T’Challa , the Orphan King, ruler of Wakanda, King of the Dead and ritual leader of the Panther Clan, is the richest fictional character in the Marvel Universe and the first black hero in its history , something almost unheard of when he first appeared. time in the 60s.
Its creation led to the appearance of other characters such as Luke Cage or Falcon (the Falcon), thus contributing to the diversity within the world of comics at a time when that term barely made sense.
Thanks to the connection with the Panther God , as well as the ingestion of a heart-shaped herb that only grows in Wakanda, one who holds the title of Black Panther can enhance his senses, strength, agility and resistance above those of a normal human being.
The title is inherited from father to son within the Panther Clan, one of the Wakandan tribes. However, even though the title is hereditary , each Black Panther must earn their right to claim it.
The characteristic clothing of the Black Panther is a ceremonial garb worn both in battle and in diplomatic meetings.
Black Panther’s story originates from the fictional nation of Wakanda , a small nation situated in equatorial Africa, surrounded by the nations of Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, and characterized in the comic as the only African country that was never colonized. With no outside powers to extract its resources or enforce policies of exploitation, Wakanda has become the most technologically advanced country on Earth, rich in natural resources such as vibranium .
Wakanda is a country with a tribal organization in which politics and religion intermingle. In fact, the title of Black Panther is an honorary title for the leader of all the Wakandan tribes, head of state and protector of Wakanda, but it also refers to the chosen one of the Panther God (the deity known to the Egyptians as Bast). Black Panther is both a political leader and a religious leader, as well as a unifying symbol for the various tribes of his nation.
T’Challa has learned that he cannot lead his people without living among them. For this reason, despite receiving academic training at universities abroad and spending long periods as a member of the Avengers, he always ends up returning to his country, striving to reconcile the two extremes of Wakandan culture, trying to ensure that the technological and the tribal coexist . peaceably.
Vibranium, the metal of the stars
This fictitious metal from a crashed meteorite in Wakandan lands has surprising properties. Vibranium is capable of absorbing all vibrations , while also being extremely light and highly resistant to any type of impact. The Black Panther suit and Captain America’s shield are made from this material.
Knowing the potential of the metal, the previous Black Panthers decided to isolate Wakanda from the rest of the world to safeguard the secret and protected the vibranium for years. However, when criminal scientist Ulysses Klaw traveled to Wakanda to collect vibranium samples to build a sonic transformer, T’Chaka (T’Challa’s father and former Black Panther) objected and was killed by the villain.
Origin and first appearance
In 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were at the creative peak of their Fantastic Four collection , constantly introducing characters and concepts that are still fundamental pillars of the Marvel Universe to this day. One of those characters was Black Panther.
However, most people are unaware that Black Panther was a revision of a character Kirby had previously designed: Coal Tiger , the Coal Tiger. This character, with a much more colorful aesthetic and without a mask, was a proposal from the cartoonist for a future regular series that never saw the light of day, probably because a collection starring a black hero was too risky for 1965. As soon as he could , Jack “The King” Kirby reintroduced the character into Marvel’s then-star collection.
In what was his comics debut in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #52 USA (July 1966), T’Challa invited the First Family to his country in order to test his skills against them and see if they were up to the task. height of the challenge that awaited him, since Ulysses Klaw, the murderer of his father, had returned to Wakanda again with the intention of seizing the vibranium. In that first appearance of Wakanda, Africa was still seen as the primitive, monolithic continent that had appeared in the Tarzan movies.
T’Challa has since become one of the most valued allies of the Fantastic Four, also forming part of the group on occasion. He would also be a member of other groups, such as the Avengers and the Illuminati, demonstrating his value as a fundamental piece within the Marvel Universe.
black panther avenger
After fighting together to defeat Baron Zemo, Captain America asked T’Challa to consider taking up his position with the Avengers while he took a leave of absence. Black Panther accepted and joined the group at a time when it was enjoying one of its most brilliant stages, led by Roy Thomas and John Buscema.
