Let the Rage of Africa Drive Your… Claw… Thing… Whatever
As suggested by u/gangler52 over on reddit, where apparently my entire readership comes from, here’s a thing about Black Panther! Shockingly, I’m gonna try really, really hard to not make any political or racial commentary here, because I’m terrified of someone calling me racist on the internet. I kid, I kid. I’m just gonna keep it as non racially charged as I can while talking about a character who got his name from a radical civil rights group. Fun fact, Samuel Jackson was a Black Panther back in the day. Held his school hostage with some others as a protest movement. Fascinating story. It has almost nothing to do with what we’re going into here, but I need to fill time, and you probably didn’t know that, so hey! Compromise achieved!
With Civil War on the way, Black Panther is gonna be under more of a spotlight than ever. Or at least, he was, until Spider-Man showed up and everyone lost their collective minds. Hell, I’m still freaking out about that trailer reveal. Now, this article could take a stance on how a white, non minority (do we still say that? have we collectively realized that white people are the global minority yet?) character upstaged an up and coming prominent black character in the MCU, but really, what fun would that be? I’m not here to capitalize off of outrage. Yet, at least. I mean, maybe I will if I ever get payed. I’ve got loose morals, who knows? Maybe I’ll just do a total flip and become Luke McKinney 2.0 (Yeah, take that, guy who will never read this article!). But until then, I’m just here to write about cool characters and make it look like you’ve read a ton of their material if someone asks you about them. Also, the same thing, but for dumb characters. Tune in next year for Who the Hell is Hoverboy.
Instead, I’m gonna write about why people should care more about Black Panther, beyond the diversity aspect, mostly because it’s more fun, but also because I’m incredibly unqualified to make hard-hitting statements about race relations in America beyond like, one or two jokes about the KKK. Shit, I think typing that out just made me more unqualified. Whatever, let’s fake an education in comics.
Vibranium is Probably Not Sustainable BTW
Before I really get started here, just in case McKinney does read this, I do genuinely think he can be a funny, engaging writer. When he isn’t insulting his readers and being an insufferable white knight, that is.
SCENARIO: Let’s say you just watched the MTV Whatever Awards, except you probably didn’t, because I didn’t, and for me to pretend to know what I’m talking about here would be a disservice to you, fictional person who doesn’t exist. So, let’s say you waited until the day after because you, idunno, had to get your iguana spayed, I guess. That’s probably a thing. Anyways, after suffering through one of the most ill-conceived video players known to man instead of just looking for it on YouTube or something, you watch the new clip for Civil War, and like roughly 80 to 90 percent of people, you just started wigging out and being incredibly hyped about it. But then, you realized something. This time, you can come out ahead of the curve. Everyone is going to be too focused on Spider-Man this time. This time… you can be the pretentious comic nerd talking about a character no one has heard about. Now I should probably stop you from going down that path, but who am I kidding, it feels great, and sometimes we all need to blow off a little bit of steam, right? So, here I am, ready to arm you with any knowledge you might need to talk down to someone about Black Panther.
Let’s do it.
Step One: Quick, Before Anyone Else Gets This Idea
So right off the bat, here’s something you should know about this guy: I have never read a Black Panther story that I didn’t enjoy on some level. He’s so cool that in writing him, you gain enough of his power to prevent yourself from failing. Shit, a guy who wrote one of the House Party movies wrote an arc for Black Panther, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever read. Even when Black Panther just shows up in other stories, he makes that story quantifiably better. He was definitely one of the best parts of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes show, and he barely did anything most of the time. But when he did show up, oh boy, did he bring a hundred and ten percent.
T’Challa was an African prince of the nation Wakanda, born to the king, T’Chaka. As a young man, he basically became the Ulysses of Africa, wandering around and doing cool shit for a while until he got home. Part of that was making out with a young Storm, because yeah sure, why not. If almost all of the white superheroes can come from New York, I can buy almost all of the black ones coming from the same region of Africa, I guess. Eventually he went back home, only t0 go study abroad, because apparently Wakandan royal rites of passage entail becoming African Batman, but without gaining Batwing’s ability to be forgotten by editors.
After returning home from his travels, T’Challa was immediately sent out to find the Heart Shaped Herb, which I really wish had a shorter name. Or at least a cooler one. Anyways, after beating the shit out of the old Black Panther, who was his dad, T’Challa took the Totally Not a Drug Herb and gained near-superhuman abilities, as well as the mantle of Black Panther. Oh, also this made him king of Wakanda. Tribal law is fun, guys. While he was king, he went up against all kinds of challengers, most of whom were either animal themed or wore dumb hats. Sometimes both.
It’s actually kind of baffling that the same people who created a design as iconic and relatively unchanged over the decades as Black Panther also created whatever the hell is going on up there. Like, I know drawing a guy wearing a gorilla is hard on a weekly basis, but geez guys.
If you’ve been following the MCU at all, you might recognize Ulysses Klaw (changed to Klaue for the movies, because come on) as the guy who talked about cuttlefish for what was arguably the most entertaining five minutes of Age of Ultron before getting his arm ripped off. In the comics, that man is arguably one of Black Panther’s nemeses. Yes, plural. What, you think Black Panther only needed one? Oh no. Oh no no no. Black Panther is so cool, he makes other people’s nemeses want to fight him. He’s been to war with Doctor Doom like, three or four times. Early on, he even went to war with Black Bolt. Shit, he’s been to war with Namor, and that guy is usually a superhero these days. Well, he’s dead these days, but you get my point. When you have what is essentially Batman running off of a magic version of Cap’s Super Soldier Serum, you need to beef up your game beyond “clown” and “man with facial scarring”. You just skip all the way to unstoppable energy beings and people possessed by animal gods and shit like that.
