Hailing from the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, T’Challa has reigned as their king under the title of Black Panther.
Introduced as one of the first black characters in the Marvel Universe, Black Panther’s role within Marvel has been weaved into the stories of many of its oldest characters. Although he did not appear until 1966, his significance within the Marvel Universe continues to influence the lives of many of its superheroes to this day.
The well-educated, powerful, and wealthy hero has fought side-by-side with not only classic heroes but new characters as well. Known for his cunning strategies, unyielding strength, and dominance as a trained fighter, Black Panther has established himself as one of the elite superheroes of the universe.
With the introduction of Black Panther into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans will finally get to see this fascinating character come to life on the big screen. However, some casual fans are unaware of both his cultural significance and impact since his comic debut over 51 years ago. In this article, we will highlight some of the high points of Black Panther’s comic career and his significance to the world of Marvel Comics and beyond.
Here are 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Panther.
16. The First Black Superhero in Mainstream American Comics
Black Panther holds a significant title in comic book history. Prior to his debut, other African and African American comic book characters had existed, but not at any mainstream comic book companies. Some characters (for example, Lobo from Dell Comics) have headlines comic books at smaller companies. However, it was not until the publication Fantastic Four issue #52 (July 1966) that readers were introduced to the first Black superhero in mainstream comics.
Following his debut, other black characters entered into Marvel Comics including The Falcon (first African-American mainstream comic character), Luke Cage, Blade, Black Goliath, and Storm (the first black heroine).
Although Black Panther was the first black superhero for Marvel, he did not feature in a comic book until Jungle Action issue #5 (July 1973). Luke Cage actually has the distinction of starring in his own comic, Luke Cage, Hero For Hire, back in 1972.
15. Black Panther Predates the Black Panther Party
Given that Black Panther was created by comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s, many fans make the mistake of thinking his origins are connected to the 1966 founding of the Black Panther Party. However, this was not the case.
Although the “black panther” logo has historical ties back to the segregated World War II Black Panthers Tank Battalion, the character was not created with any revolutionary ties whatsoever. The Black Panther Party was actually formed four months after the character’s debut in Marvel Comics.
Additionally, his creation stemmed from a pulp adventure that features a black panther as a companion. Despite predating the revolutionary party’s creation, Marvel Comics continued to run into issues with readers believing his creation was a political statement.
14. Coal Tiger & Black Leopard
Trying to combat the confusion of Black Panther’s “alleged” creation, Lee decided to give the character a different name. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “…When he returned to the Fantastic Four series in 1972, he was officially renamed the Black Leopard, explaining to other characters that his earlier name ‘has — political connotations. I neither condemn nor condone those who have taken up the name, but T’Challa is a law unto himself’.”
However, neither Marvel nor the fans liked the new name, so it was changed back.
This is not the first alternate name for Black Panther. In his original concept for the character, Kirby called him named Coal Tiger, complete with an audacious tiger-striped and silver costume. Luckily, both ideas were scrapped for the final version.
13. “Black Panther” is Actually A Rank, Not A Name
Another misconception by fans is about the name Black Panther itself. Although most superheroes create alternate names for their superhero personas, Black Panther’s name is actually a title.
Back in his home country, T’Challa (Black Panther’s given name),Black Panther is a title passed down from protector to protector. Though the title is inherited, T’Challa went through his rite of passage to earn the title while his uncle S’yan maintained the title after his father’s murder.
T’Challa eventually gained the title of Black panther after defeating several champions from various Wakandan tribes, as well as his uncle. He then had the juices of the sacred Heart-shaped Herb applied to his body and gained the full powers associated with the title.
12. Richer than Iron Man and just as smart
The list of brilliant heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe has grown exponentially over the years. Fan favorites including Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Hank McCoy, and Reed Richards have been known as the elite in their respective fields and skillsets. However, new fans to the Black Panther character may be surprised to learn that T’Challa is considered one of the smartest characters in the Marvel Universe.
In Black Panther: The Man Without Fear issue #516, he even gets into a small argument with Spider-Man over whether he is the seventh or either smartest man in the world. Known to be a skilled strategist and inventor, he earned his Ph.D. in physics from Oxford University and had extensive knowledge of advanced technology.
