Comic Art Friday: Black (Panther) Friday

If you were among the millions throwing elbows and shoving shoulders over retail bargains before daybreak… well, you have my pity, if not my empathy.

Here at SSTOL, we decline to engage in such frivolity. Instead, we’re celebrating Black Friday with a look at one of our favorite heroes, the Black Panther.

The Black Panther, pencils and inks by comics artist Bob McLeod

When it comes to superdoers of the masculine order, T’Challa, King of Wakanda, ranks right up there with Spider-Man at the top of my list. I’ve been a Panther fanatic ever since he began showing up in The Avengers in 1968. (T’Challa made a few appearances in Fantastic Four and Captain America before that, but I first recall seeing him on the cover of Avengers #52.)

After several years as an Avenger, the Panther came into his own as a headliner in Marvel’s Jungle Action title in the early 1970s. It was in Jungle Action that he began to develop his own rogues’ gallery, and where his backstory was fleshed out by writer Don McGregor. Later in the decade, T’Challa’s cocreator, legendary artist Jack Kirby, reunited with the character for a brief run in his own Black Panther title.

The Black Panther, pencils and inks by comics artist Geof Isherwood

In my opinion, the pinnacle of Panther arrived with the series written by Christopher Priest and illustrated for much of its lifespan by the team of penciler Sal Velluto and inker Bob Almond. This Black Panther book, which ran for five years beginning in 1998, finally brought T’Challa to his rightful place as a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe.

More recently (2005-2008), writer Reginald Hudlin helmed a Black Panther revival that had as its high point the marriage of T’Challa to Ororo Munroe, better known as Storm of the X-Men. I never entirely warmed to Hudlin’s interpretation of the character — frankly, I found Hudlin’s Panther annoyingly shallow — but I appreciated his enthusiasm.

Marvel is still publishing a Black Panther comic, but T’Challa is no longer the main character, so it’s hard for me to care. If I had my druthers, I’d ditch the new version and bring back Priest, Sal, and Bob to continue the Panther’s adventures. But then, it’s not as though Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada gives a rat’s patoot about what I think. (Or what anyone else thinks, so far as I can tell.)

The Black Panther, pencils and inks by comics artist Buzz (Aldrin Aw)

You can view my entire gallery of Black Panther artworks here. The Bob McLeod pinup shown at the top of this post rates a special place in my collection as the very first piece of comic art I ever commissioned. Whatever else my art hobby has evolved into, it all started with this one drawing by the great McLeod.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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