Monday Morning Paperback: Black Panther

In honor of Black History Month and of course, the upcoming debut of Marvel's Black Panther Movie February 16th,  I dedicate this segment of MMP to the first Black Superhero of Comicdom, Tchalla, mostly known as The Black Panther!

"Why are they’re not Black people in comics? Why aren’t they being represented"?
-Jack Kirby when discussing that it was his idea to create Black Panther.
From an archived interview. And to further elaborate on Kirby's contribution and co-creation of the Black Panther, read this interview!

This interview will always resonate within my geek soul as it lends further credence that Jack Kirby was responsible for a character who was a concept ahead of its time (the racially charged 60’s and the Civil rights era.) in both pop culture and most importantly, racial identification. It’s true to a certain extent, that Stan Lee helped to further embellish and establish BP’s concept, but the idea was originally Kirby’s as were Silver Surfer along with a few other characters and concepts from the House of “Ideas”.

Take a character who is a ruler of a fictional isolationist African nation imbued with super strength, speed and scientific intellect and what you have here is a force to be reckoned with!

Synopsis: Wakanda, a nation located within the heart of Africa contains sacred mounds enriched with a rare element called- Vibranium. you know the one that is responsible for Captain America’s shield. And it was due to that same element known as Vibranium, T’challa’s father and Chieftain, T’chaka was killed by the Dutch Scientist Uylsses Klaw, when he refused to hand over the allow to him and thus began T’challa’s destiny as the new monarch of Wakanda and its guardian; The Black Panther!

“One of the titles was Jungle Action, a collection of jungle genre comics from the 1950s, mostly detailing white men and women saving Africans or being threatened by them. I voiced a lament that I thought it was a shame that in 1973 Marvel was printing these stories, and couldn't we have a black African hero.”
-Writer Don McGregor of Marvel’s critically acclaimed Jungle Action featuring Black Panther

Panther Vs the KKK in this excellent arc from Marvel's Jungle Action courtesy of Don McGregor and Rich Buckler.

What sets Black Panther apart from other characters at the time, would be that he is more dignified without the need for stereotypical tropes (I’m looking at you, Luke Cage!) is that he’s highly educated, does not conform to the wishes of other nations, devoid of corruption unlike certain real life African leaders, Politicians and what have ye, also he is capable of holding his own against the likes of The Fantastic Four, Avengers which he eventually joined. With his status as a scientist, inventor, martial artist, acrobat and tactician, these traits put BP on equal ground with well-established characters such as Captain America, Reed Richards and Batman!

As a matter of fact, the Black Panther has been often compared to the latter because of a few similarities; both lost their parent(s) to a murderer, both are scientists/inventors, have some mysterious dark presence, Animal themed nomenclatures and of course T’challa and (Bruce) Wayne have impeccable hand to hand fighting techniques and prowess. (See Batman vsBlack Panther fanboy faceoff.)
 Ranked as the 51st greatest comic book hero, Black Panther deserves his place amongst the likes of other major comic characters.
For more about this legendary character, here are a just a few recommended trades you can find via Amazon Kindle store or Comixology. (They’re the same damn company since Amazon acquired the digital Comicbook retailer.)

1. Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?

A Nation in Crisis! Klaw! Captain America gets neutered! Deathloks?!!?

This is one of my favorite reads if not the favorite of Black Panther. Writer Reginald Hudlin throws in the kitchen sink with this reintroduction of the titular hero. The plot comes off pretty much like a political thriller filled with suspense, intrigue and even better-a nice sick burn aimed toward the Bush Administration. I can only imagine how Mr. Hudlin would've handled the current administration as there is a plethora of material to work with!

This Four- volume comic has its share of interesting flashback sequences to fill in any plausible gaps relating to the protagonist’s background and one that stands out, is T’Chaka’s run in with a certain Star-spangled Avenger and while somewhat controversial, it's highly credible.

Artist John Romita provides a simplistic yet comprehensible aesthetic toward the series and if you liked his previous works such as Kick-Ass or Daredevil: The Man without fear, you won’t be disappointed with the artwork.

The Comic could’ve easily have been adapted into a Movie but instead Marvel & Black Entertainment Television took the cheaper animation route and the results are pretty good for what I deem as a “Motion comic”.

2 .Black Panther Vol.1&2 (Jack Kirby)

The King does an amazing and underappreciated run of this short-lived comic. The King Solomon Mines arc preceded some of the things that are now witnessed from the Indiana Jones series. The most fascinating part about this run, is how Jack had (cleverly) threw in Star Wars like characters who were part of some Science fiction theme park attraction, however, this was during the time when Kirby was commissioned by the government to create conceptual sketches and designs for a faux tourist attraction called Lords of Light. Said designs were used as a proxy to rescue hostages in Iran.
(See Argo)

Also, Kirby’s art packs a mean punch and while there’s B-Movie dialogue accompanied by laughably titled characters like "The Black Musketeers", Kirby's last take on the Panther, was highly entertaining nonetheless.

3. Black Panther: Civil War

Also from Hudlin, is the then married King T'Challa and Queen Ororo, who embark on a honeymoon and most importantly a diplomatic world tour that will have them spanning the globe  while running into familiar faces Dr. Doom, Namor and to POTUS just to name a few. T’challa finds himself at odds with both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. It’s a solid tour de force with interesting dialogue, good art and action sequences I rate this as one of the better tie in issues for the Civil War storyline. BP Civil War gives a refreshing take on an outsider’s approach to heroes (who are also his friends) divided.

4. Captain America: Flags of our Fathers

For the first time ever, read the full story of the first encounter between Captain America and the Black Panther! (Think of it as the expanded scene of that fight between Cap and then Panther, T’chaka!)

Set during World War Two the Black Panther, featuring a young and somewhat inexperienced Steve Rogers battles that Nazi of Nazis-The Red Skull! Part of the storyline is told from Corporal Gabe Jones’ perspective as an enlisted member of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos-also, he’s Black so right off the bat you're headed to familiar territory whether it’s the treatment of Black soldiers who had bravely served in "The Great War" or the real reason why Gabe was recruited for Fury's division and it's very telling!

Hitler plans to launch a Missile within the United States and the only source that can prevent it from being knocked off its trajectory is Vibranium.

This leads to the Nazis attempt at invading Wakanda of course and all hell breaks loose and by that, I mean, Tchaka rips a new a-hole into Hitler’s invading forces!

Flags of our fathers served as yet another solid effort by Hudlin and this time, Denys Cowan who handed the artwork for the Black Panther miniseries well over 30 Years ago. If you happen to be a fan of both Cap and Panther like I am, this is the book for you!

“In time you will represent to your people what the Black Panther represents to Wakanda. And that is a good thing. But today, I must teach you a lesson”.

Anyway, these are but a sample of recommended Trades of this gamechanging hero that you can find at electronic distribution retailers like Amazon for a discounted price!
"Hail to this King, baby"!