Along with being highly intelligent, he is also very wealthy thanks to the reserves of the invaluable Vibranium reserves found only in Wakanda. By supplying only small portions of the metal to scientific institutions around the world, he was able to create great wealth for himself and his people. In fact, T’Challa ranked #1 on our list of the 12 Richest Characters in Marvel Comics with a net worth estimated at over 500 billion dollars.
11. Created quinjets and Cap’s shield
Although Black Panther is just making his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, his presence and influence have long been present in the comic book world. Using the wealth of his nation and his ingenuity, he has helped to supply Marvel’s heroes with invaluable tools and resources.
Most notably, the Wakanda Design Group was behind the creation of the quinjets, the plans used primarily by the Avengers. Also, he and his family have been behind the creation of several shields that Captain American has used during his comic history. One shield, provided to him by T’Challa’s father T-Chaka, was a circular Vibranium shield that served as an inspiration for his now iconic round shield.
10. A member of The Avengers and The Defenders
Although Black Panther initially began his involvement with the Marvel superheroes in a purely observational role, his relationship expanded to becoming a member or affiliate of several groups. After inviting the Fantastic Four to his country (though his real intention was to test them), he soon learned they were honorable in their intentions and became their ally. He later became a financier for the Fantastic Force team and joined them on missions on occasion.
His affiliations include being a member of the Avengers, the Ultimates, and the Secret Avengers. He has also been associated with the Defenders, The Resistance, and Heroes for Hire.
9. A Member of the Illuminati
Another significant accomplishment for Black Panther was his inclusion in the very exclusive Illuminati of Marvel Comics. Not to be confused with the conspiracy theories about celebrities, this group consisted of the greatest minds of the superhero community. Members included Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Charles Xavier, Reed Richards, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and Iron Man. Like their “real world” Illuminati counterparts, Marvel’s Illuminati worked secretly to manipulate the superhero world from behind the scenes, attempting to protect humanity and avoid conflict.
Black Panther was invited to join during the Kree-Skull War arc but outright refused the be affiliated with them. However, he eventually joined the team in New Avengers vol. 3 issue #1 in order to save the Marvel Universe.
8. His sister, Shuri, has also carried the Black Panther title
Though T’Challa became well-known for holding the title of Black Panther, his younger half-sister Shuri also coveted the title. She intended on challenging her uncle S’yan for the title but discovered T’Challa had already defeated him. However, years later, Shuri would be called upon to take over the title.
After T’Challa was put into a coma by Namor, Storm nominated Shuri to take over as the leader. Shuri successfully completed the rites of passage and eat the Heart-Shaped Herb. However, since the powers of the Black Panther can be refused to those who are deemed unworthy, she was rejected due to her jealousy of her brother’s reign. Despite her rejection, she donned the costume anyway to save Wakanda from the villain Morlun and managed to revive her brother. By committing these selfless acts, she was granted the title of Black Panther and took over leadership from her brother.
7. Replaced Matt Murdock as Daredevil
In addition to providing support for many superhero teams, Black Panther has also been called upon to step in for his friends. After the events of the Shadowlands arc, Matt Murdock asked Black Panther to take his place as Daredevil. Murdock then leaves New York to deal with several morality issues that had been plaguing him at the time.
In order to efficiently assimilate into his new role, T’Challa assumed a new identity as Mr. Okonkwo, an immigrant from the Congo. In his new position as a diner manager at the Devil’s Kitchen, he learned not only about the lives of the citizens of Hell’s Kitchen but also began a journey of self-discovery.
6. Black Panther is also the “King of the Undead”
Black Panther’s journey of self-discovery came to an end when he decided he wanted to return to Wakanda as its defender. After losing his powers to his sister Shuri, T’Challa sought other means to reconnect with the Panther God and reclaim his powers without the title.
In Fantastic Four, Vol 1 issue 608, he journeyed with Reed Richards to Necropolis, the Wakandan City of the Dead where all former Black Panthers were laid to rest. He then encountered the Panther God Bast and explained his desire to continue to serve his people by any means possible.
Touched by his selflessness and passion, she decided to make him her personal champion instead and made him the ruler of Necropolis instead. Reigning as the new “King of the Undead”, Black Panther connected with the power and knowledge of all the Black Panthers who came before.
