Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Now Strikes--The Panther!

As we've previously seen in a Fantastic Four tale from 1972, writer Roy Thomas, scripting his first story for the title, altered the name of the Black Panther--for reasons which had their basis not in a purely creative choice but, rather, in the real-world minefield of politics.

But, come to think of it, not a single other story comes to mind where we've seen the Black Leopard leaping into action. What gives??

That's our cue to leap into yet another

Marvel Trivia Question

Whatever happened to "the Black Leopard"?

The Panther in the FF story is alluding to the Black Panther Party, which by 1972 was a coast-to-coast organization with an extensive following and receiving major news coverage--as well as opposition from the F.B.I., which made no small effort to discredit the Party and brand it as a threat to the country's security. Yet "the Black Leopard" name may have informally been able to trace its roots back to Thomas's run on The Avengers--a group which the Panther joined in 1968, two years after the BPP had formed.

Prior to that time, the Panther would formally announce himself as "the Black Panther," while naturally referred to by his given name of T'Challa or shortened to "the Panther" when addressed by those who conversed with him. (Otherwise, you'd have an Avenger making odd-sounding statements like "Anything you want to add to the meeting, Black Panther?" or "Thanks for the save, Black Panther!") Yet when the Panther is proposed for Avengers membership by Captain America via radio, his formal title is scaled back by Thomas to omit the name's adjective from the start, even for people who have had no introduction to him whatsoever.

In addition, in his first Avengers story where he's framed for their apparent murder, "the Panther" is how T'Challa becomes known to the world at large--and, it seems, even to himself, who in announce-worthy statements (either verbally or through thought bubbles) had previously routinely referred to himself as the Black Panther.  The end result was a title which, now pared down, no longer served to galvanize the character for the reader.

It's a name shift which curiously only lasts just a few issues--a "trial run," perhaps, with the perceived connection to the nascent BPP having apparently been deemed a non-issue. When the Avengers return from battling Magneto (and the X-Men) and find themselves faced with a threat from the Masters of Evil, the Panther is back to announcing himself in a manner which resonates with villains, with readers--and with himself.

As for the Black Leopard, the new title is even more short-lived, as we see just a few months later when the Panther resurfaces in the pages of The Avengers and the title's new writer, Steve Englehart, reverts the character to his former classic standing.

Personally, I'd be in favor of "the Black Leopard" had the character been assigned the name from his inception--it has a stronger bearing as a name for a comics character, and it's well-suited to the assertive posture of Wakanda. And for whatever reason, it even sounds more formidable--you can practically hear the snarl that accompanies it. Just imagine that FF panel with "the Black Panther!" substituted--it doesn't seem to carry the same impact. But when those guards wake up, they'll know they've been charged and laid out by the Black Leopard!

Did you know...

The Black Panther's debut in both Fantastic Four and The Avengers
have the same issue number:



Colin Jones said...

I'm glad they stuck with the name Black Panther - I'm not very keen on "Black Leopard" nor "The Panther".

Believe it or not, there was also an organisation called British Black Panthers, inspired by the American group. I heard about them for the first time quite recently, in a radio documentary about them.

But, CF, you've failed to mention something rather obvious - when the (Black) Panther/Leopard arrives in America he's wearing a mask that no longer completely covers his face. And that mask was later abandoned just the Leopard name.

Colin Jones said...

...just LIKE the Leopard name I meant!!

Britt Reid said...

After Avengers #73-74 (which featured the Black Panther vs the racist Sons of the Serpent), whenever he appeared on a cover the Panther was listed as "T'Challa", not "The Black Panther", even though he was always in costume!
Roy Thomas attempted to end that silliness by introing the "Black Leopard" name in Fantastic Four, but that didn't even last six months, as T'Challa reverted to the Black Panther name in a guest appearance in Daredevil #92 right before his return to the Avengers in #105!
You can get the details here...

Comicsfan said...

Actually, Colin, if you'll check that link to Avengers #52 above, you'll see I'd already touched on the mask alteration in that post; I just didn't mention it again since it didn't seem that pertinent to today's topic.

Britt, that's an excellent addendum to this post regarding the curious use of T'Challa's name on the cover to Avengers #87. (Though he's back to being "the Panther" on those covers featuring the Sons of the Serpent--the poor guy needs a better press agent!)

Colin Jones said...

Oops, my apologies, CF - I just clicked on the link :)

I was going to ask if any reason was given for the change of mask but, after reading your previous post, I can see there wasn't!

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