black panther series commentary


We were about to be canceled.
Well, we were always about to be canceled, but this time it looked for real. I think, the first whispers of cancellation rolled down the hall around the end of Year Two, and we were all getting ready to pack it in. Then Tom suggested we participate in the company-wide crossover event MAXIMUM SECURITY. In a ninth-hour re-write (where I lost the explanation for why Killmonger is in a coma), we cobbled together as lame and broad a "crossover" as we could manage, and PANTHER was included in the MAXIMUM event. And, oddly, that gave us the slightest bump in sales, and saved us for another six months.

Out of that story, involving aliens hiding out in Wakanda, we came up with an idea of making one of the aliens a Deviant Lemurian, from the undersea kingdom of Lemuria. When Lord Ghaur, the Lemurian high priest, discovers this Lemurian woman in Wakanda, he demands Panther surrender the woman to him, ostensibly so the woman can be executed in a religious rite. When Panther refuses, it sparks an international incident that brings Panther and Wakanda into conflict with Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and Atlantis. armies start marching, tensions rise, other nations take sides, and other leaders of Marvel Universe nations— notably Doctor Doom and Magneto— get involved in a prickly summit meeting where they kick each other in the shin while trying to stop Wakanda from going to war with Atlantis. 

The ensuing arc, Sturm Und Drang: A Story of Love & War, became the high point in global politics for this series. Sal Velluto and Bob almond pulled out all of the stops as the various heroes and villains (depending on what they were doing at the time) came and went, with their various armies and entourages. Word was coming down that issue #28 would be our final issue, but we begged for issue #29 so we could tell the story in proper pacing. Once we won the fight for #29, we really needed #30 to give the series proper closure. #30, which featured the original opening to issue #8 (set in Wakanda during World War II), originally rejected by Marvel because, "Nobody wants to read about World War II."

Issue #30 was written like our final issue because that's what we were told. Adios! See ya. It was the second time I figured the book was dead and I just moved on to other things. Imagine my surprise when I got the call that Marvel wanted to keep going, what could we do for the next arc? Well, I wanted to do something else. I'm not sure what, but definitely something else.

At the ninth hour, I re-wrote a couple pages of issue #30 so Ross would (a) meet Henry peter Gyrich, to announce his arrival in the series, and (b) to have Ross reunited with Mephisto, with whom he'd bonded over the "Devil's Pants." I had absolutely no idea what either of those scenes would eventually mean.

For "something else," I decided to rehash a plot idea I once had for an old Batman story:  a murder mystery with no apparent evidence and no apparent victim. Panther plays detective as he gets on the trail of a missing girl who turns out to be one of his former students (Panther once taught high school in Harlem). This turns out to be the handiwork of Nakia, Panther's former Dora Milaje who was disgraced and sent home in issue #13, only to be abducted and abused by Achebe and reeducated by Killmonger into a psychotic, obsessed would-be lover now named Malice.

Color concept for BLACK PANTHER #32. Copyright © 2003 Marvel Characters. All Rights Reserved.


Seduction of The Innocent was a marked change in tone for us,
as we abandoned the sprawling geopolitics of the very successful Sturm Und Drang, along with Ross' narration and settled into a creepy film noire feel. We resurrected private eye Dakota North as Panther (and Sal) perfected his whole Aloof Dark Kitty schtick. For three issues, PANTHER was a very different book, as we flexed different muscles and worked on a very un-funny story.

We interspersed Seduction with glimpses of our subsequent arc, Gorilla Warfare, where I caved into Bob Almond's requests to bring in Panther's long-time arch enemy Man-Ape. Man-Ape likely made Panther history as The Villain Nobody But Bob Wanted To See (which wasn't exactly true: PANTHER fans were elated to hear of Man-Ape's return). Gorilla Warfare was a romp in silliness, revealing more of Queen Divine Justice's backstory while trapping Ross in Mephisto's body. My old DEADPOOL partner Jim Calafiore was the perfect choice to illustrate this arc (while Sal and Bob went directly from Seduction to The Once And Future King). Calafiore cavorted with giddy glee, especially the RossPhisto sequences, and Gorilla Warfare became a pleasant distraction that ended with a huge thud: the revelation of a second Black Panther, long-hidden in the frigid Crystal Forrest.