T’Challa officially joined the team in Avengers Vol. 1 #51 USA (April 1968), and more than proved his worth as an Avenger. However, his Wakandan roots would end up outweighing his alliance with the team and T’Challa had to divide his time between his duties as monarch and his duty as a member of the Avengers, so his presence on the team became somewhat irregular, constantly traveling between his native country and the United States.
Black Panther’s first stay among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes opened him up to the rest of the Marvel Universe and offered him the chance to go on adventures far from Wakanda.
Also at this stage we are introduced for the first time to the character of M’Baku (known from now on as Ape Man), one of Wakanda’s most seasoned warriors, and a remnant of a bygone era.
M’Baku, in his white gorilla tribal garb, intended to stage a coup to overthrow the monarch and seize the throne.
I walk alone
After leaving the ranks of the Avengers, T’Challa set out on his own path. The first solo series of our hero received the unoriginal name of Jungle Action , which would debut in 1973 under the pen of Don McGregor .
McGregor’s stage (again a white writer for a black character) humanized the people of Wakanda and dealt with tremendously interesting and even controversial issues: how a monarchical government would be received at that time, what the citizens of an African isolationist country might think of a king who spends most of his time abroad with white people, the conflicts arising from being a superhero and a king at the same time…
The biggest contribution to these stories is undoubtedly their villain, an exile from Wakanda named Erik Killmonger , one of T’Challa’s great nemesis and the villain of the Marvel Studios movie.
During Klaw’s attempts to seize Wakandan vibranium years earlier, the Master of Sound had kidnapped several native Wakandan families, including Killmonger’s (whose real name was N’Jadaka), and forced them to work for him. His parents died during the subsequent battle between T’Challa and Klaw, but he remained a prisoner of Klaw until he managed to escape to the United States, returning years later to Wakanda, already under the name of Erik Killmonger, consumed by hatred and revenge on the monarch.
At this stage he also faced a criminal association known as “El Clan”, which bore more than a reasonable resemblance to the Ku Klux Klan .
With the McGregor era over, Black Panther’s path at Marvel was a bit more erratic. Jack Kirby relaunched the hero in 1977 in a collection already named after him, taking care of the script and drawing.
Far from the activism of his predecessor, the artist decided to focus more on T’Challa’s adventurous tone than on his political and cultural roots, in what was a waste of imagination, embracing adventure in its most pulp form .
Christopher Priest was the first black writer to play the character, in a mythical and revered stage that shamelessly refers to blaxploitation , with stories full of political satire and social demands .
Priest’s Black Panther takes advantage of its superhero comic context to acidly deal with such interesting problems as the cultural clash between Africa and the nations of the West, the political tensions of the African continent or the reality of the streets inhabited by the black community of the United States. Joined.
Although time has highlighted Priest as one of the most important writers of Black Panther, his stage was not fully appreciated at the time, although it is undeniable that he revolutionized the character.
He is not only the creator of the Dora Milaje , the body of elite female warriors who have sworn to serve the throne of Wakanda and whoever sits on it, but also of Nakia and Shuri , all of them very relevant characters in the movie Black Panther , from Marvel Studios.
By the way, the role of Shuri , T’Challa’s sister, would increase to the point that the young woman would express her intention to inherit the mantle of Black Panther in the future and thus become the protector of her people, which It would happen later during a stage in which T’Challa renounced the mantle.
The prestigious writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates has subsequently been in charge of narrating the adventures of T’Challa, giving them a greater political content and exploring the meaning of the concept of nation, the relationship between a country, its people and its rulers, and the conflict between tradition and the need to evolve to adapt to the new challenges posed by the present.
I married a goddess
The union of T’Challa , avenger and king, and Ororo Munroe , known as Storm (Storm), one of the most powerful mutants and leader of the X-Men, is one of the most important events in the history of both characters, despite the fact that their marriage was cut short sooner than expected.
