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Sunday, February 11, 2018 

Some very flawed articles about Black Panther

I found at least 4 articles that don't do justice for T'Challa's history. Let's start with the dreadful Inverse website, which gave their recommendations on what they think makes for great reading, and during the course of the article, they tell us:
Black Panther wasn’t always an icon. After his debut in the sixties and the original Don McGregor and Jack Kirby runs in the seventies, Black Panther went MIA for years — that is, until the nineties, when Marvel editors Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti made something special: Marvel Knights.
How odd they should put it that way, because there were a few stories spotlighting T'Challa in the Marvel Comics Presents anthology of 1988-95. I have a few of those issues containing a story titled "Panther's Quest", illustrated by the late Gene Colan, and written by...McGregor, who returned to work on scripting T'Challa's stories in the late 80s. He even wrote "Panther's Prey" in 1991. How come those don't factor in here?

In any event, it should be noted any initial success to be had with the Marvel Knights line soon took a nose dive after the awful Captain America run in 2002-04, first scripted by Jon Ney Reiber, who may have claimed his scripts were tampered with. I can certainly believe that's entirely possible, given that this was Quesada we were talking about, and he did lead to a lot of embarrassments after becoming EIC. They also blacklisted Chuck Dixon at this time, another serious mistake they've shown no remorse for.
There’s a whole history lesson to be told with Marvel Knights, but the gist for now is that Quesada and Palmiotti were given four Marvel characters — Daredevil, Punisher, Black Panther, Inhumans — and creative freedom to hire the best writers. For Daredevil, they got *Kevin Smith. When it came to Black Panther, they went after the exiled writer, Christopher Priest.
I think the Daredevil relaunch under the MK line had to have been the most overrated, because Smith's story served little more than an excuse to kill off Karen Page. Then again, so too was the Punisher's run, because Garth Ennis was helming that title, and he was turning out leftist political propaganda at the time. Based on that, I'm not sure the MK line was really worth it at all. And while creative freedom may have applied to Quesada/Palmiotti, they saw to it successive writers wouldn't have the same, unless their visions coincided with theirs. The continues to talk about Reginald Hudlin's take:
Over the next five years Hudlin explored the nuances of Wakandan culture more closely than his predecessors, and even got T’Challa hitched with the famed X-mutant, Storm. Hudlin also wrote Black Panther through several major Marvel crossovers, including House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion, and Dark Reign, though it wouldn’t be T’Challa when the events of Dark Reign came rolling around.
For starters, how successful can you truly call a title that gets mired in terrible crossovers? And while BP and Storm may not have to remain married forever, it sure sounded at the time like their divorce was in dreadful taste. The site also turns to the time BP substituted for Daredevil as the Man Without Fear:
In aftermath of the 2010 crossover Shadowland, Daredevil asks T’Challa to guard Hell’s Kitchen in his stead. That leads to the unlikely pairing of the Wakandan king — without his Vibranium suit and the riches of his throne — to protect everything between 34th street and 59th.

It’s a bizarre scenario that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, even for a comic book, but David Liss gave longtime Panther fans a fresh take on the character, who goes up against the likes of Kraven the Hunter, Lady Bullseye, and Vlad the Impaler.
This is almost like a precursor to Axel Alonso's diversity push, and it sure was superfluous. If BP needed to defend NYC's mean streets, something could've been arranged, but it didn't have to be in DD's costume. If anything, note the female replacement for Bullseye, in example. Sound familiar? And was it Kraven's daughter who filled the role of the hunter in the story? On the Ta-Nehisi Coates material, they say:
Coates’s run on Black Panther has proved immensely successful, inspiring spin-off titles like 2016’s Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey, 2017’s Black Panther and the Crew, and 2018’s Rise of the Black Panther co-written by Evan Narcisse. All of them are worth checking out.
Has it indeed? For the gazillionth time, if sales aren't in millions, no. The World of Wakanda spinoff certainly wasn't, nor was the Crew spinoff.

