There was a time when Black Panther was my favorite character. But I can't tell you exactly how he became my favorite character. Unlike the way John Byrne's Fantastic Four and Walt Simonson's Thor led me directly to the Lee/Kirby runs, my path to Black Panther was less direct and decidedly non-linear. However it was I got there, I got there. On the Old Board I led an "Early Black Panther" discussion which traced every BP appearance in chronological order but it stopped at "Panther's Rage." It had been my intention, at the time, to do "Panther's Rage" (1973), "Panther's Quest" (1989) and "Panther's Prey" (1991) as separate discussions, but I took a break after when I got to Jungle Action and never came back to it. 

Skip ahead to 2024. Even 1991 seems "early" now. Lately I have been working toward fulfilling a resolution to actually read some of those collected editions I've been buying (you may have noticed if you've been reading my recent posts ans threads), because (say it with me now), "buying new comics and not reading them is stupid." Back in the '80s (and even in my previous "Early Black Panther" discussion), I had to make my way through the originals. But now, because we live in the "Golden Age of Reprints," I am able to cover an entire decade (1966 through 1976) between the two covers of a single omnibus. (Man, comic book collectors have it easy these days!) I hate to repeat myself (even if that old discussion is no longer available), but I bought the Black Panther: The Early Years omnibus back in 2022 and I have yet to read it.

I don't plan to post every day, maybe every couple of days, but we'll see. Rather than cover every single appearance of the Black Panther as I did last time, I plan to follow the format of the omnibus and hit just the key appearances. If my resolve holds, I plan to take this discussion beyond the omnibus all the way up to "Panther's Prey." 

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  • FANTASTIC FOUR #52-54 & 56:


    Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the world's first Black superhero in Fantastic Four #52, 1966. T'Challa, king of the African nation of Wakanda, invites the Fantastic Four to visit him in his homeland. They accept, but he ends up attacking them as a test of his own abilities. After that rough start, they become friends. The initial two-part story not only presents the origin and first appearance of the Black Panther, but also his arch enemy Klaw, Master of Sound. (I still get a kick out of Mr. Fantastic's admiration of T'Challa's stereo: "Look at that elaborate stereo music system--complete with tape recorder!" Ooh!) Unfortunately, the Wakandans are colored in that dusky grey Marvel used  at the time because the coloring techniques of the day were incapable of rendering an accurate and consistant Negro skin tone.

    Lee and Kirby's pacing in those days would cary over certain plot elements from a completed storyline into the next issue before introducing another; no "jumping off point" here (not that anyone would want one). Consequently, the omnibus present only the first eight pages of #54 before sequing into the next story. At that point, Johnny Storm and Wyatt Wingfoot continue their quest to free the Inhumans (trapped behind a "negative zone" in the Hidden Refuge), and the Thing fights the Silver Surfer in #55. Klaw returns (with a new and improved power set) in #56, but the Black Panther makes only a cameo appearance at the end, at which point a sub-plot with Dr. Doom and the Silver surfer is introduced.

  • My earliest Black Panther memory:


    I get what they were aiming for in those FF issues but it's really so wrapped up in the fantasy of the "Exotic African Prince" and it hasn't aged well. 

    That the super-scientific Wakandans still dress like extras in a 1940s Tarzan film shows stagnation rather than progress.

    Of course, we could have had this:


    I'd like to think that either Stan or Jack soon realized (much like Edgar Rice Burroughs) that there are no tigers in Africa!

    • I get what they were aiming for in those FF issues but it's really so wrapped up in the fantasy of the "Exotic African Prince" and it hasn't aged well. 

      Also, Ben Grimm was extremely rude to his host, totally uncalled for.

    • It is difficult for me to determine, with any degree of certainty, what my first "Black Panther" comic was because I acquired them as backissues, but it was either Avengers #53 or Fantastic Four Annual #5.



    When Baron Zemo and his forces attack Wakanda, the Black Panther notifies Captain America even though the two have never met. But isn't Baron Zemo dead? Once the mystery has been solved, Capatin America offers the Black Panther his vacated spot in the Avengers. 

    • This was when they started splitting up the split books but What If Captain America got his own title and the Black Panther took his spot in Tales of Suspense or ToS continued with the Panther and another character!

  • The Black Panther travels to New York City to accept Captain America's invitation to join the Avengers, only to find Goliath, Hawkeye and the Wasp dead, seemingly murdered in their own headquarters.

