ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

(Warning - the following contains substantial SPOILERS for past Black Panther comic book storylines, which could in theory come into play in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Proceed with caution and all that...)

Now, some superheroes are -- for better or for worse -- pretty simple beings. Whether we're talking about Superman, Captain America, Thor or Wonder Woman, many of our most beloved heroes are, at their core, relatively straightforwardly All-American...even when they're technically an otherworldly god or alien.

Others, though, are a whole lot more complicated -- and while we tend to love them for exactly that reason (hey there, Batman), it can also mean that they end up with a whole lot of skeletons in their comic book closets.

What's more, a perfect example of that complexity -- both within his comic book appearances, and in the way that he's been treated by his creators -- is about to get his very own movie. Y'see:

The Black Panther Has a Surprisingly Shocking Comic Book History

And I'm not even talking about that time he and Spider-Man fought an army of dinosaurs for some reason.

Instead, T'Challa, a.k.a. The Black Panther, has been at the center of some of the most politically-charged moments in Marvel's comic book history -- and been both an icon of progress, and an unwitting vehicle for conservatism.

Here, then, are five moments from the Panther's past that Marvel might not want us all to talk about too much...

First up?

5. He Was Originally an Oddly Specific Stereotype

Now, it's worth noting that T'Challa has, historically, avoided a surprising number of the racial stereotypes and retrospectively offensive plot-lines that similarly pioneering non-white superheroes had to deal with -- but that didn't stop him from being lumbered with an oddly paranoid and exclusionary origin story.

After all, not only did BP start off as an intermittent antagonist for the likes of the Fantastic Four, he did so for the stated purpose of spying on American superhero teams to find out whether or not they were a threat to his nation of Wakanda -- a similar reason to why he originally joined the Avengers. Add in his very explicitly American education -- despite his homeland of Wakanda's sophistication and arguable scientific superiority -- and his entire origin can be seen as a thinly veiled (and completely inexplicable) warning about the dangers of trusting educated foreign workers.

Or, y'know, they just wanted to give the first black superhero in mainstream American comic books a weirdly complicated backstory.

What's more, this is before any politics came into it...

4. Marvel Once Changed His Name for Political Reasons

Now, despite his name now having a very distinct political connotation, the Black Panther actually predated the famed militant organization the Black Panthers by a handful of months.

Which didn't stop Marvel from briefly changing his name to Black Leopard -- despite his nation's long history of Panther worship -- in an attempt to avoid controversy.

Which, in fairness, was done in a noticeably balanced way -- "I neither condemn nor condone those who have taken up the name, but T'Challa is a law unto himself." and didn't last long, but it's still not something Marvel is likely to remember too fondly...

3. His Comic Book Was Once Cancelled Halfway Through a Fight with the Ku Klux Klan

Intriguingly, not too long after that whole name-changing incident, Black Panther actually managed to not only get his own comic book (though it was called Jungle Action) but also managed to get into the 'actually-political' comic game. Widely considered one of the most important comic book runs of all time, Don McGregor's time on Jungle Action earned both a whole lot of critically acclaimed writing and a whole lot of outrage.

So much so, in fact, that it was cancelled halfway through a story-arc in which BP fought the Ku Klux Klan -- in part as a result of criticism from certain groups about the subject matter, alongside falling sales.

The big problem there? When the Ku Klux Klan are going to be happy about you canceling a comic book, it's really better if you just keep making it until after you finish the storyline. As far as sides you want to be on go, the Klan is definitely not one of them -- no matter how bad sales might be.

2. He Really Doesn't Like America

Now, to be clear, the Black Panther has, over the years, proven himself to be noble and trustworthy leader of Wakanda -- and a staunch ally to (and member of) The Avengers.

He's also, however, always been very much a Wakandan, and that's often put him on the complete opposite side of geopolitical conflicts to the USA. For many readers, that might actually make him even more lovable -- but with a major American blockbuster coming soon, it seems likely that Marvel is going to downplay that whole storyline where BP manipulated the entire US State Department, and pissed off the US government to the point that it became a major diplomatic incident...

Speaking truth to power is important, after all, but it doesn't always sell tickets...

And, finally?

1. He Was Once Replaced by a White Cop

Or, rather, that was what it looked like to a whole lot of the comic book buying audience, when NYPD officer Kevin 'Kasper' Cole donned the Panther's iconic duds back in Black Panther #50.

In actual fact, though, Cole was biracial, and functioned as a powerful political statement in Christopher Priest's 2000's run on Black Panther. Indeed, even his nickname, Kasper, was a direct reference to his father being African and his mother Jewish, since -- much like Casper the Friendly Ghost -- he had far lighter skin than he was expected to have. After a brief stint as the Black Panther, he eventually settled into a new superhero guise -- The White Tiger -- before largely disappearing from Marvel comics' roster.

Now, Cole was actually far from the divisive and racially insensitive figure that he might at first glance have seemed to be -- but don't expect to see him turn up in any Marvel movies anytime soon, all the same...

The big question, though?

What do you think?

via THR


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