With a seemingly endless supply of blockbuster releases, Marvel Studios is no stranger to box office success. However if the record-breaking advance ticket sales for their newest upcoming release Black Panther are any indication, the studio may find itself responsible for the production of a cultural phenomenon.
So, with such a rabid fan base, why did it take so long for a Black Panther movie to be made? The answer unfortunately is the stuttered and underrepresented role that Black Panther played in the Marvel Comics Universe for many years. First appearing in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966, Black Panther’s debut marked a paradigm shift as the first black superhero to appear in mainstream comics. Following his debut however, appearances by the character were few and far between, with other black superheroes like Luke Cage and Storm taking most of the spotlight.
In 1977, eleven years after his first appearance, Black Panther finally received his first standalone series, only for it to be cancelled 15 issues later. Marred by disappointing sales, his name did not appear in the title of a comic series again until the late 80s.
Finally in 1998, Black Panther was rebooted along with several other beloved, but underperforming, characters like Daredevil and Punisher under the Marvel Knights imprint. The series balanced an exciting superhero story with the political intrigue of the character’s larger responsibility as T’challa, King of the fictional African country of Wakanda. The success of Marvel Knight’s Black Panther catapulted the character once again into the national spotlight and elevated his popularity and fame to the same level of other Marvel mainstays like Captain America and Spider-Man.
Since then, the depth and mythos surrounding the character has grown exponentially, and with it a fandom for which February 16 cannot come soon enough. Now with the release of the Black Panther film a little more than a week away, it is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with the adventures of the Black Panther, and the supporting characters that will feature prominently in the new film.
If you would like to learn more about the history and cultural impact of the Black Panther before seeing the film, join Dr. Julian Chambliss, author and professor of history at Rollins College, at the Orlando Public Library on Saturday, February 10 at Noon for The Many Black Panthers: Building the Saga of the Black Panther from Print to Film, a presentation addressing questions of identity, community and power linked to the Black Panther.
All of the titles listed are available for free checkout or digital download with your library card.
Black Panther: The Complete Collection Volume 1 by Christopher Priest and Joe Quesada
In stark contrast to the Marvel of today, the late 90s were a dark time for the comic book company. Facing bankruptcy, the company turned to young talent in an attempt to reinvigorate increasingly disappointing sales numbers. One of the titles reinvented during this time period was Black Panther, and with a renewed focus on strong storytelling and high production quality, the series, along with a few others under the Marvel Knights release line, brought the company back from the brink. Led by the deft creative team of Christopher Priest and Joe Quesada, Black Panther The Complete Collection Volume 1 still stands as the benchmark by which other Black Panther series will be judged.
Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther? by Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr.
An excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with the story of Black Panther, this 2009 reboot series introduces you to many of the core concepts and characters of the Black Panther universe.
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
Expectations were high when National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates signed on to write a Black Panther series in 2016. Those expectations were quickly met when the release of Black Panther #1 (Vol. 6) shattered sales records. Since then, Coates has crafted one compelling story arc after another that delves much deeper into the psychology of the character, the political machinations of Wakanda and even the cultural history of Africa than any other writer has done before.