The Black Panther (nee T’Challa), the first black superhero to appear in American comics, debuted in Fantastic Four #52 (July ’66). He’s the hereditary ruler of the East African kingdom Wakanda, a source of Vibranium, a metallic element brought to Earth thousands of years ago by a meteorite. Each of the deposits found contains different properties; the Wakandan version absorbs sound waves, vibrations and kinetic energy, making it one of the hardest substances on Earth. By selling small portions of it, T’Challa’s father, King T’Chaka, funded his country’s educational system, but he also concealed his land to prevent exploitation (unfortunately, it didn’t quite work – see below). Still a boy, T’Challa witnesses his father’s murder and vows to avenge him. Once old enough, he successfully passes the Kingship trials and assumes the title Black Panther, along with its perks, including exposure to an herb mutated by Vibranium that enhances the senses and creates mystical energies. Selling some of the substance makes him wealthy, and he turns Wakanda into the most technologically advanced nation on Earth.
As mentioned, Black Panther joined Marvel in Fantastic Four #52, and stayed for #’s 53 and The first book sees Reed Richards receiving an invitation for a visit from the Wakandan ruler, and he readily accepts on behalf of his team. Johnny asks his college roommate, Wyatt Wingfoot, a native American, along. On arrival they find themselves trapped in a high tech environment, separated, and hunted by The Black Panther. T’Challa’s invite was a ruse to get the foursome to Wakanda so he could test his abilities. With the aid of his advanced technology T’Challa gets the upper hand However, Wyatt, who has no superpowers, gums up the works, and The Black Panther is defeated. T’Challa accepts his defeat gracefully, and the start of issue #53 sees the Four, plus one, honored with a welcoming ceremony. Afterwards, they tour T’Challa’s private quarters and he explains why he wanted the test. Ten years earlier a group of mercenaries invaded, led by a mad scientist bent on world conquest (are there any other kind?) named Ulysses Klaw, the self-styled Master of Sound. Klaw needs Vibranium for his new weapon, the Sound Transformer, which can changesound energy into living matter. Challenged by King T’Chaka, Klaw had his men shoot him down, along with many of his warriors. However,T’Challa escaped the massacre and stole a sound blaster gun from Klaw, turning it against him; badly wounded (he would lose his right hand) Klaw and his men retreated. T’Challa has been preparing himself for Klaw’s inevitable return, which he does at that moment. Having established residence in a hidden cave and constructed his Sound Transformer, Klaw uses it to send sound creatures to ravage Wakan
- While the Fantastic Four battle the beasts, T’Challa, as The Black Panther, hunts for Klaw. He finds him and destroys his machine; however, Klaw survives the final showdown, and before his Transformer loses all power, throws himself into it. issue #54 finds the Fantastic Four preparing to leave Wakanda, taking along some lovely parting gifts from T’Challa. Reed, Sue and Ben return to New York while Johnny, with help from Wyatt, continues trying to free the Inhumans.
Klaw’s sound creatures attack.
After an appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #5 (1967) and a brief team-up with Captain America in Tales to Astonish #97 – #99 (Jan. – Mar. ’68) T’Challa travels to New York, where he joins the Avengers in issue #52 (May ’68) after helping them battle The Grim Reaper. Issue #72 – #73 (Feb. – Mar. ’70) sees Marvel tackling the issue of racism, and Black Panther taking center stage in a battle against The Sons of the Serpent, a violent racist organization targeting blacks. During the struggle, the Panther meets and falls in love with, African-American singer Monica Lynne. She becomes his fiance and will accompany him when he returns home after receiving word that N’Baza, the chief councilor who ruled Wakanda in his absence, has died.
Jungle Action #6 (Sept. ’73) contains chapter one of what would be a thirteen-part story titled ‘The Panther’s Rage’. On his return home, T’Challa finds that rebellion has broken out among some of the tribes. Tavelling inland to investigate, T’Challa comes upon a destroyed village and encounters some of the rebels. He’s attacked by their leader, N’Jadaka (aka Eric Killmonger) a Wakandan whose father had been forced to aid Klaw during his first invasion; the father died and the family was exiled to America, with N’Jadaka vowing revenge against T’Challa. The two battle on top of Warrior’s Falls, with T’Chaka being defeated and thrown over; Monica, who’s taking a bath downstream, rescues him from drowning. From here the exciting, fast-paced storyline (beautifully written by Don McGregor) involves Black Panther with zombies. dinosaurs, a white gorilla, and a new villain named Venomm. The final confrontation is again atop Warrior’s Falls, and Black Panther would continue his exploits to the present day.