Terri Schlichenmeyer leaves her review of Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Billy Graham, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Black Panther.
After school and on Saturday mornings, crime-fighting was the focus.
There you were, seven, eight, nine years old, strong, courageous and fireproof – at least in your imagination. Along with your ancestors and others with super powers, you were invincible. And in Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Billy Graham, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s “Black Panther,” you’ll see that it all began with a “dark line.”
In the years between the middle of the Depression and the middle of World War II, over “seven hundred super-powered do-gooders” debuted in comics nationwide. After the war, comics continued to be popular, but the superhero genre faded into a small group whose publishers called themselves the Justice League of America.
This spurred rival publisher Marvin Goodman to “listen up and take notice”. Deciding his comic book company needed its own superhero team, he teamed up with several talents to create the Marvel Universe. In the early 1960s, Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four were joined “in the same story-world” by several other superheroes, each with a unique talent; In 1966, the Black Panther became one of them.
The character appeared at just the right time. The authors say the Black Panther’s origins reflected what was going on in the United States socially, politically, and in terms of civil rights. The introduction of the Black Panther came between Jim Crow and the formation of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. America, the authors say, “was confronting the profound historical consequences” of what it had done to its black citizens, and T’Challa was its own man. He didn’t need white superheroes to save the day for him.
The character had a few jagged edges — at first there were “hints” that the Black Panther might transform into a comic book villain — but early story readers ultimately rested more easily. The Fantastic Four and the Black Panther have always been in good hands, both in Wakanda and elsewhere…
Imagine, Nnedi Okorafor says in her foreword, that you are a young child of Nigerian immigrants trying to visit a comic book store when older white men were your usual customers. She then fled the store empty-handed and returned to comics as an adult and found a character who resembled her. The earliest incarnation of this character and his comic history can be found in Black Panther.
Fans can rejoice: the latter takes up most of this book, chronologically and in full color, just like the original comics on offer. But be patient: before you get there, read the overview of comics in general, Marvel Comics in particular; Okorafor’s foreword; and a volume introduction to that character. On the back cover you will find an essay about the Black Panther and plot summaries with the creator’s notes. It’s the whole thing.
The bonus for fans of movies and comics is that you can read this paperback edition of the hardcover book with confidence. Show your love to this version of Black Panther and share it with the knowledge that you are someone else’s hero.
“Black Panther” by Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Billy Graham, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Circa 2022, Penguin Classics Marvel Collection $28.00 377 pages