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Enter The Black Panther

by L.A. Wrietrs Collective Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2005 at 3:59 PM

A Marvel comic book with an anti-imperialist twist!?! Check it out!

Enter The Black Panther

By Nikolai Garcia

Scene on page 18:

"They can't do that," someone yells from inside a room in the White House.

Inside the room, the Secretary of State, Dondi Reese, is pointing out some changes on a memo to her secretary, while a group of military officials and others in business suites continue on with a discussion at a table not far from where she is standing.

"We're the #$%#& United States of %#$%#$ America," a general says. "Where do a bunch of Jungle bunnies get off telling us they've got a 'No Fly' zone over their thatched hut?"

Dondi, an African-American woman with dark red lipstick and a head full of silver hair, turns around as she hears the general's words.

The room grows silent.

"Did I say something wrong," the general asks, unaware that Dondi Reese is standing right behind him.

He turns around and quickly opens his mouth to say, "Oh god, Dondi--I'm sorry! You know I don't mean you when I say--"

"Shut up, Wallace," says Dondi.

"--I mean, they're nothing like you--"

"Shut-up," she repeats.

This time the general keeps his mouth shut as his cheeks turn red.

* * * * * * * *

No matter how high they climb the capitalist ladder, Black people cannot escape National Oppression. The scene above illustrates this at the highest level of power, inside the White House.

The scene described was not found in any famous novel or recent film. It actually comes from the pages of the first issue of a new comic book called, Black Panther, which was released last month.

The Panther is the hero of an imaginary country located in the center of Africa called, Wakanda, which the book describes as being notable for "never having being conquered in its entire history." In the book you learn that the Wakandans have all battled and beat different forces who have tried, through force, to get on their land. Other African tribes, Christian and Islamic invaders in its early history. Followed by French, English and Belgium forces that were lured by stories of Wakanda's gold and riches.

In two beautifully illustrated pages the Black Panther even goes hand-to-hand with Marvel Comic's most glorified and over-rated superhero, Captain America--and beats him! Captain America getting his butt kicked? Great! The U.S., not the good guys? Very interesting. The fact that this comic book is filled with so much political content is amazing to me!

* * * * * * * *

The Black Panther is not a new character in the Marvel Comics Universe. In fact, he was originally created in 1966, but never became one of the company's most popular characters. That is until they decided to revamp the character this year, bringing in one of Marvel's most popular artists, John Romita Jr., who did a lot of work on Spider-Man and also currently illustrates Wolverine.

The writer of this new monthly series is Reginald Hudlin, who is known mostly for his work in Hollywood (he wrote and directed 1990's House Party and was co-executive producer on the first African-American animated film, Bebe's Kids, in 1992). Recently, however, he teamed up with Aaron McGruder, creator of the very funny and very political comic strip, The Boondocks, and another illustrator, Kyle Baker, to produce the graphic novel Birth of A Nation. The book is a political satire about the city of East St. Louis seceding from the U.S. as a result of Black people being turned away at the polls.

Marvel comics did a great job promoting the book. There was an article in the New York Times, and a small mention in Newsweek magazine that urged people to buy the first issue. As a result many comic shops across the country sold-out of the first issue, many in just one day!

(One of the guys at the comic shop that I frequent told me that they sold-out the first day and that he had never seen so many Black people go in the store in one day, which is very significant considering that Black people do not make up a large majority of comic book fans).

* * * * * * * *

The comic book so far...

So far we know that "people" in the White House are really interested in the advanced technology and large oil deposits that Wakanda has. (In another scene in the comic book we learn that Halliburton informed them about the oil, and the military officials and business suit men are almost in shock when they learn that the country does not even pump the oil because they rely on a variety of alternative power sources like solar and hygrogen power.) What these people will do in order to gain Wakanda's resources has not been revealed. But what is shown on the final page of the first issue is that "The Klaw," a known villain of the Marvel Universe, wants to kill him and is preparing a force to invade the country.

I don't know what else is in store for Black Panther and if the book will continue to be filled with as much politics as adventure. What I do know is that this is the best new title I have read this year and can't wait for the next issue!

Black Panther #2 is due out next Wednesday. I've also read that Marvel is planning to reprint #1 sometime in the middle of March

(This article was originally posted on the LAWC blog March 10, 2005)

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