Created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Black Panther was the first black superhero.  In 2005, Reginald Hudlin and John Romita, Jr. launched an epic take on the Panther – one that would marry him into the mainstream Marvel Universe as surely as he married X-Men’s Storm.

LISTEN: Want to hear more about Black Panther? We discussed his time out of Wakanda and in Hell’s Kitchen in a podcast about street justice!

In this podcast, we ran through the first of Hudlin and Romita’s arcs, and focused in on the central question: Who is the Black Panther?  It was a fascinating discussion, with a particular focus on the way Wakandan culture is presented as different to Western (particularly Western American).  Whereas Western culture treats people as individuals, many African cultures believe that a person is understood corporately; as a result, Reggie Hudlin’s portrayal of the Black Panther risks being fascinatingly off-key for a Western audience, carefully assessing the Black Panther in the context of his ancestry, his family, and his legend.

At heart, this book is about the Black Panther, not about T’Challa, and so several of the team were left feeling as though they hadn’t gotten to know T’Challa at all.  There was also discussion about the role of Wakanda in the first Black Panther arc, with the nation itself portrayed as much as a character as the Black Panther.  In fact, #1 arguably spends more time setting up Wakanda than it does the Black Panther!

HEAR: Kay Honda does an awesome job hosting this podcast with Jamie Rice and Marvel Editor, Kathleen Wisneski. Want to listen to more of these ladies? Check out our podcast on Grant Morrison’s Eisner Award nominated NEW X-MEN run.

The Black Panther, though, is a legend – a legacy title, one that, unlike most legacy titles, was designed to be one.  In a world of Thunder Gods and alien armadas, the Black Panther’s is a spiritual legacy, one that is treated with an ironic amount of disdain by the rest of the world.  The portrayal of American society and military ambitions in this book is absolutely fascinating.

In November 2017, we will see the Black Panther on the big screen; we’ve already seen a glimpse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s portrayal of Wakanda, back in Avengers: Age of Ultron.  This first arc is surely required reading for understanding the character and context of the Black Panther.

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