Book Review: New Book Examines Rise of the Black Panther | Way of life
After school and on Saturday mornings, they were devoted to fighting crime.
There you were, seven, eight, nine years old, tough-bodied, brave, and fire-resistant—at least, in your mind. With your ancestors and others with superpowers, you were invincible. And in “Black Panther” by Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Billy Graham, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, you’ll see it all started with a “dark line.”
In the years between the middle of the Depression and the middle of World War II, more than “seven hundred super-powered benefactors debuted” in the comics, nationwide. After the war ended, the comics continued to be popular, but the superhero genre faded into a small group that their publisher called the Justice League of America.
This prompted rival editor Marvin Goodman to “sit up and take notice”. He decided his comic book company needed its own superhero team, and he teamed up with several talents to create the Marvel Universe. In the early 1960s, Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four were joined by several other superheroes “in the same story world”, each with a unique talent; in 1966, the Black Panther is one of them.
The character appeared at exactly the right time, say the authors. The origins of the Black Panther mirrored what was happening in the United States socially, politically, and civil rights. The introduction of the Black Panther came between Jim Crow and the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. America, the authors say, “faced the profound historical consequences” of what it had done to its black citizens and T’Challa was its own man. He didn’t need white superheroes to save him.
There were a few jagged edges to the character – early on there were “hints” that the Black Panther might become a comic book villain – but readers of the first story eventually rested easier. The Fantastic Four and the Black Panther have always been in good hands, in Wakanda as elsewhere…
Imagine, says Nnedi Okorafor in his foreword, being a small child of immigrants from Nigeria, trying to visit a comic book store when older white men were his usual customers. She then fled the store empty-handed and returned to comics as an adult and found a character that looked like her. The first incarnation of this character and his comic book history can be found in “Black Panther”.
Fans can rejoice: the latter takes up most of this book, chronologically and in full color, like the original comic books offered. But patience: before getting there, read the overview of comics in general, Marvel Comics in particular; Foreword by Okorafor; and a volume introduction to this character. Turn back for a Black Panther essay and plot synopses with creator’s notes. That’s the whole thing.
The bonus, for movie and comic book fans, is that you can read this paperback version of the hardcover book worry-free. Show your love for this version of “Black Panther” and share it, knowing you’re someone else’s hero.
“Black Panther” by Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Billy Graham, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, 2022, Penguin Classics Marvel Collection, 377 pages, $28