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Wednesday, June 14, 2023 

Fluff-coated item about Marvel's Jewish Black Panther connection

In this sugary article by the JTA/Times of Israel, they talk about a character with Jewish ancestry seen in Black Panther-related material, but which is unfortunately post-2000, from a time when BP, much like many other Marvel books, was plummeting:
Flash forward to late 2002, several decades after the character’s debut, and comics creator Christopher Priest was nearing the end of a transformative 60-issue run at the helm of the Black Panther title. Priest was the first Black writer to work full-time at either of the big two studios, and his trailblazing reinvention of the character served as the primary inspiration for the two blockbuster movies that have earned acclaim in recent years.

In the final dozen issues of Priest’s “Black Panther” series, the story took a surprising turn. T’challa had vanished and was presumed dead. In his stead, a new Black Panther appears mysteriously on the scene: Kevin “Kasper” Cole, a narcotics officer in the NYPD’s Organized Crime Control Bureau.

Cole’s father was born in Uganda, but Kevin lives in a tiny apartment in Harlem with his Korean girlfriend, Gwen, and his Jewish mother, Ruth. Kevin is known as “Kasper” — after the well-known Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon — because, as he puts it:

"There once was the greatest cop who ever lived. A proud and noble warrior, someone to be both feared and respected. Jonathan Payton Cole. ‘Jack’ Cole. Called him ‘Black’ Jack because he was so dark. Just like they called his kid ‘Kasper,’ because I was so light."

Meanwhile, Priest modeled Ruth after the mother on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” played by Jewish comedic actress Doris Roberts.

Cole originally “borrows” the Black Panther costume from the home of his boss, Sgt. Tork, an ally of T’Challa who had held on to the costume for safekeeping. Cole’s motives were hardly altruistic, as Priest wrote on his blog at the time: “Kasper’s motive is to wear the costume so he won’t be recognized by the good guys or the bad guys as he goes about cleaning up his precinct so he can get a promotion to Detective so he can make enough money to marry his pregnant girlfriend and move them all out of Harlem.”

But what starts out as a side hustle for Cole soon evolves into a hero’s journey. When Cole is discovered by T’challa’s longtime adversary and half-brother, Hunter — AKA The White Wolf — he provides Cole with training, equipment and mentorship in order to use Cole as a proxy to hurt T’challa, who has resurfaced in New York City. The story soon becomes, in Priest’s words, “a war between The Black Panther (T’Challa) and the ‘white panther’ (Hunter) over the soul of this young kid.”

The story doesn’t end there: Cole decides to pursue official Wakandan acceptance as Black Panther by enduring rigorous initiation trials, and he soon receives support from none other than Erik Killmonger (the villain in the first “Black Panther” movie). Killmonger offers Cole a synthetic version of a heart-shaped herb, giving him T’Challa-level powers. The series ends when Cole agrees to become an acolyte of the Panther god, Bast, instead of living as an imitator. He assumes a new title, The White Tiger (thereby becoming the second Jewish Marvel hero after Moon Knight to dress all in white and serve at the pleasure of an African deity).

Throughout the series, Cole’s Judaism is not a mere aside. Priest provides numerous examples of a strong Jewish identity: He dreams of his unborn son having a bar mitzvah (where they will serve “Bulgogi and ribs”). He dons a kippah and recites a Hebrew prayer at the grave of his slain friend and boss, Sgt. Tork. Even Erik Killmonger refers to Cole’s Jewish identity as a reason why Cole would identify with the underdog. Cole also proudly mentions his Jewish identity to several other characters in both Black Panther and in Priest’s short-lived follow-up series, “The Crew.”
Well I'm afraid this is why adding such a Jewish character to the cast fumbles. If memory serves, one of the characters in the Crew's cast was a descendant of the main star of The Truth: Red, White & Black, Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas' project for shaming Captain America, and insulting the memory of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. How can I credit something building on that kind of propaganda? There's also the downright questionable setup of having Cole receive backing from a villain like Killmonger (how odd they refer to his being a crook from the movie, rather than a creation of Don McGregor from the Bronze Age), after all the trouble Erik originally caused for Wakanda years before. Not mentioned is that the series Priest wrote was printed under the Marvel Knights imprint, which IMO, was hardly worth it based on how awful Captain America became when moved to that label. But cited without question is a far-left writer who was never fit to write the Star-Spangled Avenger in the past decade any more than BP:
Cole’s journey has continued in a new series written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, over a dozen years after his first appearance (or 1-2 years in “Marvel time”). In the Coates narrative, T’challa convinces Cole to come out of superhero retirement and move to Wakanda. T’challa offers to train and outfit him not as The Black Panther or The White Tiger, but as an entirely new hero, simply known as Kevin Cole. In the most recent issues, he defends Wakanda alongside a veritable who’s-who of Black Marvel superheroes.
And why must we be impressed by the citation of Coates, after all the political harm he did long before he became a comics writer per se? Once again, this article sugarcoats the history involved here, as though creating a Jewish character alone is something to admire. Only if the writing and circumstances are good, I'm afraid.

The subject was also mentioned in this Israel National News/NY Jewish Week article about a convention called Jewish Comics Experience:
The history of Judaism and comics is long and rich, with Jewish stories arising in both popular comics and more esoteric ones. For example, Marvel briefly had a Jewish Black Panther character, while a new comic features an Asian-Jewish superhero. Meanwhile, some traditional Jewish texts have gotten the graphic novel treatment.
Well I'm sorry, but based on how things turned out under Quesada/Alonso/Cebulski, that's why I can't appreciate the introduction of a Jewish cast member to BP's stories, because they were hijacked by far-left ideology, and it's spoiled everything. For me, BP came to an end in the mid-1990s, and hasn't recovered from the disaster that began under Quesada/Jemas. It's sad to think of all the missed opportunities in mainstream that'll likely never have the chance to be realized under tasteful circumstances.

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About me

  • 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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