Panther in the late 60s to about 1974 when he was written out as a regular character in the title and the Falcon joining up a few years later, circa 1978 – and per the storyline added to the team specifically because he is black.  He didn’t stay long, hardly a year, however, and it wasn’t until a new black female character, Monica Rambeau, also known as Captain Marvel for a time came aboard in the early 80s that the Avengers again had a recurring black character. 

I’d guess there was no editorial mandate regarding racial diversity in the Avengers, although it seems clear that Monica Rambeau was specifically created to add more diversity to a team that was never particularly racially diverse throughout most of its now nearly 55 year old history.  And even now, in the Marvel Universe (but also DC's) there isn’t any prominent Hispanic/Native American super-hero -- Red Wolf, Thunderbird and Warpath hardly count, IMO, although Coyote may come close, but even he's fairly obscure now.  Shang-Chi may be the best known Asian super-hero  -- and like Mantis he’s half European in ancestry – but outside of aficionados of Bronze Age Marvel Comics, he’s hardly well-known.  In Marvel’s cinematic universe, Mantis doesn’t appear to have any Earthly heritage, Asian or otherwise, at all, and even the Ancient One was converted from a Tibetan man to an Irish woman.  Wong and Colleen Wing are thus far the most significant Asian characters in the movie/tv incarnation of the Marvel Universe, and both in supporting roles.  At least the cinematic Wong has a much stronger personality than his comics counterpart of the Silver & Bronze ages.

It occurred to me a bit after my previous post that I had forgotten about the new Muslim/Arab Ms. Marvel as well as the new Hispanic Ultimate Spider-Man as examples of diversity of recent vintage at Marvel, as well as the Hispanic White Tiger of the Bronze Age, although he was killed off and was hardly as iconic a character as the Black Panther (and possibly being named after a rare "white" Asian big cat didn't help; black panthers may not be unique to Africa but at least they are very much a variant of a big cat that is native to Africa; Kirby's original name for T'Challa, Coal Tiger, would not only have sounded absurd but been very inappropriate as tigers have never been native to any part of Africa).

ClarkKent_DC said:

Richard Willis said:

I read most of the Sgt Fury title when it was originally published. I don't remember if they ever addressed (faced the reality of) the segregation in the military at the time. Did they explain how Gabe Jones was able to be in the Howling Commandos? I hate when fiction pretends things were always the same as today.

I'm not a devotee of Sgt. Fury, so I don't know the answer to your question. Over at DC, Sgt. Rock's Combat-Happy Joes of Easy Company included a Black man (Jackie Johnson, modeled on boxer Jack Johnson) and an American Indian (Little Sure Shot). Very late in the run, Jackie Johnson's presence was explained by Rock in a throwaway line of dialogue: It was a fluke. 

I don't have every issue of Sgt. Fury, so I cannot state if this was ever addressed in story proper, but it's easy enough to establish a plausible justification for Gabe being a Howling Commando.

When Captain Sam Sawyer was assigned the task of forming the First Attack Squad (the official designation for Fury's squad of Rangers), he was given carte blanche to select whomever he wanted to be in the unit.  Sawyer was the kind of fellow who would have picked the best qualified men for the squad without giving a damn about their race or religious orientation.  And he was also hard-nosed enough to make his selection of Gabe as a Howler stick, regardless of the Army's segregation policies.

Thus:  Gabe was among the best qualified, so Gabe was in.

There's a good story in there somewhere.

Goodman not releasing a comic in1968 featuring a title black character was an unfortunate reflection of the times. Similar to TV at the time, comics depended upon a product that would be well received nationwide. Local distributors in many parts of the country would simply have withheld the title from being displayed, which would have been an unsustainable loss for Marvel.

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