We deliberately kept the readers hanging for 90 days while we celebrated Panther's 35th Anniversary (and thanks to Bob for bringing that to our attention). Somehow, Tom managed to get Marvel to spring for a 100-page Monster issue, which included Panther's first appearance form FANTASTIC FOUR #52-53, and other classic moments and Sal's sketchbook.

The Once And Future King, the main story that closed out our third year was an ersatz take on The Dark Night Returns, a glimpse into the Panther's future, where he reaps the tragic results of a life spent isolating himself from his loved ones. again, artists Velluto and Almond literally reinvent themselves (and the Panther's world) as they create a future vision in 1920's art deco style, with day-glow colors from the wonderful Jennifer Schlessinger.

I was gratified to have made it to Panther's 35th Anniversary, and grateful to Marvel for acknowledging it in a meaningful way: something especially important to Marvel's African American fans. Again, I figured, well here we were, the end being inevitable and Year Three being a reasonable place to end. Of course, I was wrong again...

Christopher J. Priest
November 2002



The Story Thus Far: Year Three
maximum security

MAXIMUM SECURITY TIE-IN the Black Panther regains his chieftain status under questionable circumstances, only to find himself in a deadly struggle with a malevolent ALIEN RACE, followed by his greatest challenge to date an enraged Everett K. Ross! Art by Sal Velluto and Bob Almond. Edited by Tom Brevoort

Read ExcerptBLACK PANTHER #26-29
sturm und drang: a story of love & war

STORM from THE X-MEN comes to Wakanda to console the Black Panther in his time of need, only to be caught in a tug of war between the Wakandan monarch and the Deviant Lemurians over the fate of a single child. When Panther refuses to hand over a Deviant mother and child discovered on Wakandan soil, Lord Ghaur declares a state of WAR now exists between deviant Lemuria and Wakanda. Also, the man named VIBRAXAS is losing control of his power, and the only one who can save him is the king he's renounced! 

Tensions erupt as the Black Panther responds to Lord Ghaur's threat of war by stationing battle cruisers around the central city of Deviant Lemuria. This irritates the SUB-MARINER, who will go to any lengths to prevent full-scale war beneath the waves, and DR. DOOM, who has a non-aggression pact with Atlantis, must now also become involved! Global tensions ratchet up as the United Nations, the U.S. President, and the AVENGERS work feverishly to find a solution to the crisis! Meanwhile, STORM from THE X-MEN wrestles with the conscience of the king, eliciting a stunning admission from Panther that devastates Monica Lynne.

The cold war goes HOT as The White Wolf teams with KLAW, the Black Panther's greatest enemy, to take advantage of the tense stand-off between Wakanda and the Lemuria-Atlantis alliance. It's the shot heard 'round the world that crashes Everett K. Ross' diplomatic efforts and brings an Atlantean army to Wakanda! 

With Wakanda on the brink of destruction, and the world on the brink of global conflict, the Black Panther struggles to the DEATH with KLAW, while the fate of the world, and possibly the UNIVERSE, rests on the narrow shoulders of— Everett K. Ross?!? Ross brokers a deal with Ghaur to allow Namor to take custody of the disputed child in exchange for a lowering of tensions between Wakanda and Lemuria. 

Panther battles Klaw seemingly into oblivion, viciously dicing Klaw up outside of the U.N., only to be attacked by an angry anti-Wakandan mob. Ross arrives just in time to see Panther arrested by a nervous street cop, and the angry passers-by erupt into a full-scale lynch mob. Art by Sal Velluto and Bob Almond. Edited by Tom Brevoort

