Part 1 – Brass Frogs, Yetis, and Colonel Pigman, Oh My
Recently Marvel Studios announced Phase Three of their plan for the movie universe, which will include movies for Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and the Inhumans. Being the easy mark that I am, I decided to dig deep into the back issues for Black Panther and Doc Strange (I don’t think I’ll ever develop an affinity for the Inhumans) to get my intelligence quotient up.
Black Panther has always been an intriguing character, but much like with Strange and the Inhumans, not one I ever felt got that prestige run by a celebrated creative team (Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko aside) that will pull in the uninitiated. I loved T’Challa on the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon (and that’s the voice I hear when I read him in the comics now). He was part of my core rotation in the Marvel Ultimate Alliance video game (the best Marvel video game ever, besides Maximum Carnage). I’ve always weirdly loved the striped lines on his gloves.
Yet, I’ve never gotten around to reading all that many comics with him. This is mostly because, as longtime readers will know, I was primarily a Spider-Man and X-Men reader as a kid. I didn’t venture into the Avengers side of the universe until (physical) adulthood.
I read the Black Panther’s initial appearance in Fantastic Four #52, and the follow-up that introduced my beloved Klaw in the very next issue. Standard high-level Stan and Jack comic book storytelling. There’s pretty much no way I’m going to read Roy Thomas comics on purpose, so that leaves out Panther’s early appearances in the Avengers, which leaves me with one final early option for high level Black Panther storytelling.
In the ‘70s, Jack Kirby would return to Marvel, and the many characters he created, with a renewed vigor and level of madcap storytelling that can only be explained by heavy drug use (unlikely to be true). What follows is a semi detailed breakdown of all the reasons why you should make these comics your very own.
All issues were edited, written, and drawn by Jack Kirby, inked by Mike Royer, and overseen by Archie Goodwin (except for the final issue).
Black Panther #1
|(“Cancel that bitch!” – Nino Brown)|
Black Panther #2
Black Panther does push-ups to temporarily defeat a telepathic alien from 6000 years in the future. In the future, we still number things much like we do in the present.
Black Panther #3
Panther and his allies are able to send the alien back to the future, by rubbing two brass frogs together. I dare you to try and remove this image of Black Panther, holding two brass frogs really close to each other, out of your mind.
Black Panther #4
T’Challa meets Count Zorba, Colonel Pigman, and Silas Mourner. (Surprisingly, Colonel Pigman is the least strange looking of the three, which is not a bet I would have made.) All are members of the mysterious group, The Collectors. Panther’s allies to this point, Mister Little and Princess Zanda, are also members of the Collectors, who seek priceless ancient artifacts of power. (I feel like Kirby is making a comment about collector mentality here.) Regardless, you never want to miss a comic featuring someone named Colonel Pigman.
Black Panther #5
T’Challa fights the abominable snowman, on his quest to find the fountain of youth.
Black Panther #6
|Okay, Kirby was definitely commenting on comic collecting.|
Black Panther defeats a Samurai. The samurai requests death for the dishonor of losing, but T’Challa is honor-bound by his customs to grant a defeated foe mercy.
Meanwhile, in Wakanda, General Jakarra initiates his takeover of the country. They “shall all pay for the self-hatred which has driven little men with tall dreams…” hey, wait a minute! Uncalled for!
To resolve the death or dishonor dilemma, Panther fights another large man, while the little man sneaks in to steal some of the immortality water, on his own accord. When Black Panther asks him why, the only appropriate response would be the now legendary “Immortality, fool--!”
Surrounded by samurais with murder in their hearts, Black Panther invokes diplomatic immunity, saving himself and Mister Little. He settles up with the Collectors before leaving for home.
Black Panther #8
T’Challa pilots his helicopter home, while thinking back to when he won his place as ruler of Wakanda while disguised in an S&M mask.
Panther’s half brother Jakarra’s coup attempt ended abruptly, when his experiments with exposing himself to Vibranium turned him into a monster. A monster that “won’t be handsome, that’s for certain!”
That’s reason enough to be angry if ever I’ve heard one.
Panther picks up a few hitchhikers stranded at sea, who happen to be gangsters, one of which dies when the helicopter eventually crashes.
Black Panther #9
T’Challa’s family and friends form the Black Musketeers to take down the menace of Jakarra. Black Panther is rescued from certain death in the desert by a crew of moviemakers (who appear to be making Star Wars, a full year before it came out).
Black Panther #10
The Black Musketeers try to devise a way to defeat Jakarra, while Black Panther continues his perilous journey home. (Itobo looks like a 1970s hip-hop DJ, if you ask me.)
|“Take off that laboratory smock!”|
Panther returns just in time to administer the serum to stop Jakarra’s rampage.
Black Panther #11
Panther dreams of a fight against the Uglies, a dream he suspects to be a vision of the future. Itobo tests him for telepathic capabilities due to his exposure to the Vibranium mine, which prove to be true. The Uglies are led by a man named Kiber, who is kidnapping people, and converting them into pure energy.
Black Panther #12
Black Panther tracks down Kiber for the final showdown. He deduces that the Kiber everyone sees is only a projected image, with the real Kiber yet to be revealed.
Black Panther #13 – Plot: Jim Shooter; Script: Ed Hannigan; Art: Jerry Bingham; Inks: Gene Day
Kiber is revealed to be a melted mass of matter on the floor, but none of it matters because Kirby left due to bad treatment and better offers. (As much as I like Bingham and Day’s sleek and powerful Panther, and the storytelling is decidedly Shooter-era Marvel, it’s not Kirby insanity at its finest.)
I know I had read these Kirby Black Panther comics before, but it was most likely during my “comic books should be serious” period, so therefore I couldn’t appreciate them for what they are. Zany, maniacal yarns moving forward at a kinetic pace. Kirby working alone seemed to produce some of his weirdest concepts, and that’s never been more evident than here.
For those of you that prefer grim and gritty “serious” storytelling, this probably isn’t the Black Panther for you. For everyone else, come take a long hit and get high on that Kirby life in its purest form. When you exhale, little people try to steal immortality water.
Next time, the Priest!