I don't like what they say about an anthology where BP had his earliest solo adventures either:
...Thus Panther began his solo journey in the pre-existing Jungle Action magazine, which aside from its cringey title had Don McGregor introduce the villain Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan in the film.
Oh, do tell us about it. Ka-Zar lived in a jungle, and if nobody's got issues with the living premises of Marvel's answer to Tarzan, then I think it's better they not have any with where BP fights his battles either.

Next, here's the Washington Post, which pulled some cliched nonsense of their own, starting with this disputable item:
T’Challa, the man under the mask, is a king who rules an African nation that has never been invaded, one that’s the most technologically advanced society in the Marvel universe. He’s been an Avenger, married and divorced a member of the X-Men, and helped fend off aliens. Few Marvel characters come close to matching his intelligence, and he’s traded punches with some of the greatest heroes and villains around and stood tall in the end. Heck, even his grandfather punched Captain America once.
What about the FF adventures where they were pitted against Ulysses Klaw, the evil scientist who was turned into a creature of living sound? He infiltrated Wakanda at least a few times, and BP had to face off with him, with the help of the FF. That's hardly not having a country invaded. But the following is surely even more absurd:
The Black Panther has allowed comic book fans of color to look past the medium’s lack of diversity and take solace in an undeniable fact: He’s simply one of the coolest superheroes around. The rest of the world will probably catch up next Friday, when Marvel Studios releases the hotly anticipated, ecstatically reviewed “Black Panther” movie, which is expected to make at least $120 million over its opening four-day weekend.
Man oh man...have they really come up with a laughing stock this time. There have been plenty of black and Asian superheroes and co-stars, and not just in superhero comics. There's also been the Milestone line by the late Dwayne McDuffie, and there's been a number of writers/artists of different race, like Christopher Priest himself and Larry Hama of GI Joe fame. If you know where to look, you'll find them, and the Wash. Post has only proven they're way out of the loop.
“Sometimes the first character of a category is perfect,” said former “Black Panther” comic book writer Reginald Hudlin. “Superman is like that. Batman is like that. Wonder Woman is like that. They are perfect. And Black Panther is like that.”
In what way? Meaning they're incapable of making mistakes? Because that seems to be the way quite a few of the diversity-replacements for white protagonists are written now, and it only takes away any sense of suspense and convincing action/drama.
In 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character to correct the lack of superhero representation — just months before the founding of the Black Panther Party. (To avoid controversy, Marvel briefly changed the name to Black Leopard but later realized that just didn’t have the same oomph.)

The pair — both white — had brought an awareness of civil rights to their work before. In 1963, they created X-Men, who, while drawn as white, faced discrimination for being mutants. Professor Xavier was seen as a Martin Luther King figure, while his friend-turned-enemy Magneto took a by-any-means-necessary, Malcolm X-like approach to prejudice.
The irony today is that Malcolm X would be seen as the perfect role model to the left, not MLK. By the way, how come no mention of Lee's creating Robbie Robertson to correct the lack of co-star representation?
Many of the black superheroes who followed Black Panther beat him to the screen. Robert Townsend directed and starred in “Meteor Man,” a comedic superhero take, in 1993. In 1998, the three-film “Blade” franchise, starring Wesley Snipes as a half-human/half-vampire, was perhaps the movie that helped Hollywood realize the box office possibilities for a Marvel character. Eartha Kitt took on the role of the villain Catwoman on the “Batman” TV show in 1967. Catwoman got her own dreadfully reviewed movie starring Halle Berry in 2004.

In recent years, more black superheroes have populated Marvel and DC films, but all in secondary parts, including Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in “Justice League,” the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in “Captain America: Civil War,” Storm (Berry) in the X-Men movies and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in “The Avengers.” As TV has gotten more superhero shows with more diverse casts, Luke Cage and Black Lightning have gotten self-titled series on Netflix and the CW, respectively.
But Meteor Man was a movie (although there was a comics adaptation), so I'm not sure that counts. In any case, doesn't this prove DC/Marvel have had diverse character casting throughout the years? Why, what about Mal Duncan and Bumblebee from the Teen Titans franchise? Don't they count too? And since Batman came up, what about black supporting cast member Lucius Fox?

