Friday, November 14, 2008

Famous First Fridays: The Panther's Rage!

The Black Panther! Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and appearing in the Fantastic Four #52 (April, 1966), T'Challa, ruler of the fictional African nation of Wakanda took a long path to his first solo series. After several appearances in the Fantastic Four (issue #s 89, 119 and Annual #5), with Captain America (Tales of Suspense #s 97-99, Captain America #100), in the Avengers (the majority of issues from #52-111), with Daredevil (issues 52, 56, 69, 92, and 99), and a few other places, he was finally given the chance to star in Jungle Action, up to that point a reprint comic, beginning with issue #5 (April, 1973). Ironically, his first issue was also a reprint from Avengers #62 (December, 1968)!

With Jungle Action #6 (June, 1973), though, T'Challa came into his own. With highly-talented Don McGregor at the writing helm, backed with the truly awesome art team of Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson, the Black Panther quickly became one of the most unique, heartfelt, adult, and just plain magnificent comics around. A true labor of love, Black Panther was given real soul when soul was just a buzzword. Torn between his love for America and the Avengers and his duty to and love for his native Wakanda, McGregor made T'Challa the most human and believable of Marvel's heroes. McGregor put his all into the strip, creating supporting characters that seemed to live and breathe; treating Wakanda as a real place--making it as much a character of the stories as any of the people that populated it. He even worked up extras, like maps, text summaries, and various other interesting and unique features--for free!--to keep Marvel from reprinting more Lorna the Jungle Girl stories in the back of Jungle Action.

Buckler was only able to stay on as penciller for the first three issues, but McGregor managed to snare the magnificent Gil Kane to do a fill-in issue, buying time for another rising star, the late, great Billy Graham to take over the art chores. Graham brought realism, beauty, and a sensual style that set Black Panther apart from most every other comic on the stands. Graham stayed on for all but two of the remaining issues of Jungle Action.

Jungle Action ended with issue #24 (August, 1976), giving way to the Panther finally getting his own solo title. When the Black Panther #1 came out in October, 1976, it wasn't Don McGregor and Billy Graham (or Rich Buckler or Keith Pollard) continuing the "Panther vs. the Klan" storyline that had been running in Jungle Action, but a brand new storyline, written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby. Now, it's kinda hard to get upset about Kirby working on any mag, but fandom was a bit put-off by this turn of events. First of all, J.A. had ended with a cliff-hanger, and Kirby gave no resolution--or even notice--of what had gone before. In fact, Kirby's Black Panther was a completely different character than the Black Panther we'd been following for the past three years. While Kirby's Panther was fun, it was all quite confusing. To make things even stranger, when Kirby left the Panther (B.P. #12, August, 1978), the new creative team of Ed Hannigan and Jerry Bingham quickly wrapped up Kirby's unfinished storyline (B.P. #13, October, 1978), then set out to complete McGregor's story (B.P. #14, December, 1978)! Are you still with me? 'Cause we ain't through yet, Groove-ophile! Mixed-up Marvel canceled the Black Panther with issue #15 (February, 1979), leaving the Panther's battle with the Klan hanging once again! Finally, and I do mean FINALLY, the Klan story that began in Jungle Action #19 (October, 1975) was completed in issues 51-53 of Marvel Premiere (September, 1979-January, 1980). Whew!

Now, if you're head isn't swimming enough, check this out: Marvel has reprinted Kirby's Black Panther issues in trade paperback form. Neither of McGregor's story lines, "The Panther's Rage" and "The Panther vs. the Klan" (nor Hannigan and company's follow-ups) have ever been reprinted. What's up with that, Marvel?

"The Panther's Rage" is one of the most legendary stories of the Groovy Age. "The Panther's Rage" is one of the earliest attempts at creating a true graphic novel. "The Panther's Rage" is one of the best comicbook stories ever published. Marvel is holding it back for some reason, but Ol' Groove is gonna share the first chapter with ya, baby! If you don't dig the first chapter of "The Panther's Rage" the most, I won't charge ya a single penny for this post! How's that for hard sell?


  1. Hell, I'd buy a hardback collection of Panther's Rage any day! Name your price!

  2. I've got the originals, but I'd love to see this reprinted so I could read 'em all in one sitting without digging in the longboxes. War of the Worlds will always be my favorite McGregor, but his Panther definitely is #2.

  3. Johnny B.! I feel like Jerry Lewis with all the stars showing up! Seriously, I have'ta agree with ya on War of the Worlds/Killraven being McGregor's best Groovy Age work. I'll be tackling that far-out series in the near future.

  4. I just recently read the "panthers rage" story line and tracked down some investment issues due to the announcement of the movie. I've always been a collector and reader but never really gave BP a chance. With all the media hype I had to check him out and my opinion is: DAMN! That is the best comic arc I've ever read!!! Not to mention the KKK story that started in 19 even know what to say!?!? To add to this BP is a great character and definitely one of my favs now. I look forward to what will be done with him in the future!



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