As I sit here waiting for the next issue of Black Panther Most Dangerous man Alive, despite the shoddy false advertising which threw me for a loop recently (Black Panther Man without fear #517), I got to thinking
Why is Marvel still trying with the Black Panther?!
I hear allot of bitching and moaning about what Marvel should or should not do with T’challa but Marvel has tried to keep things fresh and keep the Panther on store shelves consistently for over 16 years. Ridiculous you say? Well sorry Mr and Mrs negative. Take a chill pill sit back
Wait a minute!
Let me school you!
Instead of going back to the beginning I’ll start with the 90’s and how marvel has tried various things to garner interest in the first ever Black Superhero.
Before priest was tasked to helm Black Panther the 90’s saw T’challa in “Black Panther’s Prey” which was a beautifully drawn four issue limited series released in 1991. The Black Panther went on to make cameo’s all over the Marvel Universe and was a mainstay of the “Fantastic Force” team which he funded from 1994 until 1996 which ran for eighteen issues.
After the limited success of these series Marvel decided it was time to revamp the Black Panther and Christopher Priest was tasked with making the Black Panther relevant to a whole new generation of readers.
Critically acclaimed and loved by fans. To even suggest it was not a work of art is blasphemy! But what did it do? Black Panther at around 1998 entered the scene with a bang, selling more than 54’000 copies of its first issue. the Black Panther was back and more visible than ever. Priest introduced many concepts such as the Dora Milaj, the tale of Hunter and the Hatut Zeraze, technology beyond your wildest dreams and action, wonderful glorious over the top action which saw T’challa become hardcore. He confessed to joining the Avengers simply to asses there threat level, he took on a crazed Iron Fist and lived to tell the tale, he defeated Tony Stark/Iron Man and Magneto. Priest reintroduced and in some instances revamped classic villains such as Malice, Man -Ape and Eric Killmonger with new twists and made them not just a threat to the Panther but to the whole Marvel universe.
Sure everyone thought Priest’s run was perfect but I didn’t.
I was bored to tears long before the “enemy of the state” story line wrapped up I had seen T’challa take on Iron Man, Iron Fist and various others but once the sci-fi stuff with Solomon’s frogs started I was picking it up out of reverence instead of enjoyment.Priest had essentially made the Black Panther into Marvel’s Batman and as a result was faced with a hero who was cool to read but lacked any kind of personality outside of being cool. Looking back it’s the same problem I had with DC comics Hal Jordan for most of his career he’s just not personable.
At no point during the run was I pulled into the tale or was I emotionally invested in the characters on the page. They were cool and iconic but there was a great divide between him and me. He lacked the down to earth charm of Peter Parker/Spider-man or Kyle Rayner/Green Lantern or Miles Morales/ Spider-man. None of the social issues one would expect a Black Superhero to deal with were brought to the fore. It was cool but fell flat on personality.
Things became exciting once again with the introduction of Kasper Cole, a character who was a modern take on the Black Panther mythos. He had all of T’challa‘s personality traits stripped of the fiction of Wakanda. He was a Panther for the modern reader. Confronting reverse racism and baby mamma drama was the reality kick the series had needed. Sadly I was one of the few still buying the damn book Black Panther sales fell to a low of above 15,000 (see sales figures for details). Marvel despite the sales slump charged Priest to continue the tales of Kasper in “The Crew” which sadly only lasted seven issues ending in 2004.
While Priest was putting the finale touches on “The Crew” Marvel had already contacted Reggie Hudlin to fill some big shoes. Unlike Priest who took on Black Panther with no one looking and caught our attention, Reggie had to live up to Priest’s run, from both critics and fans alike. His first arc showed great promise “Who is the Black Panther‘s” first issue fell short of Priest’s opening salvo BUT it dramatically improved on the final sales figures of Priest’s run it sold a whopping over 50’000 copies (See sales figures for details).
It appeared that the Black Panther was back but what most were unaware of was that this opening arc was to be a limited series. The massive sales figures though prompted Marvel to turn it into an ongoing series. This probably explains the travesty which was the second arc involving the X-men. What Hudlin brought to the table was (1) a streamlined royal family, (2) he literally made the Panther behave and operate like a world class leader instead of just a superhero and (3) a healthy dose of politics which felt different enough from Priests run to warrant the new series; but critics and fans alike went to town on him. All across cyberspace came the complaining.