"Sturm Und Drang A Story of Love and War" epilogue

As the world reacts and recovers from Wakanda's clash with Atlantis, Everett K. Ross is in the battle of his life— defending the Panther from an angry U.S. Senate! Meanwhile, the Panther comes to terms with CAPTAIN AMERICA, as Cap reveals a decades-old secret under oath, forcing a final confrontation between the Wakandan monarch and the Sentinel of Liberty! Here it is revealed that Captain America met T'Chaka, Panther's father, back during World War II. The bond forged by the two men (involving a unique exchange of shields), introduced Vibranium into the modern world while keeping Wakanda a secret. Cap and Panther deal with lingering issues from Panther's revelations in issue #8 about his original motives for joining the Avengers, and apologizes for not having told Panther sooner that he had met Panther's father. Panther produces one of Cap's original triangle shields— the shield Cap gave Panther's father 50 years before— and tells Cap, "I knew." Panther calls Cap a friend and brother, and leaves. Cap admires the shield with great emotion, an old friend returned to him once more. Then he follows Panther out into the rain, gives the shield back to Panther, "This," he says, "belongs to you now." Cap salutes Panther in the rain, they part as friends once again. Art by Norm Breyfogle. Edited by Tom Brevoort

seduction of the innocent

Read ExcerptSEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT marked a rapid departure for the BLACK PANTHER. It was the first arc in the series presented without Everett K. Ross' narration. Ross is actually missing for most of the arc, and his few brief appearances have him acting... very strangely...

MALICE returns and is out for blood. She sends a cryptic message to the Wakandan Consulate consisting of just two words "She's Dead." Ramonda, the Panther's step-mother, M'Koni, his cousin, Okoye, his chauffeur and loyal Dora Milaje, Queen Divine Justice, and Monica Lynne, are all targets of Malice's wrath, and not even the Black Panther can be in everywhere at once.

While Panther goes after Malice, he hires Dakota North to watch over Monica Lynne, and the two bond into a sort of ersatz Birds of Prey team once the shooting starts. Dakota becomes convinced that Panther has fallen under Malice's control, and goes after Panther himself— ruining Panther's well-laid plan to capture Malice.
Malice has adopted a new weapon, a toxic herb called Jufeiro, that renders men susceptible to suggestion, and obsessively in love with her. Malice ambushes Panther outside of the Wakandan consulate, shooting a dozen protesters in the bargain, and drags Panther off unconscious. Meanwhile, she has, apparently, freed the malevolent Man-Ape, who ambushes Queen Divine Justice and Ramonda during their flight to the United States.

Dakota, now convinced Panther's plan has failed, breaks form and instruction by going after Panther himself, only to discover Panther had the angles covered all along, but he was stringing Malice along in order to save Malice's dying victims— M'Koni and Maria, a former student of "Luke Charles'" (Panther's brief use of an alter ego).

Panther is forced to hunt Malice down and threaten to destroy Malice's tribal village back in Wakanda if she does not give him the antidote to save M'Koni and Maria. Malice relents, knocking Panther off a speeding truck just before she vanishes without a trace. Art by Sal Velluto and Bob Almond. Edited by Tom Brevoort

gorilla warfare

"Gorilla Warfare" finds Queen Divine Justice in the clutches of the deadly Man-Ape, only to discover he's not out to kill her after all, but to reclaim her to her native tribe, the Jabari. The Jabari are worshippers of the White Gorilla God, a sect outlawed by the Panther long ago. Queen Divine Justice is the hope of the Jabari to reclaim their lands, their religion, and their identity as a people, and Queen's loyalty to the Panther is severely tested. Vibraxas arrives on the scene for a poorly-timed rescue effort, only to get brained by a pair of Jabari schoolgirls and imprisoned by Man-Ape.

Meanwhile, Panther is harangued by his new State Department handler. Nikki Adams' new replacement is the ubiquitous Henry Peter Gyrich, former NSA liaison to The Avengers, now sent to the state Department as a slap on the wrist for bungling a mission with the Thunderbolts. The unflappable Gyrich, used to being on the other side of the desk, finds himself constantly being ya yanked around by T'Challa, whom Gyrich assumes— despite all appearances— is enjoying the hell out of making Gyrich miserable.

And, as if that wasn't enough, we finally discover what Ross has been doing these last few months Ross awakens to discover he is living inside of Mephisto's body. Trapped in a near-seven foot tall brimstone red frame, Ross dons a baseball cap and trench coat and hits the subways in search of someone to help him out. Finding no one home, and not knowing where Panther is, Ross arrives at the doorstep of Stephen Strange, and quickly finds himself embroiled in a battle with The Defenders. A battle which comes to an abrupt end when "Ross," the evil, demonic Ross, arrives and zaps the entire team in an eyeblink. But, before the battle ended, Dr. Strange revealed this entity was not Mephisto at al, but was some other eldritch force... someone pretending to be Mephisto, for some unknown purpose.