T’Challa and Ororo met when they were both children, during one of the future leader of the X-Men’s journeys in search of their roots. The heir to the throne of Wakanda was kidnapped by a white supremacist and she used her newfound powers to rescue him, instantly developing a special chemistry between them and a friendship that lasts to this day.
Both embarked on different paths, he with the Avengers and she with the X-Men, meeting on multiple occasions until, finally, T’Challa proposed to her, getting married in Black Panther vol. 4 #18 USA (2006), surrounded by his fellow superheroes, who were at that time engaged in the Civil War.
Six years later, during the Avengers vs. X-Men , T’Challa, and Ororo took sides during the conflict, which brought irreparable damage to Wakanda, and their marriage was annulled by the priests of the Panther Clan.
During their brief but intense marriage, the two were part of the Fantastic Four, alongside the Thing and the Human Torch, during a temporary absence from Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman.
girls are warriors
The Dora Milaje — adored ones (the adored ones) — are an elite corps made up of women from all Wakanda tribes and the personal bodyguards of Black Panther, who have acquired great resonance after their debut on the big screen. As well as being a potential inspiration for the women in today’s audience, they are also a window into an almost forgotten part of African history.
One of its main antecedents was the famous female African military corps from Dahomey, West Africa (now the Republic of Benin), whom the French called the “Dahomey Amazons” , after the female warriors of Greek mythology.
The figure of these warriors is very important because it presents the idea of a political system in which men and women jointly control political institutions.
Although the nation has a king, in the Marvel Studios film he depends on the central female characters: his mother Ramona (adviser to the king), Nakia (a spy and insurrectionist), Shuri (princess and scientific eminence of Wakanda) and Okoye (advisor to the king). of the king and general of the Dora Milaje).
As many Africanist historians have attested, this system also appears in the real history of pre-colonial Africa.
For black women and girls around the world, Wakanda represents a fictional world (but based on an almost forgotten reality), in which their beauty, intelligence and strength are accepted as the norm by society, destroying many stereotypes that still persist in our current society.
Black Panther matters , the keys to the film’s success
What makes Black Panther such an important figure in American popular culture—as well as black popular culture—is the innovative portrayal of its characters as more than just stereotypes.
We have to take into account the historical context of its first appearance in 1966, when the context of civil rights and the flourishing movement of black power was marking an intense transformation at the political and social level.
Particularly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement , its importance sadly continues, being an allegory for the moment we live in, where racial tensions (especially in American society) continue to come to the fore.
One of the film’s posters features Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa) in his suit sitting on his throne in a clear homage to the iconic image of the Black Panthers co-founder. Huey P. Newton , seated in a wicker chair, spear in one hand and rifle in the other, stands ready for battle and defiant against the colonial powers that have historically oppressed the black community.
Black is the new black
As the first film to star a black superhero in a cinematic universe that has spent its first ten years focusing primarily on white characters, Black Panther underscores the chasm between black and white, in society and in the Hollywood industry itself.
After making his big-screen debut in Captain America: Civil War , the machinery at Marvel Studios went into overdrive to bring us a movie that was more than just an adventure story.
The participation of black actors, producers, musicians and writers was applauded by the media (and by Michelle Obama’s Twitter), which welcomed this initiative as an action against latent racism in the US government.
The enormous success of Ryan Coogler ‘s film , breaking box offices and conquering audiences and critics alike (it was, at its premiere, the best-rated superhero film on Rotten Tomatoes), has made Black Panther a rabidly topical character and has placed in the front row, where it has always deserved to be. It is only necessary to see all the merchandising that has been generated around it and the fever that it has unleashed throughout the world, and it can already be said that it has become a milestone. Long live the king!
Blade also wanted to be Black Panther
In the mid-’90s, when he was still a blockbuster actor in Hollywood, Wesley Snipes set out to bring Black Panther, a character he always declared himself a fan of, to the big screen.
Although this project did not become a reality, it did pave the way for Blade , the first movie about a Marvel character to become a hit.