Black Panther: Simply Scratching the Surface
Black Panther has been vividly present in comic books since the 1960s. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby gave birth to the first African American superhero. In the 1960s, the US was filled with change. Revolutions were waged against political, cultural, and social issues as a new generation refused to settle for the blatant racial divide. Black Panther was introduced during the summer of 1966, and in a way he represents the battle for change that occurred during the decade. While Black Panther has been in various comics for half of a century, he did not make his first appearance on the big screen until 2016, when Captain America: Civil War came out. He returned to the theater screens once again in 2018, and saying it was highly anticipated is a huge understatement.
Did you know that Black Panther’s first suit featured a cape? Me neither. However, his costume hasn’t changed much otherwise. The dark, simple, and smooth design has remained unchanged.
Volume 1 #52 of Fantastic Four is where comic readers get to see Black Panther for the first time. T’Challa tested his fighting abilities against The Fantastic Four in preparation confronting Ulysses Klaw.
Wait — How did Black Panther become Black Panther? Who’s Klaw? Why does Black Panther want to confront him?
Black Panther is chosen after enduring a series of sacred trials and tribulations. This process is designed to weed out the unprepared and unfit. Every challenger must defeat six warriors before they can even think about taking on the king. The active king has to defeat all challengers before he is allowed to serve as king.
T’Challa is a prince thrust into taking on the throne after Klaw invades Wakanda and kills T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father and active king. T’Challa has a PhD in Physics from Oxford University in England. He received an education in both psychology and western science. He returned to Wakanda to undergo the sacred traditions that connect him to the Panther spirit.
So where’s Wakanda?
Wakanda is the most advanced civilization on Earth. It holds the world’s only deposit of vibranium, the world’s most precious metal. The beautiful and extremely advanced country is located somewhere in Africa. Isolated for its own protection, most citizens in the Marvel universe don’t even know it exists.
What exactly does the Black Panther do?
An easier question would be, what can’t he do? Black Panther has the power to gain all the experience, knowledge, and strength from previous Black Panther before him. From birth T’Challa was trained in every aspect of martial arts and statesmanship. He can run over 50 miles per hour, see in the dark, and control his mask with his mind. He is immune to all poisons and diseases. He once took down a rhino with a suplex.
While T’Challa can himself can do some pretty amazing things, his suit is just as impressive as he is. It is made out of vibranium. The mesh in the suit can stop the momentum of any incoming object. The soles on his suit allow him to walk or run without making a single sound. He can walk on water and even run up walls. The claws on Black Panther’s suit are anti-metal; they can break down almost any metal they clutch. Black Panther wrestles animals with ease, including a lion, crocodile, and a T-Rex. He’s also defeated various superheroes such as Wolverine and Captain America.
T’Challa intertwines his brilliance, superior fighting skills, panther-like qualities, and his suit enhancements to serve and protect his country as well as participate in international affairs. He is not only a superhero, but also a king. He battles both villains and diplomatic obstacles. Black Panther’s story has become quite a unique one in its 50 years of development, and now he’s finally getting the attention he deserves — smashing box office records week after week. He paved the way for other black superheroes such as Blade, Falcon, Black Lightning, and Luke Cage, but he isn’t done telling his own story yet.
We’re just scratching the surface.