    AVENGERS #52:


    Roy Thomas: "#52 was inked by Vince Colletta. Once again, I have a clear vision of Buscema's pencils, and a lingering sadness that, so far as I know, there are no existing photocopies of the penciled pages. Although Vinnie was not primarily a penciler as Tuska was, I feel his inls were a bit better suited to John's style. Some would disagree. That's what makes horseracing... and comic books. If photocopies of those pencils still existed, they would show that John penciled the Black Panther sporting the full face mask he'd always worn previously. However, Stan wanted T'Challa to join the Avengers--probably agreeing with me at least to the extent that the mag needed one or two more popular heroes than a steady dose of second-stringers Goliath, Wasp, and Hawkeye--especially now that even Hercules had opted out.

    "The Panther, or course, was the first black super hero at Marvel--indeed, in all of American comic books--and stan decreed that the mask should be altered so that part of his face showed. Besides, Stan often said he was never wild about a hero wearing a full face mask, because you couldn't see his expression. That always seemed to me an odd viewpoint coming from the co-creator of spider-Man, but perhaps in the case of the sone of T'Chaka it made sense. Oh, Id have vetoed the change if I could've... but I couldn't, so I didn't worry much about it. Besides, who was I to argue with the instincts of the guy who'd guided Marvel to such success over the past seven years?"

  • T'challa's adventures with the Avengers continue, including a battle with Doctor Strange against the Ice Giant Ymir that brings them to Wakanda...

    AVENGERS #62


    Roy Thomas: "For some reason, the main thing I've always remembered about Avengers #62 is the fact that John and I worked out the basic plot over the phone one day. I got on the horn at the Marvel offices with only this vague idea of some Avengers accompanying the Black Panther too hi hidden Kingdom and finding the malevolent Man-Ape had taken over Wakanda. John and I talked things over for five or ten minutes, and then I told him that, while he started drawing it from what we'd discussed out, I'd sent the written plot off to him the next day. John replied, 'Nah, I've got enough.' And that was that. Turned out he did have enough. Sure, the issue is mostly just a big battle--but nobody except maybe Kirby ever choreoraphed comic book fights any better than John B.!"

  • After the battle with M'Baku, T'Challa returned to New York with the Avengers where he teamed up with another hero...

    DAREDEVIL #52:


    When Gene Colan left Daredevil #49 to do Avengers #63-65, Barry Smith drew Daredevil #50-52. Roy Thomas replaced Stan Lee in #51, and Daredevil joined them both in #52. (It was only recently I read this issue from DD's POV; now I'm reading it from BP's.) BWS was an obvious Jack Kirby clone at this point, and his early work wasn't all that impressive. He came into his own on Conan a year or so later, and this early work is now regarded as that of a talented and eager neophyte who has bigger things to come.

  • While Daredevil and the Avengers' exploits continue in America and beyond, T'Challa travels to Wakanda, but he returns to the United States in...

    AVENGERS #73:


    This issue introduces a new love interest for T'Challa, Monica Lynne. The story itself centers around the racist group "The Sons of the Serpent" as well as black liberal talk-show host Montague Hale and white conservative talk-show host Dan Dunn. When I got up to this point in my discussion on the old board, Commander Benson stepped in to provide some color commentary on the IRL personalities these characters were based on. As is my wont in such cases, I usually make a hardcopy of those posts and file them along with either the comic book between the bag and the board, or between pages of the collected edition. (Oftentimes I will forget such hardcopies are there and am rewarded with a nice little surprise when I next read the story in question.) However, in this case, I must have neglected to do so because I checked both places and could not find it. At this point I would like to impose upon Commander Benson to recreate his original comments (and I promise I'll keep better track of them this time). Let me just set off this Silver Age Emergency Beacon... there.

    While we are awaiting a response, here is what roy thomas had to say about Avengers #73:

    "Avengers #73 was what we called then a 'fill-in issue.' Frank Giacoia, one of the best inkers then in the business, always longed to become more of a penciler, but he was too slow and meticulous--and, in the end, reliant on swipes of earlier artists' work, even though he could draw quite well himself--ever to pencil stories on a regular basis. This was one of his periodic attempts to jump-start himself in that arena, and it worked well in terms of the story itself. Starting with his introductory splash with the head of the Sons of the Serpent inside an alter shaped like the mouth f a huge snake, he did a fine job. Particulaarly noteworthy is page 18, his montage of Black Panther action in which an actual dark leopard 'comes on little cat feet' at the top of the page. This tale had been designed with Giacoia in mind, showcasing one hero more prominently than the entire Avengers grouping... but it took the artist too long to draw, and it was clear to both him and to us that he wouldn't be able to do two issues in a row. Still, as one of the two (and a half) stories I worked on with Frank, it stands as a monument to what might have been. Fortunately, he was always in demand as an embellisher.

    "As for the plot itself--well, the two-part 'Sons of the Serpent' storyline that Stan and Don Heck had done a couple of years earlier, with its anti-racial-prejudice message, had always cried out for a sequel... and this was our version of same."

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