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Black Panther is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Jack Kirby, first appearing in Fantastic Four (cover-dated July 1966) in the Silver Age of Comic Books. Black Panther’s real name is T’Challa, and he is depicted as the king and protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Along with possessing enhanced abilities achieved through ancient Wakandan rituals of drinking the essence of the heart-shaped herb, T’Challa also relies on his proficiency in science, rigorous physical training, hand-to-hand combat skills, and access to wealth and advanced Wakandan technology to combat his enemies.

Black Panther is the first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics, having debuted years before early black superheroes such as Marvel Comics’ the Falcon (1969), Luke Cage (1972), and Blade (1973) or DC Comics’ John Stewart in the role of Green Lantern (1971). In one comic book storyline, the Black Panther mantle is handled by Kasper Cole, a multiracial New York City police officer. Beginning as an impersonator, Cole would later take on the moniker of White Tiger and become an ally to T’Challa. The role of Black Panther and leadership of Wakanda is also given to T’Challa’s sister Shuri for a short time.

Black Panther has made numerous appearances in various television shows, animated films and video games. Chadwick Boseman portrayed the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Captain America: Civil War (2016), Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019), and voiced the character in the animated series What If…? (2021).

In 2011, Black Panther was ranked 51st overall on IGN’s “Top 100 Comic Books Heroes” list.

Concept and creation

Name

The Black Panther’s name predates the October 1966 founding of the Black Panther Party, though not the black panther logo of the party’s predecessor, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), nor the segregated World War II Black Panthers Tank Battalion. Co-creator Stan Lee denied that the comic, which pre-dates the political usage of the term, was, or could have been, named after any of the political uses of the term “black panther”, including the LCFO, citing “a strange coincidence”. He is the first black superhero in American mainstream comic books; very few black heroes were created before him, and none with actual superpowers.

These included the characters in the single-issue, low-distribution All-Negro Comics #1 (1947); Waku, Prince of the Bantu, who starred in his own feature in the omnibus title Jungle Tales, from Marvel’s 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics and the Dell Comics Western character Lobo, the first black person to star in his own comic book. Previous non-caricatured black supporting characters in comics include U.S. Army infantry private Gabriel Jones of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos.

In a guest appearance in Fantastic Four #119 (Feb. 1972), the Black Panther briefly tried using the name Black Leopard to avoid connotations with the Party, but the new name did not last. The character’s name was changed back to Black Panther in Avengers #105, with T’Challa explaining that renaming himself made as much sense as altering the Scarlet Witch’s name, and he is not a stereotype.

Co-creator Stan Lee recounted that the name was inspired by a pulp adventure hero who has a black panther as a helper. Jack Kirby’s original concept art for Black Panther used the concept name Coal Tiger. Influences on the character included historical figures such as 14th-century Mali Empire sultan Mansa Musa and 20th-century Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey, as well as Biblical figures such as Ham and Canaan.

Film

Live-action

Chadwick Boseman portrayed T’Challa / Black Panther within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first appearing in Captain America: Civil War (2016). In the film, he displays enhanced speed, agility, strength, and durability, which he gains from ingesting the heart-shaped herb, as in the comics. His suit has retractable claws and is made of a vibranium weave, which can deflect heavy machine gun fire and withstand explosive attacks. As of the 2018 film Black Panther, he wears a new variant of the suit that can fold into a silver necklace and absorb kinetic energy and release it as a purple shockwave once enough energy has been amassed.

  • During the events of Civil War, motivated by revenge for his father’s death after a bomber attacks the United Nations, T’Challa joins Tony Stark’s faction of Avengers to oppose Steve Rogers, as he is protecting the Winter Soldier, who was implicated for the attack. However, T’Challa eventually learns the perpetrator was actually Helmut Zemo, who sought revenge against the Avengers for killing his family. After hearing Zemo confess to his crimes, T’Challa renounces his revenge and prevents him from committing suicide before handing him over to Everett K. Ross. Following this, T’Challa grants Rogers and Barnes sanctuary in Wakanda and aids in the latter’s recovery from his Hydra brainwashing.
  • Boseman reprises the role in Black Panther (2018). By October 2015, Joe Robert Cole was in final negotiations to write the film’s script. In January 2016, it was announced that Ryan Coogler had been hired to direct the film, and was later revealed to be co-writing the script with Cole. Filming began in January 2017 at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. The film was released on February 16, 2018. During the film’s storyline, after completing the ritual of succession, T’Challa finds himself dealing with opposition to his new position from various fronts.
  • Boseman reprises the role in Avengers: Infinity War (2018). In the film, T’Challa, Rogers, Barnes, the Avengers, and the Wakandan armies defend Wakanda from Thanos’ forces, who seek to claim the Infinity Stones to destroy half of all living creatures in the universe. He ultimately succeeds in doing so, with T’Challa being one of the lives taken in the resulting decimation.
  • Boseman reprises the role in Avengers: Endgame. He is revived when the Avengers retrieve the Infinity Stones and Bruce Banner uses them to undo Thanos’ plan. T’Challa soon joins the Avengers in their final stand against Thanos and his army and attends Stark’s funeral after he gives his life to defeat Thanos.

Animation

  • Black Panther appears in the direct-to-DVD animated feature Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006), voiced by Jeffrey D. Sams. Like his father T’Chaka, this version has the ability to transform into a humanoid black panther.
  • In the direct-to-DVD film, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, T’Challa joined the Avengers to defeat the robot Ultron. While he gave his life to do so, his legacy is survived by his and Storm’s son, Azari.
  • Black Panther appears in the 2014 animated motion comic movie Marvel Knights: Wolverine vs. Sabretooth, voiced by Omari Newton. When Wolverine winds up in Africa, Black Panther and Storm assist him.
  • Black Panther appears in the 2018 animated Lego film Black Panther: Trouble in Wakanda, voiced again by James C. Mathis III.

Web

In 2016, Disney XD launched on its YouTube channel the motion comic “Black Panther in … The Visitor”.

Video games

  • Black Panther appears as a playable character in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, voiced by Phil LaMarr.
  • Black Panther appears as an NPC in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, voiced by Tim Russ. He is playable in the Vicarious Visions (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, later also PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC) versions and was originally a downloadable character for the PS3 and Xbox 360.
  • Black-Panther appears as an NPC in Storm’s ending for Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Marvel Super Hero Squad Online.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in the Facebook game Marvel: Avengers Alliance.
  • Black-Panther was a playable character in the MMORPG Marvel Heroes, voiced by James C. Mathis III.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Lego Marvel Super Heroes, voiced by John Eric Bentley.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Marvel Avengers Alliance Tactics.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Marvel Contest of Champions.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Marvel Mighty Heroes.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Marvel Future Fight.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Disney Infinity 3.0.
  • The MCU version of Black-Panther appears as a downloadable playable character in Lego Marvel’s Avengers, as part of the “Civil War” pack. A DLC pack based on Classic Black Panther was later released for the game.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2.
  • Black-Panther appears as a downloadable character in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, with James C. Mathis III reprising his role.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Marvel Strike Force.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Marvel Powers United VR, with James C. Mathis III reprising his role.
  • Black-Panther appears as a playable character in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, with James C. Mathis reprising his role.
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