Thursday, February 4, 2010

Off the Shelf

In a form of celebrating Black History Month, I'd like to take a look at some of the prominent African or African-American characters who have had a big impact on the medium (but more importantly, characters I actually like).

The Black Panther is Marvel's oldest and most prominent African figure. He was first introduced in Fantastic Four, actually appearing before the formal organization of the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther, otherwise known as T'Challa, hails from Wakanda and serves as that nation's king. Throughout the years, T'Challa has been a member of the Avengers and the FF, he's had several long running series, and he recently married Storm, one of Marvel's most popular mutants who is also of African origins.

The Black Panther interests me because he brings a different dynamic to palate of Marvel superheroes. While most heroes struggle with against their alter egos, T'Challa is the proud king of Wakanda, as well as its protector and a hero known world wide. He must balance his duties as king with those of a metahuman society who constantly call upon him. It's also great to read superhero stories that don't take place in New York or outer space: Africa serves as a splendid backdrop for most Panther stories. Elements of African culture weave throughout the narrative and give the Black Panther a depth that most characters lack. Basically, he's like Dr. Doom, just not a psycho nutcase hellbent on destroying Reed Richards.

If you'd like to broaden your scope in the realm of superheroes who reside outside of Manhattan, check out the Black Panther.

Recommended reading: Who is the Black Panther?, The Black Panther by Jack Kirby, Civil War Black Panther

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