So today I begin a retrospective of the first black superhero: T’Challa, aka The Black Panther. And there’s no better place to start then at the beginning…Fantastic Four #52 and 53 (1966) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I’ll try to cover every appearance I can find, but this isn’t an easy one to do. He’s had several solo books, some of which ran for a few years, but mostly he’s appeared in other people’s books. That means I have to hunt down the appearances and really do my research. But today I’m covering his first few appearances, and those are easy to track down. In fact, I’ve already covered them as part of my review of Every Issue of the Fantastic Four and Every Issue of the Avengers.
Black Panther was really created byJack Kirby (even though Stan Lee claimed half the credit), and was introduced in his homeland of Wakanda in Africa in Fantastic Four #52-53.
The Fantastic Four go to Wakanda because they’ve heard that the nation is light years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of technology. Right away, this is a big break from the traditional depictions of Africans in the 1960s, and quickly we see T’Challa defeat the entire team—so he is established as a brilliant man and a powerful force, but at the same time, his whole country is full of really smart non-American black people.
I don’t think anyone in popular culture had come close to this kind of a story before. Truly groundbreaking. And I can’t think of too many people who have done anything like this ever since, either.
After that, he appears briefly in Fantastic Four #56 (as part of the origin story for The Klaw) and #60, and then in Fantastic Four Annual #5 (where Jack Kirby gets a writing credit!) in which he meets another king and future Illuminati companion Black Bolt. It’s a fairly good story, but not as great as his next appearance.
T’Challa meets and teams up with Captain America in the anthology title Tales of Suspense (#97-99) in 1968, to fight Baron Zemo. A very tasty three issues.
I hope you enjoy this look at Black Panther. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think!
Next: Black Panther joins the Avengers!