They also fail to note the real Nick Fury is white, and the idea for a black Nick began as early as the now defunct Ultimate line in the early 2000s, the alternate universe Bob Harras was working on prior to his departure as Marvel's EIC.
Evan Narcisse, a writer for Io9 who also co-writes “The Rise of the Black Panther” miniseries with Coates, said T’Challa and his homeland channel a lot of unspoken desire that black readers have for how they want their collective paths to be represented.
For heaven's sake, what about white readers? There's a lot for the white audience to admire in BP as a concept/creation too. Mainly because the co-creators were white! But that's nothing compared to the unsurprising infiltration of current politics into the article:
Narcisse, who’s Haitian American, writes a Black Panther series that is “filtered through my own Haitian identity.” When writing about the Wakandans’ pride in their homeland, he’s able to bring in the pride Haitians feel about achieving independence from France.

“We’re in a political moment where the president of the United States calls people from Haiti and Africa, he calls those countries ‘shitholes,’” Narcisse said. “If you’re a young person hearing that … you need to see a superhero that’s smart, cunning and noble who also looks like you. Granted, it’s fiction, but superheroes have always had an aspirational aspect to them.”
Umm, can we be clear about something? Donald Trump wasn't attacking prosperous, more civilized countries like Kenya and Uganda, where the management is far better than in Haiti itself. But if that's such a big deal, what about French president Emmanuel Macron's more offensive declarations that Africans should have less children? If there's no condemnation of Macron for making such a tasteless announcement, then Narcisse has no business making negative statements on Trump. At the end of the article:
Broadnax said the reason for the hype is simple.

“I truly believe that most people in this world want to see diversity in their entertainment,” she says. “I think there’s a large contingent of folks out there that actually want to see a different kind of superhero.”
Absolutely. But if we allude back to the comics, let's just note that we want to see heroes created as their own agencies, without replacing established white protagonists in contrived and forced storylines intended only to cater to the social justice crowd that doesn't even buy the products to begin with. That's why we want Black Panther. Because he was created as his own agency.

And then, there's IGN's comics section, where it's said that:
...Priest's Black Panther run didn't merely elevate a formerly minor player in the Avengers franchise, it helped save Marvel Comics as a whole during a time when the company was at its lowest ebb.
But how well did it sell? It's stated later in the article it wasn't a big seller, so the only help it could've availed was artistic, but if it didn't sell high, that's the bad news we have to come to terms with.
Marvel in particular suffered during that dark period that was the mid to late-'90s. Sales contracted severely, to the point where Marvel actually had to file for bankruptcy. And unlike Marvel's previous low point in the late '70s, there was no surprise hit book like Star Wars to come along and suddenly reverse the company's fortunes. In the short term, Marvel stayed afloat by consolidating its publishing line, merging with Toy Biz and selling off movie rights to studios. But in order to thrive again, Marvel needed to prove that it was actually capable of publishing great comics again and could lure back some of the many readers that, like me, fell off hard after one too many pointless X-Men crossovers.
This actually suggests their fortunes in the late 70s weren't very good, and that's not telling something great about a period where comics were usually more readable than today, though it is sadly a reminder of the realities we have to face. And what good did the Toy Biz merger do when Ronald Perlman mismanaged them? That's why they had they had to file for bankruptcy, though it was caused by their deteriorating quality in scriptwriting.
Rather than try to shove a round peg in a square hole and make T'Challa a flawed, relatable hero in the vein of Peter Parker, Priest instead made him an inscrutable, Batman-level badass for whom saving the world was secondary to protecting his kingdom. To balance that out, Priest introduced Everett K. Ross, a goofy everyman character who became the reader's gateway into a world of political intrigue and advanced technology. Priest further set the series apart by relying on long-from storytelling, almost novelistic storytelling where new issues directly built on what what came before and where clear, multi-part story arcs formed. Even individual issues were broken up into discrete chapters. That's to say nothing of his novel approach to structuring his stories, where he often employed a Tarantino-esque nonlinear approach with Ross as the befuddled narrator.
Hmm, maybe this hints at a flaw in Priest's writing. Protect Wakanda, definitely, but that doesn't make the rest of the world any less vital. I also don't like the citation of Tarantino, having just read the reports of how he treated Uma Thurman on the set of Kill Bill. He also made offensive remarks about one of Roman Polanski's victims, and had to apologize for it.

