Tune in to the first episode of “The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther” podcast
Grab our top highlights below and read the related comics discussed in the first episode on Marvel Unlimited!
ON THE CREATION OF THE FIRST AFRICAN SUPERHERO:
Nice Stone: Let’s go back to 1965, a year before the debut of Black Panther. So in 1965, the Black Panther was not the Black Panther. He was the “Coal Tiger”.
Ben Saunders: So the “Coal Tiger” was the original name that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby came up with for his first African superhero, the character that would be introduced in the pages of [FANTASTIC FOUR #52] as the Marvel Universe’s first black superhero. And I think what you see in the design of “Coal Tiger” is the idea halfway to completion. They didn’t quite figure out how to flip the script as drastically as they ended up doing. And of course, in the end, the way they did that was to create Wakanda as this mythologized technologically advanced breakaway African nation that could be imagined as somehow reversing all the clichés about Africa that they had seen in [genre trope series] jungle adventure stories.
Nice Stone: And luckily for all of us, they also reversed the name, because Black Panther sounds so much better than “Coal Tiger.” At the same time though, there was a lot going on in 1965 that may have inspired Stan and Jack to create such a radical new world…
ON THE SOCIAL CONTEXT BEHIND BLACK PANTHER:
John Jennings: There is a lot of social unrest on many fronts [in 1965], regarding women’s liberation and civil rights issues, and all things. And of course, the Vietnam War is looming. And of course America has never really been good at dealing with – and I’m just being very nice about it – has never been really good at dealing with these issues of race and representation and equity in these areas .
Ben Saunders: The assumption regarding the readership was that it was a straight, emotionally immature white male. But I think you still have to be very careful about this widespread public image in the industry, even if that was sort of the perception the industry had of itself. I think it’s really important to remember that while other types of fans have historically been made invisible, of course they were there. There have always been female fans, queer fans, and fans of color.
Stone of Nice: And the white fathers of Black Panther, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, they knew it. But they also knew they had to warm up to the supposedly straight male audience first. So Marvel is starting to include racial diversity in background characters. Now, I know that sounds small, but those are the breadcrumbs that would eventually lead to Black Panther’s debut.
Ben Saunders: So the Panther is being created – I don’t think there’s any doubt about it – in response to the growing cultural awareness around ideas of race both in the United States and around the world.
ON T’CHALLA’S SWIVEL FIRST APPEARANCE:
John Jennings: Its creation, its presence had to be really, really substantial, because it is introduced in FANTASTIC FOUR #52 and issue #53 in 1966 before the Black Panther Party is starting to be called that, so you have these really, really stumbled relationships there.
Nice Stone: To be clear, there is no deliberate connection between Marvel’s Black Panther and the Black Panther Party. But it’s safe to say that the comic book’s first Black Super Hero caused just as much of a stir. Jack Kirby had a knack for making static images truly dynamic. And the Black Panther was no different.