Now, with a supporting role in the imminently arriving Captain America: Civil War about to be added to his cinematic CV, a solo movie set to hit theaters in 2018, and a shiny new comic book written by one of the most acclaimed young writers in any medium, Ta-Nehisi Coates, it's no real surprise that the Black Panther has been getting more than his usual share of attention of late.
With a pair of brand new takes on the Panther (both cinematic and comic book) about to make their mark, then, it seems as good a time as any to ask a very specific question:
Just How Much Has The Black Panther Changed Over The Years?
The answer? Both not all that much at all and a whole, whole lot.
Black Panther's First Appearance Featured A Very Recognizable Figure, As An Antihero
The Black Panther, after all, was first depicted (back in 1966's Fantastic Four #52) in pretty much the same way we know and love him today: As a black-suited, be-caped hero with distinctive panther-like features to his costume.
The key difference? T'Challa (the Panther's not-all-that-secret identity) was portrayed as something of an antihero, attacking the FF as part of a scheme to test his own abilities. This characterization, however, wasn't to last all that long, with BP's more straightforwardly heroic side coming out once he joined Marvel's premier super-team in Avengers #52. At which point...
Black Panther Lost Half His Mask, And His Cape
Now, T'Challa restored his mask to its fully covered glory not too long after, but his cape remained absent throughout his tenure working alongside Earth's Mightiest Heroes (including during a brief phase in which he opted to change his name to the Black Leopard in response to the controversial activist group, the Black Panther Party, which he in fact predated).
In fact, as it turns out...
Black Panther Kept The Streamlined Look Well Into the '80s
While BP finally got his own solo series in the mid-'70s with Jungle Action — in which he famously took on the Klu Klux Klan (above) — he ultimately retained the cape-less ensemble well into the 1980s, with 1988's limited Black Panther series marking his first real return to his original outfit:
Which largely stuck until the late 1990s, when everything changed once again.
Black Panther Turned Back Into An Antihero Again
Christopher Priest's 1998 run on Black Panther's solo comic book transformed the hero into a complex blend of pragmatic Wakandan king and noble, self-sacrificing hero.
Who, while now in possession of a nifty, gold-tinged costume, could more often than not be found dressed more like this:
...than in his costumed garb of yesteryear.
And then? Well...
In The 2000s, Things Got A Little Weird
First up, the mantle of the Black Panther was briefly — and very much against T'Challa's wishes — taken up by a New York cop named Kasper Cole, who took to wearing a trench-coat over the traditional outfit (above), and then the role was taken over for a little while by his sister Shuri, who took a subtly different approach to the traditional outfit:
At which point...
T'Challa Returned To The Role With A Very Different Costume
Taking over from Daredevil as the protector of Hell's Kitchen for a spell, BP adopted a more body-armor and visible claw-based costume, which soon transitioned back into a more traditional look...
...before, just this month, changing dramatically.
The New Comic Book Black Panther Actually Looks Like A Panther
Which is a) freaking awesome, and b) an interesting contrast to the more technological (yet equally awesome) look T'Challa rocks in Captain America: Civil War:
The big question now, though?
What do YOU think?
Should Black Panther have a cape or not?