The wedding itself is the best selling single Black Panther issue in the history of the character topping 60’000 (See Sales for details). The problem though was not capitalizing on Storm’s inclusion in the series. To me this is where the shit hit the fan. Hudlin had literally married black superhero royalty but shuffled Storm into the role of “love interest”. That commanding presence she had for years in the X-men was subdued. Her fans lambasted Hudlin’s mutilation of her character and honestly this is where I think the internet started hating him. Storm fans are a very vocal and very fickle bunch and Hudlin had awoken an “ant nest of controversy” by not being able to cater to both fan bases. When they joined the Fantastic Four and had their relationship penned by the master Dwayne Mcduffie’s things seemed like they could be getting better but once they left that team and Mcduffie’s pen I was ready to move on.
Boredom had struck again, their marriage was too perfect, sure I liked seeing them together but…..it was boring to read about every month.
They were a modern day Scott/Cyclops and Jean/Phoenix, claimed soul mates by everyone but watching the relationship was snooze-ville. The sci-fi stories that came out of joining the Fantastic Four were also not fitting for the character though they did have some impressive feats by both Black Panther and Storm. Despite the flack from fans and critics the series at its lowest sold about 19’000 copies (See sales for details) which tops the lowest of Priest’s run and finally ended in 2008.
Hudlin’s last hurrah with the panther began in 2009 and this is where Marvel starts trying new things. A female Black Panther takes the lead in this series and T’challa resorts to tactics last seen in the Priest run of drawing out his enemies while seemingly abandoning his nation.
Maberry eventually takes over a run best described as all out action.
But with Shuri taking over as the next lead protagonist to T’challa, Storm gets even less limelight and gets tragically written as almost neutered and out of her depth in Wakanda. The relaunch sold over 50’000 copies but was the fastest falling Black panther series ever as it ended with a little over 17’000 in twelve issues.
Not deterred Marvel launched Doomwar to resolve the plot-lines left over from this series with villain Dr.Doom. They tossed in the x-men, fantastic four, War machine and Deadpool to boost sales. It was mildly successful as the series began with 40’000+ (See Sales figures for details)without any publicity because Marvel in it’s infinite wisdom threw their publicity behind the far inferior “Siege” which had one white character going bat shit crazy while killing a white god etc. Six issue in the Doomwar series ended with about 20’000 + (See Sales figures for details).
What was Marvel to do?
In a testament to the faith Marvel had in the Black Panther they launched three very different Black Panther books, “Klaws of the Panther” a direct Follow up to Doomwar, “Flags of our fathers” a prequel by Hudlin and relaunched Black Panther staring T’challa as Black Panther: Man without fear.
Reception for Flags of our Fathers was lukewarm at best with a start of 20’000 and an end of 12’000 (See Sales figures for details) it was obvious fans were not overly enthused or interested in the tales of old Panther Azzari despite the inclusion of Captain America.
Klaws of the Panther was weird and suffered from broken and just plain terrible art! Klaws was the worst selling Black Panther series to date despite throwing in Spider-man and Wolverine it started with a little over 16’000.
Enter David Liss who moved T’challa out of Wakanda. As illogical as it seemed since it was out of character especially given what became of his nation after Doomwar concluded. It worked! Critics loved it and fans……well some of them did too. sales?
Not the boom of the Hudlin or Priest Highs but a moderate success as the first issue sold about 30’000 copies. This series found Marvel trying allot of tricks to boost sales.
A touted battle between T’challa and Luke cage which was simply advertising because the two panels dedicated to the scuffle was so paltry it was less than meaningless. The latest sales gimmick appears to be the mystery of the American Panther which I guarantee you will not be T’challa despite all the online Hoopla. The greatest strength for the book is the street level action that makes T’challa feel right at home.
All I can say is Marvel you have tried just near everything to keep the Black Panther a viable and visible Black Superhero for check it over 16 years from 1994-2011 and the only thing left for fans to do is put out or just shut the #!*& up!
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