In any event, it's not like BP had to modeled after the approach used with Spider-Man. There's plenty of heroes who can work with simpler personalities too.
It's only with hindsight that it's become apparent how much Priest's Black Panther contributed to Marvel's rebirth and renewal at the time. The series itself never sold terribly well, and was eventually canceled without much in the way of closure. But as with many innovators, Black Panther lit the way for more commercially successful follow-ups. Black Panther was telling complex, nuanced stories at a time when superhero comics were still dominated by empty spectacle. It drew from other media and found new, exciting ways to present stories that appealed to older, more discriminating readers. The mature, story-driven mentality of Marvel Knights ensured Quesada's rise to power as Editor-in-Chief in 2000, at which point he was able to apply that philosophy on a wider scale. If not for Black Panther and Daredevil, we may never have gotten pivotal early 2000's Marvel books like Ultimate Spider-Man and New X-Men, and Marvel may never have recovered the momentum it lost after the industry crash.
See, as noted, the series, whatever the writing quality, didn't sell very well. But the really sad afterthought is that the MK line would ensure Quesada's undeserved rise to power at Marvel. And what good were books like Grant Morrison's X-Men, or even the books written by Bendis? None, really, but these columnists can't be expected to acknowledge the detractors. What's more, by the mid-2000s, Marvel was changing rapidly to a crossover-plagued direction that made a mockery out of whatever Quesada supposedly excelled in with Marvel Knights, which was cancelled around that time.

There's also the Fort Smith Times-Record of Arkansas (I once accidentally referred to its state location as Arizona, but have corrected that), which has a peculiar take on BP's relations with women:
Admittedly, those 52-year-old comics haven’t aged flawlessly. Some of the African representations are kinda icky, and at one point the Panther says of battling the Invisible Girl, “I do not consider females to be fair game!” Because, you know, girls are fragile flowers fit only for a fainting couch.

Regressive gender attitudes shouldn’t be a surprise in a story from 1966. [...]
So let me get this straight. T'Challa's a gentleman, and doesn't think it'd be right to attack a woman even if she's used to violence in battles in a surreal world, yet the writer would rather dismiss all that as mere "regression"? What a head-shaker. I know that, in the first few years of Marvel's Silver Age, it's not like the women were depicted as serious butt-kickers. That part came more in the mid/late 60s. But if a guy's depicted setting a respectable example, shouldn't that be an admirable plus? The real regressor is the columnist who can't appreciate when a hero's depicted with manners to a heroic lady. Even if we're talking about a surreal world, that doesn't negate the fact that, in real life, women usually don't have the same endurance that men do in physical strength, and if that factored into the writing for BP's debut, it's quite alright in that regard.
For some time after that, though, the Black Panther wandered the wilderness. T’Challa served an unremarkable stretch with the Avengers, and substituted for Daredevil in the Man Without Fear’s title. Neither of those roles really did much for the Panther, a character for whom “superhero” is a hobby.
Well at least they admit that stint nearly a decade ago in DD's outfit was ridiculous. Though it shows Matt Murdock is just as vulnerable to the the SJW-pandering as any other white superhero. But I fully disagree with the assertion BP's role in the Avengers wasn't great. As somebody with a large Avengers collection, I've read some of those moments, and the writing he received there was impressive too. This sounds more like a subtle putdown.
But then came “Jungle Action” in 1972. OK, that’s a terrible name for anything, even a 1970s comic book. But it was “Jungle Action” that gave T’Challa his first solo series — one that brought the character back to his roots. Heck, this series almost invented those roots.
Again, I don't approve of the putdown for the 70s series' title. Let's remember, Tarzan had his jungle moments too, as did Ka-Zar. The article also puts down co-creator Jack Kirby:
After “Rage,” there was some weirdness. I tell you this almost as a warning. Because Panther co-creator Jack Kirby returned to write and draw the character in the first-ever eponymous “Black Panther” series in 1976, and ... well, you won’t need to read that series to enjoy the movie. Or the Panther. Or for any reason, to be honest.

