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History of the first black superhero, The Black Panther, before its big movie debut

Nick Megdanoff, Writer

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King, scientist, warrior and hero, one man of fiction holds all of these titles, earning these titles through years of challenges in the real world. T’Challa, the king of the fictitious African country Wakanda, but he is more commonly known as Black Panther. After many years of experiencing controversy and helping to push diversity in comics, Black Panther is getting his own solo movie on Feb. 16, letting him to enter the public spotlight once again.

Black Panther was created by Marvel’s Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist) with his first appearance in the pages of Fantastic Four #52, released in July of 1966, as a mysterious villain who was capable of defeating the Fantastic Four team. Black Panther had a uniqueness about him because he was the first superhero of color in any medium.

Black Panther was a part of a group of character ideas produced in 1965 by Lee and Kirby in an attempt to sell more comics against their main competitor, DC Comics. Black Panther’s original idea was titled Coal Tiger, who was just an adventurer turned hero, but Black Panther had to go under much change before his debut in the comics.

After having been in several other series with different characters, Black Panther would get his own series in 1977, written and drawn by one of his creators, Kirby. The character would begin to fade into obscurity over time, until being revived in the Marvel Knights line in 1998 alongside other characters that suffered the same fate. But, his first attempt at a return to fame came in 1993 with the offer for a movie lined up with Wesley Snipes, but it was never produced due to behind the scenes dilemmas.

When the Black Panther did debut, his release coincided with the founding of the civil rights activist group The Black Panther Party, leading to Marvel being accused of supporting the movement. This name connection led to accusations almost ending the Black Panther name and having it changed to Black Leopard.

After much of the Black Panther’s controversy died down, Marvel began to create more characters of color for its roster of the Marvel Universe. These characters included Bill Foster, a biochemist turned superhero who would help out the Avengers and Joe “Robbie” Robertson, a Daily Bugle editor in Amazing Spider-Man who would later become the editor in chief. More characters were created later and became known as the heroic Falcon and the villainous Man-Ape, while other attempted characters would fade or become background characters.

Almost 50 years after Black Panther was brought to life, the character will be getting his own movie debuting Feb. 16. The Black Panther movie will be showcasing the country of Wakanda with Chadwick Boseman playing the historical hero and Michael B. Jordan playing his adversary Erik Killmonger; bringing the character’s tale into the spotlight once more.

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