The Black Panther first appeared in a 1966 Fantastic Four two-parter (#52 & #53). Not long after that (1968) he joined the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Black Panther’s time with the Avengers raised his profile, yet, also largely ignored one of his most prominent features: being king of Wakanda. Other superheroes in the past had either been monarchs or had ties to them, most famously Princess Diane, daughter of the Queen of the Amazons. The overlap between Wakanda and Themyscira is intriguing, as they are both technologically advanced cultures created and maintained by minority populations. In his original Wonder Woman stories, William Moulton Marston used Paradise Island as an example for what human civilization could aspire to being, if only women were allowed to live to their full potential. Similarly the scientific glories of Wakanda represent what African minds can achieve when free from the bonds of oppression. Unlike Wonder Woman, this concept was dormant throughout T’Challa’s earliest adventures. His Avengers period kept him in New York, far removed from the tribal politics of his homeland. It was not until the Panther received his first solo stories that creators began tapping the full potential of Wakanda.
In the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve
Here are a selection of haunting covers from
DC’S 70s horror line . . .
“American political discourse. The wisdom of the bumper sticker. The eloquence of a toe in the eye and a knuckle up the nostril.”
–Foolkiller #8, Steve Gerber
Ever had one of those bad days when the slightest annoyance enrages? Someone steps on your toe and suddenly they become the embodiment of everything you hate. You want to scream at them, throttle them. Many of us might do the former, while only imaging the latter. It is natural after all, steam blowing off and all that. Eventually perspective returns. However, those violent urges never entirely dissipate. Violence is woven into humans’ DNA; it is a piece of our heritage in being a member of the animal kingdom. Living in society, though, teaches how those impulses can be held in check. At the same time, culture can send quite mixed messages on the subject. Media representations of violence were one of the reoccurring concerns of writer Steve Gerber, who often satirized what he viewed as lax attitudes on the subject. His early 90s series Foolkiller, goes beyond Howard the Duck’s humorous ribbing, offering instead a searing indictment of an ailing body politic and the madman it produces. It is a compelling examination of how far down the rabbit role one man might descend when he accepts the task of cleansing the nation of fools. It is also one of Gerber’s masterpieces.
As with their political counterparts, big-name comic conventions are increasingly morphing into stage managed infomercials, at least, when it comes to generating actual “news”. Major announcements are often made in the days leading up to the con or hinted at so strongly that the actual confirmation seems after the fact. For example, at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, it was nice to have Brie Larson officially named as Marvel Studio’s Captain Marvel, yet it was hardly a shock, as its possibility had been finely debated by fans weeks earlier. One surprise, though, was the news that Arrow would be adding Ragman to its cast of characters in the upcoming season. Not simply for a one episode gig either, but a reoccurring role in the show. Now this was something. Ragman has hardly seemed to be on DC’s radar lately, let alone the writing rooms’ of the CW. Still, for longtime fans of the character, it was welcome news. While Ragman has never broken through to the forefront of popularity, he occupies his own fascinating corner of the DCU.
Among his various editorial decisions at Marvel, I am guessing that Stan Lee does not keep on his résumé: “Guy Who Turned down Star Wars.” Yet that was what he did when Lucasfilm publicist Charles Lippincott came knocking on Lee’s office door. Now, true, it was 1975 and the project was still in development. Lee’s quite reasonable, request was come back when you have an actual movie to show me. So Lippincott did, and Lee would have said no again, if it was not for the intervention of editor/writer Roy Thomas. Thomas was interested in the property and wished to edit it himself. Lee (who I can easily imagine shrugging his shoulders or making some similarly dismissive gesture) agreed.
Lucasfilm was eager for Star Wars to have as many avenues to its core fanboy audience as possible, so they allowed Marvel to have the license with no royalty obligations (unless it sold 100,000 copies, which I doubt anyone in the room believed would happen). Thus in 1977, Marvel released a new science-fiction series, written/edited by Thomas and illustrated by Howard Chaykin, adapted from the George Lucas film we now know as Episode IV: A New Hope. Back then it was simply Star Wars, and it sold a lot of copies. According to Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, the title was so successful, it saved the publisher from a dangerous financial state (even after Lucasfilm returned to renegotiate those royalty fees post-100,000 units sold).