in the 1960s, Pt. 6
Pt. 2 of 2
Pt. 2 of 2
(As continued from last time.)
At some point in 1965 or 1966, Martin Goodman heard that Joe Simon had been hired by Harvey Comics to create a new superhero line for the company. He decided the best way to deal with this was to have Stan introduce a slew of new superheroes who would then receive their own books. Stan relayed this to Jack, and they were off to the races. Goodman changed his mind, though, so the new characters that Stan and Jack created ended up premiering one after the other in Fantastic Four.
T'CHALLA, THE BLACK PANTHER
It's nice to see the Black Panther enjoying a bit of a renaissance (in both the movies and the comics) in 2016, the character's 50th anniversary.
He first appeared back in FF 52-55. The FF receive a gift of a wacky-looking airship from the head of state of the African kingdom of Wakanda. It's theirs to keep if they accept the chieftan's offer to visit Wakanda, where a great hunt will be organized in their honor. Reed accepts and is duly impressed by Wakandan scientific prowess.
|Of course, this being Marvel:|
Turns out it's all a test to see if the FF are worthy allies. T'Challa needs their help, but before he tells them why, he launches into his origin story.
Wakanda is therefore positioned alongside Ethiopia and Liberia as the only places in Africa never to have been a colonial possession. The '60s were of course an era of mass upheaval in Africa as country after country announced its independence, some peacefully, some with much bloodshed. Smack dab in the middle of this Jack and Stan place Wakanda - a powerful, ancient kingdom with magical unobtanium, ruled over by an Aga Khan-like super-billionaire scientist ninja.
The lifeblood of the kingdom, besides its sacred traditions, is Vibranium, a precious metal so-named for its unique quality of absorbing vibrations. It has other uses, as well, and whosoever harvests it can command great power. Enter: Ulysses Klaw.
|It is Klaw who was responsible for T'Challa's father's death.|
Klaw has set up a device to convert Vibranium into sound which he can manipulate into solid matter, allowing him to create otherworldly beasts to attack at his command.
|Something Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck paid homage to in Secret Wars v1 #12.|
With the FF's help, he is defeated, though not before falling into his own converter. He returns a few issues later with a new visual and sound manipulation powers of his own. Klaw attacks the FF at the Baxter Building.
|He almost wins, but Reed is able to contact T'Challa via the Wakandan global-radio-message gizmo we saw above. T'Challa dispatches Vibranium insulators to his new BFF at once. And voila:|
Like I say, it's cool to see the Black Panther getting a bit more exposure these days. There was a 90s series written by Christopher Priest (which I haven't read), but outside of a mini-series and sporadic guest appearances, no one did much with him in the 80s. He had a few great runs in the 70s, though.
|I first came across the character in the pages of Marvel Premiere.|
|Some of the most bad-ass comics of the 70s.|
They gave the title to Kirby when he returned to Marvel in the 1970s. Seemed like a natural fit - Kirby created (or at least co-created) the guy, right? But it was an abrupt tonal switch from the Jungle Action / Marvel Premiere stories, and despite some typically imaginative (if wtf-y) stories from Kirby, the series was eventually cancelled.
Anyway, that all came later. As far as '66 was concerned, the Marvel Universe gained a new kingdom and the FF a new ally. Let's end this section with this original-rendering of the character when Jack and Stan were calling him "Coal Tiger." (Coal Tiger was apparently a name used by journalists of the era to refer to those African nations emerging from British and French colonialism.)
|Glad they rethought this.|
|The story has some shades of Frankenstein, but mainly the whole thing is an excuse for Kirby to do his cosmic thing.|
|Every page is 'cap-worthy in this issue, so I'll stop here.|
JOHNNY AND WYATT's
ROUTE 66 in TIME and SPACE
In many ways, Johnny is the most interesting FF member in 1966. Not only does he gain a tragic love interest, he returns to college, and then, after the events in Wakanda, decides to ditch both college and the FF for a wandering road trip with his buddy Wyatt Wingfoot, ostensibly to find a way to free Crystal and the Inhumans, but in practice just bopping about the multiverse.
|First in this Wakanda sky-ship gifted to them. Then via Lockjaw (r) whose dimension-hopping powers are random and difficult to utilize with any precision.|
|Earlier I mentioned Wyatt Wingfoot - Johnny's friend from college and comicdom's first Native American hero - as one of the characters created by Stan and Jack who was meant to get his own series.|
|While he has no superpowers, he's a better-than-average fighter, singlehandedly saving the FF's bacon in the mock-trial-by-combat with the Black Panther, and athlete.|
|Reed must resort to using his stretching powers to get him out in baseball.|
|Which leads us to:|
REED AND SUE'S NUPTIAL NIGHTMARE
Not really. It just continues to amuse me to read their marriage as a nest of Freudian vipers and intrigue. The FF, as we've seen all along, was innovative for bringing intra-team conflict and domestic drudgery into the super-team book, but neither of its creators tried to exactly re-define the marital drama in comics.
|Welcome to my break-down...|
|Roy Lichtenstein basically took that panel on the right and made a reputation on reproducing it in a museum.|
~Well, I hope you've enjoyed this screencap-tastic jaunt through a pivotal year in the FF's first and arguably most fabulous decade. See you next time for more fun with Surfer Doom and the gang, as well as the premiere of the Hanna-Barbara cartoon and first appearance of future Marvel-crossover-kings the Kree and the High Evolutionary. And more!