Sunday, October 28, 2012

Instead of Halloween - the Black Panther

You probably expected a post that´s all about Halloween since it IS the big Halloween weekend over in Amerika but I already did quite a few of them and right now I have something else I want to write about.

I thought about changing the layout for Halloween like I did last year but since it snowed Yesterday the look of the blog is already up to date.

Like I said, there is not much about Halloween in this post but I think that´s okay. Maybe I can do a special post next week and even if not I already wrote about some of the free Halloween giveaway comics in my last post. So it all evens out in the end.

Right now I´m reading a lot of old comics ( just wait for a spotlight post on Jim Aparo´s BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS without Batman as soon as my next comic order arrives ) which is no surprise regarding the quality of most comics the big two release. So on my last visit to my comicshop I went looking for some back issues of the Baxter issues of Jim Aparo´s OUTSIDERS. Like most comicguys I have an extensive comic collection so good comics will pop up when you least expect it, mostly when you´re bagging new comics. During my last expedition into the netherrealm I call my comic collection - which is scattered all over the house - I came across the OUTSIDER issues I had and I remembered that I wanted to get more Jim Aparo issues but then forgot. And then I remembered. Which brought me to go down into the catacombs of the Sammlerecke in Esslingen, looking for back issues of THE OUTSIDERS and I really found them. But that´s not what I´m writing about Today.

Like most comic readers / collectors I have a list with missing issues from my collection and since I already was down in back issue purgatory I decided to see if I could cross out some of the comics on my list. Now it´s not a complete list, more some special issues I need to complete certain runs. For quite some time there were still some issues from Christopher Priest´s BLACK PANTHER run on that list and - with the exception of issue 40 - I found all the issues I was missing.

Well, there I was, with a lot of new comics to read but after devouring the new OUTSIDER issues it dawned on me that the same approach would not work with the BLACK PANTHER issues.

For one, they were not all in continuation but rather bits and pieces of different storylines. And secondly they were from the second part of Christopher Priest´s BLACK PANTHER run where he was paired with artist Sal Velluto ( we´ll talk about a few of the issues that were done by other artists in my next post ) where storylines and subplots ran over dozens of issues. And I also realized that there was a big part of the run I had only read with important parts missing and now I had the chance to read it in sequential order. So I decided to re - read the previous issues all the way back to issue 27, which is where the whole STURM UND DRANG storyline kicks into high gear with the confrontation between Wakanda, Latveria, Atlantis, America and Lemuria. I could have gone back to issue 1 but I was too lazy for that and I also would have had to unwrap all the issues I had already bagged. And Yes, I have the BLACK PANTHER issues bagged till issue 26.

After reading all the issues I went over my old posts and realized that so far all mentioning about Black Panther was after the Priest run ( I´ll shorten the name from now on and I hope he´ll forgive me ) and in a few instances to moan and bitch. So in light of the fact that the secret agenda of this blog is to spread positiveness about comics this post was long overdue.


Before coming to the part of the series I re - read I want to back up a little and give some general info about how the whole new series started for all those new comic readers out there who may not know.

There have been a few volumes of the title and it can become a bit confusing. Those who already know the run or are huge Priest fans anyway can skip the next part but it may be interesting for some of my readers.

It was the end of 1998 and MARVEL was officially bancrupt, operating under the protection of chapter 11 to produce comics. I have to say that it´s kind of telling that they did some of their best comics while being bancrupt. Now that they have been sold to Disney most of their product is going down the toilet or working heavily on it. No surprise here.

Okay, MARVEL was desperate which lead to the formation of a new MARVEL KNIGHTS imprint that brought in Joe Quesada and a few of his friends to revitalize some of MARVEL´s languishing properties. The deal was the creators were practically given carte blanche to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. There were some awful titles, like the Exorcist Punisher or the MARVEL KNIGHTS book that never really took off, but the overall statistic was positive with huge sucesses like Kevin Smith´s GUARDIAN DEVIL run on DAREDEVIL of which you can find at least four different collections or Garth Ennis´ vindication of the Punisher.

The general idea behind MARVEL KNIGHTS was to take some of the second and third string characters with potential and build them into kickass books to challange the distinguished competition. Now one of the things MARVEL has always tried to do was Batman. Batman is one of the most successful comic characters ever and Marvel never quite got the same kind of comic buyer bling. Some see Spider - Man, Daredevil or Moon Knight as Marvel´s more or less successful attempts to create something along the lines of Batman but that´s something I won´t go into now. What Christopher Priest did was realize that MARVEL already had their version of Batman only they didn´t do much with him.

What was even worse was that the Black Panther could one - up Batman. You don´t think so ? Okay, let´s check :

Batman inherits the Wayne fortune when his parents are murdered by street thug Joe Chill and becomes the secret ruler of the corrupt crimeinfested Gotham City posing as a playboy to the public at large.

T´Challa becomes the chieftain of the panther tribe and ruler of the african nation of Wakanda when his father is murdered by Ulysses Claw. Now while they both suffered the death of parents Joe Chill never became such a cool nemesis like Claw for the Black Panther and sank into comic obscurity. And while Batman is a rich playboy with lots of money Black Panther is the sovereign of an entire nation with embassies all over the world. Yes, Batman may have secret bases all over the world disguised as Wayne Enterprise companies Black Panther does so openly and with diplomatic immunity. Also all embassies are regarded as part of the nation of Wakanda and fall under Wakandan rule.

Batman has lots of cars, helicopters, planes and all kind of gadgets you can think of. Waynetech is the most sophisticated tech in the DC universe and Batman also incorporates alien tech from Apokolips, Thanagar etc.