The whole shebang winds to a climax as Panther battles Man-Ape in the frozen tundra of the Crystal Forest. queen, anxious to help Panther, desperate for answers, urges Vibraxas to use his power to defeat Man-Ape and stop the battle. Vibraxas activates his power, only, he is not wearing the control bands that help him regulate his vibrational energy, and his power goes wildly out of control, plowing over the ice warriors, destroying the huge Gorilla Palace—

—and unearthing a secret tomb, set in the courtyard of Gorilla Palace. There, in a crystal sarcophagus, is a man the Man-Ape trumpets as, "The True, The ORIGINAL BLACK PANTHER!" Art by Jim Calafiore. Edited by Michael Marts.

the once and future king

In a 100-page 35th Anniversary MONSTER Issue, we interrupted our ongoing continuity, leaving readers hanging over the identity of the "original" Black Panther, while we jump twenty-five years into the future to do a Panther-ized take on The Dark Knight Returns. King T'Challa is an aging recluse, fiercely bitter towards the outside world. He has reinstated his father, King T'Chaka's, isolationist policy and sworn to never again set foot on American soil. The old king spends his days going about ceremonial tasks, and preparing his virile son and protégé, Prince T'Charra, to assume the throne.

So, when a group of T'Challa's deadliest enemies kidnap the king's old dear friend Everett K. Ross (Velluto-ized as a ringer for Batman's Commissioner Gordon), the king struggles with the decision whether or not to take the bait and return to America once again. In the end, he chooses not to. Ross is on his own.

Help then comes from an unlikely source. Faida, a disgraced member of the royal family, the daughter King T'Challa has disavowed, sees Ross' rescue as an opportunity for her to find favor with the king— and, possibly, succeed him. Faida has been raised in virtual isolation by Panther's young protégé, Asira Davin— "queen Divine Justice"— who has taken her place as queen of the Jabari tribe. However, Faida faces a gauntlet of ruthless, deadly villains bent on taking T'Challa to the grave with them. Her life, and the king's legacy, are the stakes in what could be the last mission of the Black Panther— or the first of a new breed.

Sal Velluto and Bob Almond, literally, reinvented the wheel for this 44-page special edition. With a new vision of Wakanda and New York, and new visions of our familiar cast (a 52 year-old Ross! A middle-aged Queen Divine Justice?!), the guys have thrown 150% into this look into the possible future of our cast and king.

In pursuit of the captive Ross, Faida takes some advice from T'Challa's arch nemesis, the ever-nuts Achebe, and forms an alliance with Hunter, The White Wolf, which leads them into an ambush at an abandoned church in Brooklyn. Hunter and Faida are suddenly faced with their true enemy— T'Charra, the king's son. T'Charra, weary of waiting for T'Challa to step down and crown him king, had decided to move things along a bit by forming an alliance with the king's foes in an attempt to lure T'Challa to America and, ultimately, to his death. A death on American soil would rally nationalistic fervor in Wakanda and unite the kingdom behind their new king— T'Charra. Faida refuses to go along with T'Charra's scheme, and she and Hunter pay for that choice with their lives. When news of his daughter's death reaches T'Challa, it accomplishes what Ross' kidnapping could not— it lures the king out of retirement, out of Wakanda— and The Black Panther stalks America once more.

Panther recruits old friends The Falcon, Brother Voodoo and Luke Cage to help him invade a long-deserted Coney Island amusement park, where Ross is being held c captive by a half dozen of Panther's oldest (literally) and most vicious enemies. Panther ultimately saves Ross from Achebe attempting to run him down in a roller coaster, and immediately engages the evil T'Charra. The father-son battle spills into the futuristic New York subway system, where Panther nearly succumbs to a stress-induced seizure, but the king prevails, managing to pull himself together long enough to capture his errant son and deliver him to the authorities. By Sal Velluto and Bob Almond. Edited by Mike Marts.

  Black Panther Year Four

Text Copyright © 2008 Grace Phonogram eMedia. All Rights Reserved.