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By Jim Beard
During the dark days of World War II the United States boasted many champions, but none more patriotic and powerful than that of the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America. Still, other nations caught up in the struggle possessed their own warriors whose stories remain untold to this day.
One such hero’s tale will finally see the light of day early next year in CAPTAIN AMERICA/BLACK PANTHER: FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, a four-issue Marvel Knights limited series. The Golden Age protector of Wakanda meets America’s original super soldier in boisterous battle against the Nazis, as told by writers Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan, with Cowan also providing art.
"Denys and I had never done a comic together before," explains Hudlin of the story’s origin. "We’ve been talking about it since his days at Milestone, and the Black Panther/Captain America team up seemed the most natural. Design-wise, Denys is really taking a very fresh take on the classic characters. Just his treatment of Panther’s cape alone is brilliant."
While readers may be familiar with other men who proudly carried the mantle of the Black Panther before the modern champion T’Challa and his father T’Chaka, Hudlin claims this series’ Panther makes his own way through the jungle.
"This is actually T’Chaka’s father, T’Challa’s grandfather, Azzuri the Wise," he notes. "We saw him beat and school Namor in an early issue of BLACK PANTHER, but we’ll get to know him much better in this issue. He’s a family man with wife and kids, with years of leadership under his belt. He’s also pretty prescient about how the outcome of this war will lead to even greater battles to come, like Civil War."
In FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, the Nazis set their collectively malignant eye on the sovereign African nation of Wakanda and its rich vibranium reserves. The action comes in many forms and involves an unforgettable cast of characters, including Sgt. Nick Fury and his Howling Commandoes.
"Wakanda has never been successfully invaded," Hudlins points out. "So it’s not about whether the Nazis win, it’s all about the details of the ass whipping handed out. It’s a combination of conventional forces and super powers on both sides, so it’s hell of a series of battles. And yes, there’s as much political intrigue as there is foot to ass. You start with reality then add a fictional utopia and guys who can bend steel. You try to remain true to the emotional truth of these characters who have been around for decades."
Below the surface, the series will also illustrate how heroes like Captain America, Nick Fury and the Black Panther attempt to relate to each other, coming from different backgrounds and even beliefs.
"The Panther admires young Steve Rogers’ unquenchable optimism," says Hudlin. "He recognizes the greatness within him. He wants to help Cap be the best he can be.
"As for Nick Fury, Azzuri sees not only the war hero he is, but the cold warrior and master spy he will become."
One other character receives Hudlin’s specific time and interest, a Howling Commando whose unique star ultimately rises in the series.
"A key player and point of view for the story is Gabe Jones," he explains. "Historically, Gabe Jones is one of the first ‘normal’ black people in comics. By ‘normal,’ I mean, not a racist caricature. Gabe is the first of the great breakthroughs in realistic depictions of black characters that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did in the 1960’s. He was the forerunner of Robbie Robertson and the Black Panther.
"I’m going to flesh out who Gabe Jones is. As an African American, he seemed like the perfect person to be the point of view of this story. He would take pride in both the Black Panther and Captain America, and also would find himself in conflict with both."Comment + Permalink