Sunday, June 19, 2005

Black Panther

I've been a fairly vocal critic of Reginald Hudlin's new Black Panther series, for various reasons. The one particular complaint that has perhaps garnered the strongest reaction from fans is the book's somewhat loose approach to continuity and the character's history.

For those of you unaware of what's taking place in the new series, Hudlin has basically rewritten the Black Panther origin story, a la "Man of Steel" or "Spider-Man: Chapter One" (at one point, it was suspected that it was more like Byrne's "Doom Patrol," and he'd retconned away T'Challa's entire career to date). The broad strokes are still there, but a great many of the details have been changed, some more dramatically than others.

I believe this is very significant for the character of T'Challa, because of the type of origin story he has. Most comic book heroes' origins are the stories of how they got their powers. They got struck by lightning, or exposed to radiation, or were given a power ring or a serum, and subsequently put on a costume and proceeded to have adventures.

But a handful of the more iconic characters' origins don't merely involve how they obtained their powers, but also rely on a formative event in the character's history. For Spider-Man, it was the death of Uncle Ben. For Superman, it was Krypton's explosion and his being sent to Earth. For Daredevil (particularly post-Miller), it was his father's murder.

Chief among these 'formative event' origins is that of Batman. The motivating event in Bruce Wayne's life was when he was a boy, years before he ever donned a costume. It was when his parents were gunned down in a common mugging, and young Bruce was left an orphan. The occasional writer or adaptation has tried to tinker with this (i.e. giving Bruce a brother, or making Joker the murderer), but it doesn't take long for those changes to be abandoned or rejected, and for the traditional details to be reestablished.

Of all the major comic characters I can think of, T'Challa's comes the closest to Batman's 'formative event' origin. Whereas Bruce's defining moment was his parents' murder, T'Challa's was when his father died defending Wakanda, and T'Challa chose to defend his country and his nation by responding in kind. It's not an origin that tells why T'Challa is a superhero. It's an origin that tells how T'Challa came to be the person he grew into. How he became the king he is.

Thus, to make significant alterations to that formative event is to change what most shaped T'Challa's character as a boy. It's akin to retelling the Batman origin where Joe Chill is an employee that Thomas Wayne laid off. Or where the Waynes murder took place during a home invasion. Or giving Bruce a baby sister who was with Alfred when Thomas and Martha were shot. Any of these changes would have distinct effects on Bruce's character, and they'd also affect the iconic nature of the event.

The same goes for what Hudlin has done with T'Challa's formative event, by scrapping T'Challa's family makeup, changing Klaw's motivation, and completely overhauling the circumstances of the murder itself. And these aren't changes that have merely been made for a stand-alone Black Panther movie, but rather replace the tradiational details of T'Challa defining moment in the Marvel Universe itself. How do these changes affect the story of the Black Panther, and why do I disapprove of them so? That's what I plan to address through a series of posts over the coming days.


At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of the reasons that I see Marvel as being wicked.

Christopher Priest is one of the best writers of a very small list in the entire comic book business. He did what was thought impossible by many. He brought Black Panther from being a forgotten hero who served no purpose in the Marvel Universe; if he died no one would have even care, into becoming the greatest most complicated character in the entire Marvel Universe.

Christopher Priest’s run on Black Panther is the greatest event to have happened in the Marvel Universe, forget about the new Civil War that pales in comparison to what Priest did with the Black Panther. Black Panther was no longer, some guy dressed as a Panther that showed up to help the super heroes at times. Priest had made him into a foreign diplomat the leader of a powerful nation on equal status with the United States. Black Panther became a genius, a strong warrior, a man of ethics with a code of honor, a man who is willing to do the right thing always, he is logical, he has emotions, and he is the noblest character in the Marvel Universe. He had companies all over the world, the most advanced technology on the face of the Earth, an army, a group of bodyguards. Captain America considered him his brother and even Reed Richards could not understand Black Panther’s technology. Priest made the Black Panther into such an intricate hero that even the Avengers, especially Iron Man were afraid of the guy. I have never before seen a super hero be so afraid of another super hero before.

For all the richness and diversity of Priest’s run on the Black Panther many were not reading it because previously Black Panther had been a forgotten hero, all the other super heroes had fans like crazy but these comics had become stale with their pointless storylines dragging on forever in seeming boredom, Black Panther was one of a handful of super hero comics that was necessary to pick up during Priest’s run.

After Black Panther, this being the best comic book of the late 90’s and the new millennium Marvel had to offer ended, it seemed like Black Panther was gone for good.

Then when I heard Reginald Hudlin was going to write Black Panther I was really upset I knew Hudlin was going to destroy the super hero that during Priest’s run had become the greatest super hero in the Marvel Universe, on equal status even with DCs most popular super hero Batman. I was of course correct. Hudlin could not write Black Panther continuing off from were Priest had left him, so instead he retconned Black Panther’s entire origin which showed that he could not write at all. Hudlin’s writing became some of the worst writing of all time in the Marvel Universe; Spidey’s clone saga which was writing by several different writers and made no sense was starting to look great compared to what Hudlin had done. Hudlin’s massive retcon, had turned Priest’s Black Panther into some horrible alternate version, he might as well have been a different super hero altogether for this was not the Black Panther. Worse than being a forgotten hero, Hudlin’s Black Panther is a weak character, he has no purpose, no code of honor, no plans, no storyline, no conflict, no taste, no diversity, he is a stale caricature of the black man.

Hudlin is the worse thing to have happened to the Marvel Universe since it was revealed Green Goblin had sex with Gwen.

Recently Hudlin is writing Black Panther getting married to Storm, however he is not really writing it, I mean this is really Priest’s idea which he was planning to do. Hudlin cannot come up with any writing that is worth a grain of salt, for shame Marvel, you would not get an A-list writer so you some hack, are you insane or stupid? Maybe both?


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