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Black Panther

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

In the mid-60s, Stan Lee wanted to introduce a black superhero to the comics. At first the character was going to be African-American, but Stan backed that off to just being African. He then handed the idea off to Jack Kirby, who created T'Challa, the king of Wakanda - also known as the Coal Tiger!

(The name was changed to "Black Panther" before publication.)

Is this acrobatic, vibranium-suited hero the world's most perfect warrior?

Well, he used to be, but lately he (or more accurately, his kingdom) has been the victim of an ever-increasing series of punk-outs. Wakanda was famous for being the only country on the continent never conquered by a colonial power, but recently it's been infiltrated by Dr. Doom, (which led to all the vibranium being rendered inert), then Namor brought the mutha*@!&in' ruckus. Meanwhile T'Challa lost his powers, his sister became the new Black Panther, he took over Daredevil's job for a while, and he had his marriage to Storm annulled. He hasn't exactly been having a great time of it, lately.

Kirby's Panther design had a mask that didn't cover the entire face - think of Batman's cowl - but a black character is less controversial when you can't immediately tell he's black. Kirby kept drawing it his way, and Joe Sinnott kept fixing it while inking. When Panther joined the Avengers, though, John Buscema drew the half-mask for a while, before getting with the program.

The previous Marvel Legends Black Panther introduced one of the most-​reused bodies in the line, and we have to admit it's at least a bit disappointing that Hasbro didn't dig those old molds out and use them again for this release - instead, they went with the new body that is quickly becoming their go-to choice. We'll probably be sick of it in no time, but right now, it's just nice to see something that isn't their version of the Bullseye body. And it would have been even nicer to see the old Black Panther mold.

In addition to the new head, Black Panther gets new hands - exactly the kind of hands we asked for back in 2005! Allow me to quote: "if you're brandishing claws, you'd probably want your fingers spread." The old toy couldn't do it, with his hinged fingers, but this one gets hands molded in the shape we wanted! His fingers are spread, and he looks like he's ready to physically claw at something. Lovely!

Black Panther has swivel/hinge ankles, swivel shins, double-hinged knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, swivel waist, hinged torso, swivel/hinge wrists, double-hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, a hinged neck and a balljointed head. Since the head is on a balljoint, it pops off easily - Hasbro really missed an opportunity, here, to give us an alternate unmasked T'Challa head. The joint is the same size as the removable heads on many of Hasbro's other figures (e.g. Ronin, the SHIELD Agents, etc.), so if we'd ever had a black head before, we'd be able to make one ourselves.

There have been a lot of complaints about the blue highlighting that's been applied to the figure, and while it is overdone, it's no worse than the similar apps on Black-Suited Spider-Man. Yes, the blue could be darker. Or it could have been left off entirely. But this certainly isn't awful. His boots and gloves are fully painted in the blue, as a nod to the way he used to be colored in the comics. Again, a darker color would have been preferable, but then we might not have been able to see the thin black stripes that run their length.

Black Panther has no accessories: just the arms of the Series 5 Build-A-Figure, Rocket Racoon. They immediately put to rest our fears that this was just going to be an upsized version of the Marvel Universe figure - if nothing else, it's immediately obvious that there's more articulation in these arms than in the smaller ones.

King T'Challa debuted in the comics a few months before the famous Black Panther political movement, but they didn't get their name from him - it was taken from the Alabama-based Lowndes County Freedom Organization (a group that had set itself up as a reaction to the whites-only Alabama Democratic Party). Literacy in Alabama at the time was so low that each political party was required to have a symbol that identified it, and the LCFO chose the mascot of Clark College, a predominantly black school: a black panther. Thus, the Black Panther Party (for the record, the Alabama Democratic Party's mascot was a white rooster, which would have made them The White Cock Party). As the name "Black Panther" became more associated with politics than comics, Fantastic Four #119 had the guest-starring T'Challa call himself "Black Leopard." The name change didn't stick, obviously, but it could have been avoided if they'd just gone with Jack Kirby's Coal Tiger in the first place.

-- 10/21/13


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