Okay, Black Panther got one word for you : vibranium. While all of Batman´s gadgets are nice Wakanda is an african nation whose technology makes all white men look like cavemen, cramming more apps into one Kimyo Card than the entire utility belt - that now looks like Tim Taylor´s tooltime belt - can hold. On top of that vibranium was used in Captain America´s shield because it absorbs all vibrations and kinetic energy making the metal it´s used on much stronger. It has mystical properties and there is an isotope that liquifies metal. So any way you draw it - whatever Batman has Black Panther can turn it to trash.

But what about the ladies ? Bruce Wayne is Gotham´s most elegible bachelor but in the end he always had bad luck with his dames like Vicky Vale, Thalia or Selina Kyle. Despite his playboy front he didn´t have too many flings and in the last decade he´s been written more like a monk. It´s a wonder he produced Damien. Now with T´Challa instead of some rich playboy you marry the head of state of Wakanda who is also a king - that means he´s royalty. It´s true that he had some bad luck with Monica Lynne but in the Priest series he has a bunch of african playmates who are not only kickass bodyguards but also future wives in training. And he married Storm from the X - Men later on. So he has the advantage there too since Batman only married Catwoman on an alternate earth that has been written out of continuity since.

And it goes on like that, Black Panther is in the Avengers, okay, Batman is more like Wolverine because he´s in the Justice League, Justice League International, the Outsiders and more. Let´s just say that when Jack Kirby came up with the Black Panther ( at least that´s how I remember it from reading JACK KIRBY, KING OF COMICS which I wrote about in my last post ) he invented somebody who could surpass the Dark Knight in every aspect. Black Panther just never did.


Back to Priest´s BLACK PANTHER run ( finally ) the series started with Mark Texiera as regular artist and Michael J. Fox as a guest star. Or an incredible simulation. State Department attorney Everett K. Ross looks like Michael J. Fox just stepped out of the set of SPIN CITY and he´s the readers´s " in ". His job is to watch T´Challa during a visit to the United States and make sure nothing goes wrong. Of course it does and what starts as a short job ends up being a real hero´s journey. Very cleverly Christopher Priest set up Ross to bring the readers into the world of the Black Panther as he has to learn everything about him from scratch.

In fact, the creation of character Ross contributed heavily to Priest´s decision to write the series. " I realized I could use Ross to bridge the gap between the African culture that the Black Panther mythos is steeped in and the predominantly white readership that Marvel sells to. "

While the series got critical acclaim in it´s first year it never garnered the sales it deserved. Maybe it DID have something to do with being a black comic character, maybe it was the non - linear storytelling, maybe people just see him as one of the Avenger´s lesser members, it could have been any of these factors or any combination of it why the book didn´t work when it came out. Fact is it was the Bendis Daredevil run of its time and nobody noticed. The art was mainly beautifully painted by Mark Texeira with guest artists of such high calibre like Joe Jusko, Mike Manley or Mark D Bright and it´s a really great story which establishes Black Panther as one of the major players in the Marvel universe. It´s collected in two trade paperbacks : THE CLIENT and ENEMY OF THE STATE, available in good comic stores and it has my absolute recommendation.

review of THE CLIENT on Comic Book Resources Forum
review of both trades by The Masked Bookwyrm

But now to the part that´s not collected.


With issue 13 Sal Velluto stepped on board as the new regular artist and he stays on board until issue 49 which for me makes up SEASON 2 of Priest´s BLACK PANTHER.

Sal Velluto has always been an artist I liked but so far he never stayed on a book for long. This changes with BLACK PANTHER were he stayed for three years and defined the look - with the exception of a few issues.

I don´t remember that much about the issues leading up to issue 27 but I know that it had a gazillion of guest stars like Hulk, Power Man and Iron Fist, Moon Knight, the unavoidable Deadpool and Storm. Something about Ross becoming the king of Wakanda and another confrontation with Eric Killmonger. Maybe I´ll read it again for my next post. Speaking about issue 27 - before I have to end this post for Today - there are some subplots from previous issues but I remember enough to know that this is a good entry point. The psrt of the story that begins here is not only a superhero story but a multilayered political chess match between T´Challa and other monarchs from the Marvel universe like Prince Namor, Dr. Doom, Magneto and Ghaur, head of state of Lemuria in a standoff about a lemurian child that is in Wakanda at the time the story takes place.

One sign of genius is that other people look at it and go : why has nobody ever thought of it before ? And you really wonder why nobody at Marvel ever thought about bringing the rulers of the diverse countries in their respective universe together in one storyline. It is really nice to see them debating their different viewpoints then participating in the usual fisticuffs. Not that there´s not enough of that in the book. But once in a while it´s a welcome change to see those monarchs behave as such.

As usual time has run out just when I was about to get started and we will have to continue this in our next post. Here are a few links with more information about the Black Panther combined with the usual Thank Yous since I couldn´t have done this post without them :

Christopher Priest on his Black Panther series

The Greatest Black Panther stories ever told on CBR

Black Panther - where do I start on iFanboy

Black Panther wikipedia entry

In our next post we will continue with the Christopher Priest run and I will also have to mention some of the Jack Kirby issues.

As usual I was looking for a video that fits the topic of Black Panther but most of the stuff you get on YouTube is about the political party. But I did find this fanmade trailer for a Black Panther movie that´s fan made. For years there have been rumors about a movie with Wesley snipes as the Black Panther so can please somebody explain to me why Marvel hasn´t done one yet ?

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

Save your threats for someone who actually fears you, Doom.

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