Black Panther has also been a team player when he’s not busy being, you know, the king of a nation. He’s been with the Fantastic Four, he’s been an Avenger (a whole lot of times, actually), he’s been a part of the Illuminati (no, not that one, the comic one. yes, even dumber, somehow), he’s hung out with and taken over for Daredevil… he’s been around the block a couple times, is what I’m saying. Oh, he’s also one of the first black superheroes to ever really make it off the ground, let alone exist in the first place, so that’s pretty damn cool. Really, he’s just the perfect mishmash of comic book stuff: a cool costume, awesome combat, superpowers, personality, and some mild to extreme racism. Sometimes, at least. Well, at least his name is a little less dumb than Black Lightning or Black Goliath.
Step Two: Claws for Alarm
Let’s establish a little bit of a pecking order here, since I’m sure superhero fights are going to be the subject of debate for the next couple of months everywhere. Now I’m sure that even with knowledge of Black Panther’s abilities, most people will doubt that he could beat the likes of Captain America or Iron Man. Well, you’re dead wrong there. Black Panther is essentially what happens when you combine Batman’s fighting ability and plot armor, Cap’s powers, and six heaping tablespoons of stone cold badass.
You see that? That’s Black Panther decommissioning Captain America like it’s no big deal. And you know what? It isn’t. To Cap, that was one of the most brutal defeats of his life. To T’Challa, it was Tuesday.
Additionally, on top of his already impressive superhuman abilities and training, his suit and weapons are all comprised of Vibranium, essentially making him a walking version of Cap’s shield. With pointy bits. And magic. Oh, and Wakanda pretty much controls the sole supply of Vibranium on Earth, meaning that for a semi-tribal nation, their GDP is just through the fucking roof. Like, they aren’t carrying spears and using dirt floors because they have to, they’re just doing it for aesthetic purposes. Also, the spears can shoot lasers at you, because when you’re crazy rich, you can buy dumb shit like that willy nilly.
Let’s kick it up a notch. Sure, ol BP here can take down your average A-Lister, but how does he deal with cosmic threats?
Like a baller, that’s how.
For those not in the know, that was a result of the Secret Invasion event, where it was discovered that the Skrulls, a race of shapeshifters, had captured, killed, and replaced a percentage of Earth in order to slowly invade and take over. T’Challa immediately figured this out on day one, waited until they thought they were safe and until he was sure that he had all of the ones in his kingdom, and then he murdered the shit out of all of them. While the rest of the world was getting its collective ass reamed by the Skrulls, Wakanda was doing just dandy. Well, comparatively speaking, there were still casualties when the Super Skrulls were mobilized, but T’Challa handled that just fine too.
To cap it all off, T’Challa later got a power upgrade when Bast (the Panther God, apparently, not the ancient Egyptian Cat Goddess) made him the King of the Dead, where he essentially got godlike levels of strength, speed, and durability, as well as access to the knowledge and skills of all the past Black Panthers, and an army of the dead. So basically like the Avatar, but way more metal.
Step Three: Fiddle Dee Dee
Briefly closing out how strong he was as King of the Dead, he put Black Dwarf, an incredibly powerful cosmic badass, in a chokehold. And he won. Do you know how fucking crazy that is? He was fighting an all powerful space god, and he put him in a submission hold. That’s the fucking definition of confidence right there. Anyone else would have drawn out the fight, tested the upper limits of their power. Not T’Challa. No, he just saw an opportunity for a totally bitchin’ wresting maneuver, and he took that shit.
Now, onto something else. You’re going to hear a lot of people refer to him as a Mary Sue, mostly because people like to apply that term to characters they just don’t like, but also because Black Panther doesn’t seem to have a lot of flaws or weaknesses from an outside perspective. Well… they aren’t entirely wrong there. He’s almost unassailably perfect. He does, however, possess one pretty big flaw: arrogance. And yeah, he pretty much has the right to think highly of himself, he’s basically one of the top ten humans ever, but he’s still a man, and he still makes mistakes. Basically, he’s like Namor if Namor weren’t such a huge dick all the time. Also, he hates Namor. It’s complicated.
But yeah, T’Challa can be arrogant, he can be vengeful, and he can sure as all hell be a stubborn asshole. But above all, he’s a king and a hero, and he’s damn good at both. So he’s allowed to be near flawless, is what I’m saying.
Besides, at least he has justification for being better than most heroes, with his magic powers and years of training. Unlike some people.
Step Four: Here’s That Time He Made Black Dwarf his Bitch
You’re welcome. I couldn’t find the chokehold, but it happened. This will have to be cool enough for you for now.
By all accounts, Black Panther has a pretty great depiction in the upcoming Civil War movie, so that’s cool. Means that this knowledge will be harder to deploy in a condescending, pretentious fashion, which in turn means that the high of feeling superior won’t be nearly as strong, but hey, Black Panther! Woooooooo!
If you want to read up on him a little more, it’s really hard to pick a wrong place to start. Personally, I would recommend his Marvel Knights series, Secret Invasion, the Ultimates, the first issue of his brand new series, Man Without Fear… the list goes on.
As always, feel free to leave any comments and suggestions wherever you find this article, and maybe actually take up my rallying call to #BringBackSuperpro now that it seems I have a bigger readership. Or don’t. You do you.
See you next week!