“HE IS NOT A SYMBOLIC CHRIST! FORGET ABOUT TURNING HIS FLESH AND BLOOD INTO SOME ESOTERIC ALLUSION TO THE PERSECUTION OF CONTEMPORARY MAN… THE FLAMES WHICH CONSUME THE CROSS AND HIS BODY PROVE HIS HUMANITY”—From “A Cross Burning Darkly Blackening the Night!” in Jungle Action #21, May 1976.
|The KKK Can't Take My Baby Away|
If Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams helped pave the way for Frank Miller, then Don McGregor, Billy Graham and the rest of the talent behind “Panther’s Rage” and “The Panther Vs. The Klan” set the bar for the much admired literary writers of the Brit Invasion almost a decade later to pursue. There’s no reason why these 18 comics should not be mentioned in the same breath as Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, or Sandman.
I first heard the name Don McGregor in Grant Morrison’s Supergods while the Scottish shaman was reminiscing about the pure poetry of an issue of Jungle Action, (included in this Masterworks collection) of the Black Panther having taken down Klan members in a grocery store and then being hit on the head with a tin can of catfood by a racist old white lady. Two years later I found myself in a comic shop with a $64.99 retail value book on sale for $19.99. Two hundred fifty five pages later any worries I had about this book being reflective of blaxplotation or another example of depressing proto-deconstructing of superheroes are long gone. After the panel of old lady Jim Crow I’m slapped with brutally honest and tender third person narration (a lost art it seems nowadays), THE SCAR WILL BE SLIGHT, HARDLY NOTICEABLE, BUT HE WILL CARRY IT FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE… REBECCA WINTHROP STANDS RIGHTEOUSLY, WEIGHING HER SMALL WEAPON OF TIN. SHE WILL GO HOME AND FEED HER NINE CATS. PEER INTO OBLIVION… UNTIL IT CLAIMS YOU!”
Is it subtle? No, but screw subtlety when others let fear control their prejudicial thoughts and actions. Add “Panther’s Rage” and “Vs. The Klan” to every students’ summer reading list and it might be more relevant and informative than To Kill a Mocking Bird or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
T’Challa is a superhero. Yes, he’s also black, but that’s not something you will likely forget since there is only one white character in “Panther’s Rage”. I’m not sure how most of T’Challa’s adventures with the Avengers were, but in the few Jim Starlin issues I have the Black Panther in his head to toe covered costume could be of any race if one was unfamiliar with the character or the revolutionary group. The way Billy Graham (No, he's the Christian Evangelist) and company arrange the insane fights the Panther endures with giant snakes, alligators, leopards, wolf packs, zombies, a pterodactyl, T-Rex, and the murderous Erik Killmonger T’Challa’s royal garb always gets ripped to shreds revealing his skin.
|Billy Graham, this belongs in a museum|
The Black Panther gets beaten and damaged both in terms of his body and spirit, but least we forget he’s a superhero and he gets back up and starts busting the heads that deserve busting, whether they’re dinosaurs or racists. Hmm… there’s no parallel there, right? Sarcastic smugness aside, this collection of Black Panther tales aren’t about wallowing in self pity. I’m not saying there aren’t things rendered in these comics that won’t choke you up a little because they should, such as domestic violence, genocide, futility of war, slavery, and other lovely atrocities humankind is capable of. Yet the artists also devote plenty of panels to the love shared between T’Challa and his Grenich Village singer/social worker partner, Monica, “A MINOR-GRADE ARETHA FRANKLIN” as well as the friendship developed between the Wakandian warrior Taku and the disfigured and imprisoned Venomm (the previously mentioned white villain), culminating in Jungle Action #16, one of the sexiest comics ever. “SOME LOVERS NEED REVOLUTIONS!”
Opening splash page of Black Panther and Monica surfing giant seaturtles… Today’s comics are sorely lacking surfing via half shell.
Later in the issue after Venomm has escaped and Black Panther is about to be finished off by the villain's snake army, it’s Taku who stands in the way forcing his friend to be merciful, while disagreeing over the nature of revolutions. It’s brilliant stuff and it proves comics can be smart and mature without cynicism and rape scenes.
Being a big fan of Grant Morrison’s work and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Miracle Man I really enjoyed reading this amazing collection, which clearly had an influence on so many other great comics. This book has everything. If you dig stellar prose and masterful third and first person narration, or if Conan the Barbarian is more your cup of tea than make yours, Marvel Mastersworks: The Black Panther.
|Evolve or die|