5. Once married to Storm
T’Challa’s history with Storm dates back to his initial journey to take on the title of Black Panther. While completing his Wakandan rites of passage, he met a young Storm (then only going by Ororo Monroe) living as an orphan in Cairo, Egypt. The two teens fell in love but broke off their relationship in order to pursue their own interests and goals.
Years later, the two reunite and rekindle their relationship during the chaos of the Civil War arc. They are married, surrounded by world leaders and their superhero friends, in Black Panther issue #18. Their marriage stood as the only marriage between two black superheroes at the time. However, the fan response to their marriage did not turn out as expected.
4. “Panther’s Rage” has been called Marvel’s First Graphic Novel
While Black Panther has been involved in many notable firsts in Marvel history, one additional title has been added to the list: headlining the first “graphic novel” of Marvel.
Black Panther’s first headlining story began in Jungle Action issue #5 in 1973. However, the turning point for the series was the Panther’s Rage storyline that began in issue #6, written by comic writer Don McGregor. Known for writing one of the first modern graphic novels, Eclipse Enterprises’ Sabre: Slow Fade of an Endangered Species, McGregor provided Black Panther with an unforgettable arc that is considered by some to be Marvel’s first graphic novel.
Black Panther later took on the Ku Klux Klan, a controversial topic. However, by tackling such sensitive subject matter, T’Challa was provided with an epic arc that did not go unnoticed.
According to ComicsAlliance.com, legendary comic writer Dwayne McDuffie once stated that “This overlooked and underrated classic is arguably the most tightly written multi-part superhero epic ever… It’s damn-near flawless, every issue, every scene, a functional, necessary part of the whole. That’s what we should all be delivering, every single month. Don [McGregor] and company did it in only 17 story pages per issue.”
3. Has Been Depicted on TV since the 1990s
Beyond his depiction in the comic books, Black Panther has appeared in a number of television shows since the 1990s. One of his earliest appears occurred in the 1994 animated series Fantastic Four in the episode “Prey of the Black Panther.” Since then, he has appeared on additional shows including X-Men, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, The Super Hero Squad Show, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and Avengers Assemble.
Black Panther even starred in his own series in 2010 in the short-lived series Black Panther. Added to the primetime lineup of BET, the series included an all-star cast including Djimon Hounsou (as Black Panther/T’Challa), Kerry Washington (as Princess Shuri), Alfre Woodard (as Dondi Reese, Queen Mother), and Jill Scott (as Storm). Sadly, the show only lasted six episodes and ended on January 30, 2010.
2. He was almost played by Wesley Snipes
Along with animated television series, Black Panther has appeared in animated feature-length movies, including Ultimate Avengers 2 and Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. However, the desire to see Black Panther in a live action movie became the goal of actor Wesley Snipes back in 1992. He continued to work on the project after starring in Demolition Man and even began talking with Columbia Pictures in 1994 – Stan Lee onboard as well. However, the project stalled for two years because Lee was displeased with the direction of the script.
By 1997, Black Panther was listed as part of Marvel Comics’ film slate but did not receive a proper deal until 2000. With Artisan Entertainment signed on to make the movie, Snipe gained attention again by expressing his desire to take on the role after he completed Blade 3. However, his association with the character of Blade was too significant for him to become another hero.
1. Black Panther movie is over 20 years in the making
Marvel Comics has tried for over 20 years to bring Black Panther to the big screen. A deal was secured with Paramount Pictures in 2005 and the began the search for a director. Numerous minority directors were approached over the year for the movie including John Singleton, Ava DuVernay, and F. Gary Gray. However, the position was finally filled by Creed director Ryan Coogler.
With Chadwick Boseman already igniting the big screen with his captivating performance as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, he will return in the lead role for the 2018 film Black Panther. The powerhouse cast includes Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Lupita Nyong’o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), Angela Bassett (American Horror Story), and The Hobbit alums Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman.
Though the character was just introduced into the MCU in 2016, his role in the universe has been expanded upon in the comic Black Panther Prelude #1. As we reported on recently, the comic explores the background of Black Panther and integrates his existence into the MCU as far back as the first Iron Man movie.
We cannot wait to see just how significant Black Panther’s role will become in the MCU.
Black Panther is set to premiere on February 16, 2018.
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