Kirby, at the fading end of his career, jettisoned everything unique about the character and treated him as a generic superhero. And not just a superhero, but one who had some truly strange adventures, such as battling yeti, searching for the “Sacred Water-Skin” and traveling through time via gewgaws called “King Solomon’s Frogs.” No, I am not making that up.

So don’t be confused if you’re looking for Panther reprints, and see something with Kirby’s name on it. Those will not be the famous, original stories from 1966. And, while these mid-1970s tales can be entertaining in an eccentric sort of way, they’re completely unnecessary for any sort of understanding of the character.
Uh uh, I'm not believing this propaganda dreck. IMO, it's just more stupid dismissals of a time when writing was more readable than the now.
It took another decade for a decent Panther series. And, brother, it was worth the wait.

A writer named Christopher Priest took on the Panther, emphasizing his royal station, his diplomatic responsibilities, his outsized privileges and his contrast with (and distance from) American superheroes. T’Challa had never seemed so formidable, so serious, so ... well, kingly. And to give us the proper distance to appreciate the Panther’s majesty, Priest used as his POV character a nebbish-y white State Department bureaucrat named Everett K. Ross (played with nebbish-y perfection by Martin Freeman in Marvel movies).
Umm, if it took another decade, why is the late 80s Marvel Comics Presents anthology tale by McGregor missing from the narrative here? What a jumble, and probably deliberate.
One of the major lasting changes Priest wrought in the series was the introduction of the Dora Milaje. Wakandan for “Adored Ones,” the Dora Milaje are the all-female bodyguards for the Wakandan royal family, selected from all the country’s tribes in order to knit the nation together. They were also potential wives-in-training at one time, a tradition which has fallen by the wayside as gender equality has become a thing. But the Dora Milaje and T’Challa still address each other as “beloved,” with all romantic overtones removed, an anachronism that has an extra hint of mysterious history.
Then answer to which could be political correctness prevailing. There's suggestions the movie could be too much a victim of leftist feminism, even if there is a leading lady to fill the role of T'Challa's paramour.
Sometime after Priest, filmmaker Reginald Hudlin tried his hand at “Black Panther.” That 2003 series was entertaining, but took place while T’Challa was married to Ororo Munroe — aka Storm of the X-Men. Since that marriage was annulled, most of this series is rendered irrelevant to the movie and the Panther’s current status.

Which brings us at last to perhaps the greatest Panther run of all. Despite what Ta-Nehisi Coates said above, the newest “Black Panther” series is the best to date — and it’s written by some guy named Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Wow, and I thought Priest's run was said to be the greatest! But I guess his run isn't infested by enough leftism to suit the visions of these propagandists, so Coates becomes the scribe of their choice. As is one of the SJW-catering angles he featured:
Bonus: While “Black Panther” itself is a (deserving) best-seller, various companion series have been trotted out, only to fall to ignominious cancellation. But one series that only lasted six issues is available in trade paperback, and worth mention: “World of Wakanda.” That series featured Oya and Aneka, giving us their history as they fell in love, chafed under T’Challa’s leadership — and developed into three-dimensional characters.

Yes, “World of Wakanda” starred two LGBT women of color, a first in possibly any entertainment medium. But that’s “Black Panther” for you, causally moving through glass ceilings and transgressive boundaries and terra incognita like — well, like a panther gliding silently and gracefully through the jungle.
Oh, I'm sure it wasn't the first of its sort. But its failure to sell should make clear nobody cared for these PC-laden angles, and that's why I think this article is just one more lethargic propaganda piece not worthy of the best T'Challa could represent.

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