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Thursday, October 23, 2008 

Marvel is going the PC-diversity route, with Black Panther

Uh oh, it looks like Marvel may now be getting around to doing what DC's been doing in the past few years: pandering to the absurdity of diversity. According to the Comic Riffs blog I discovered the Wash. Post has (via The Beat), T'Challa is going to be replaced by a woman under the costume:
Marvel Comics tells us that come 2009, the Black Panther will have a new look. As an "exclusive" to Comic Riffs, they say, Marvel honcho Joe Quesada and Black Panther writer Reginald Hudlin trumpet that there's a bigger surprise yet:

Black Panther will now be a woman warrior.
Wow. Tell me what else is new. No doubt, they got the idea in part from how Vic Sage, the Question, was replaced by a lesbian protagonist.
Marvel will relaunch the "BP" title in February, but we've got the first look at the new Black Panther right here.

So who's the woman who will wear the costume? Neither Hudlin nor Quesada would divulge the identity, but judging by their comments, the future of T'Challa -- the current Black Panther -- is quite bleak.
I was afraid of that.
Hudlin told 'Riffs contributor David Betancourt:

"Over the course of 40 issues [over three years], we ... really defined the character in a way that hadn't been done before. ... Having done that, you go: "How do we up the stakes?" Marvel is great about doing really shocking changes to their character -- they don't believe in just keeping everything as status quo."

And what was Quesada's reaction to the concept? "It was a very cool idea. Especially thinking about the legacy of the character," he says. "The fact that this is sort of a part of the Wakandan religion, and their royal family. It was a neat approach to the Black Panther, and I think it will add a wonderful twist to everything."
The only "twist" it'll likely add is having a woman assume a man's role, and not the way Shiera Saunders did when, as Hawkgirl, she became possibly the first female crimefighter to create a role originated by a male protagonist, Hawkman. After all, Shiera didn't replace Carter Hall, rather, she assumed her own role based on his in a plausible way, without trying to replace the male hero in his own role for the sake of it. If they want to introduce a Panther-woman next to T'Challa's Panther-man, starring a lady in her own seperate role, that would be the way to go. But replacing T'Challa wholesale is just wrong.

Hudlin may say that they "defined" T'Challa in ways that hadn't been done before (which I doubt), but if so, how and why does that suddenly justify tossing the prince of Wakanda out of the picture?
So what will happen to the current Black Panther? Hudlin will only hint:

"There will be another after him," he says. "In the same way that he became the Black Panther because his father was assassinated and died before his time, the same could happen to T'Challa."
Despite what they suggest, they may not kill off T'Challa, and just put in a back-door element for his return, because they realize that there's no telling if this will be accepted, but even so, that doesn't explain why, if they really did define Wakanda's superhero in a great way, they now suddenly think he should be knocked off.

Also, recalling that T'Challa and Ororo Munroe (Storm) married each other a few years ago, this begs the question: what was the whole point of marrying them if they didn't intend for that to stick either? Why pry Storm out of the X-Men for something that won't even last, and will be undone within a relatively short amount of time?

And on the subject of pandering to diversity/multiculturalism, I think the following comment posted on the Dixonverse forum in response to the subject of turning the Question into a lesbian protagonist could sum things up well enough:
See, this kind of thing is what really bothers me. DC is perfectly willing to jeopardise good storytelling and good characters merely to pander to minorities. Firstly they made Montoya a lesbian, which bothers me and should bother them, as they are making sexual sterotypes, just because a person is Latin, they make that person automatically homosexual. Next they make Montoya the new Question just to pander to women when there are plenty of other superheroines being published that such a move was really not necessary.

They really need to bring at least the Question and Blue Beetle back to life, this whole Infinite Crisis thing is causing more trouble than it was worth.
The same could be said about any of Marvel's own crossovers in the past 3-4 years. As for pandering, that seems to be what even Marvel's up to now, at the expense of their best heroes and good storytelling.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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