To some the Black Panther as a character is in a precarious position. This is due in part to the confusion, ignorance and animosity levied at the Black Panther, the intensity of such is analogous to the treatment received by Afrakan people. There is a penchant by some to decry the harsh treatment the Black Panther receives by relegating it to the shortcomings of the writers or an over sensitive fan base. I would like to postulate a different theory. I hypothesize that due to the fact Afrakans do not promote themselves often enough as a distinct, culturally empowered ethnic group, other ethnicities often fail to see them as such. Because of such there is a strong disbelief and denial of the historical precedences set by Afrakans in the development of such areas as civilization, science and technology, religious and philosophical treatise, martial arts and warfare. The many successes and accomplishments that should validate the Afrakan are simply ignored. This theory is evident in the fictitious world in which the Black Panther lives.
Caucasians have created heroes and superheroes in their image, as well as they should. In fairness they even created heroes and superheroes in the image of other ethnicities. While often well versed in creating heroes and superheroes from their own points of view, they have been lacking at times in their presentation of Afrakan heroes and superheroes. Keeping in mind that it is not their responsibility to do so nor necessarily in their best interest, given their accounting of history. This is in part due to the way Afrakans present and allow themselves to be presented. During the late 1950s through the late 1960s Afrakans were at the center of the world stage. Their countries were gaining independence, human and civil rights legislation was being passed and the Black Nationalist/Black Power movement was flourishing. The fiction of that time reflected the seriousness of this… The Mark of the Hawk and The Spook Who Sat By The Door quickly comes to mind. The Black Panther was created during these events and his origin suggests such. He is a king of a sovereign nation whose cultural integrity is intact. This is best captured in Who is the Black Panther (especially the animated version). Why, because it is here that Reg defines Wakanda as a highly evolved, autonomous society. For example Wakanda's military might has defeated all attempts at conquest for ten thousand years. Wakanda's medical science has developed a cure for cancer. Another important example is it has its own schools and universities. Tchalla is a product of an independent education system that graduates its students into its community as functional members. Tchalla did not have to leave his country and prostitute himself outside of it. Everything he needed was in his homeland.
The image problem arose when the media of the United States, United Kingdom and the United Nations decided to make Afrakans the face of poverty and starvation. This mutated into Afrakans becoming the poster child for violence, thievery and slothfulness. The visage of criminality. It didn't help that some Afrakans (whether voluntary or involuntary) were actively contributing to this. These problem images found their way into the fiction. The Falcon's origin (though created in 1969 just three years after Black Panther) as revealed in 1975 has him as a career criminal, gang member and pimp. Luke Cage created in 1972 is also a gang member with aspirations of becoming a major racketeer. Blade, created in 1973, was born in a whore house to a prostitute. Apparently the urban street subculture of the time had greatly influenced the comicbook industry.
The impact from these problem images is far reaching. Here are two posts from Topless Robot that illustrate my point.
"I find it funny that Black Panther's country is the one of the most advanced countries in the world while in reality Africa is a hell hole full of War Lords, genocide, massive crime rate, has more people with aids then anywhere on Earth, doesn't have that great of technology, still has natives that don't even use the wheel, cuts off women's genitals! It's so bogus that Wakanda is so advanced lam."
Posted 06/23/2010 at 02:32:01 AM
I agree! said:
"Wakanda is as about as realistic as the 2015 Hill Valley from Back to the Future haha. If anyone knows anything about Africa they'd know how far fetched it is to believe Africa would have one of the most advanced countries on Earth. I'll believe a man can fly and shoot heat rays from his eyes before I'd believe that. As the person above me said, Black Panther is an arrogant price. They make him perfect, he beats up everyone and who can relate to such a character? If Marvel wants to use a black character then use Luke Cage, because as a black man I can relate to him! He is one of my favorite characters of all time! Have him and Iron Fist team up in a tv show! EPIC!!! Forget Black Panther"
Posted 06/23/2010 at 02:36:48 AM
it is clear to all that have an eye to see that Luke Cage would require less effort, vision and imagination to write than the Black Panther. Luke represents a parochial view of the Afrakan male, replete with all the impediments necessary for a marginal existence. The Black Panther represents the actualization and fulfillment of an Afrakan potential unencumbered by European, Arab, or American machinations.
Another affect of the problem image is the well known sidekick persona. Jim Rhodes aka War Machine created in 1979 and Sam "Snap Wilson (the Falcon) were underlings who fell well below the esteem of their mentors and benefactors. Our final affect is two pronged and contributed by Storm, who was also created in 1975. The first prong is the exoticfying affect, done obviously to the hair and eyes. This may suggest that Afrakan aesthetics needs some enhancing. CBR's Xero had this to say. "The problem is, except for her skin color, Storm is basically white. She has atypical blue eyes, and white hair, so she's exotic looking. And when people on these boards post things like "the Black Panther isn't good enough for her!", what they actually mean is "the Black Panther looks too ethnic for her! Why don't he get himself some nappy headed black woman or a white woman with a big ass?" The aesthetics of Shuri and the re imaged Dora Milaje are an excellent approach to correcting this fallacy. The second prong is to be of service to the cause of others at the sacrifice of your own people. Ororo does this when she gives up "godhood" to follow the dreams of Xavier.
The image problem of Afrakan people is not exclusive (as other Ethnicities have suffered stereotypes and profiling) but it is unique. The co-mingling of fiction and reality can yield
icons both truthful and mendacious. If stringent measures are not in place confusion permeates the discourse. Again Topless Robot elucidates my point.
SelectiveRealism get real! said:
"Dude you know the only reason Black Panther is considered one of the smartest people is because he's a black character and they had to include a black person in the list of 8 smartest people or people would say it's racist! Get your head out of the sand! The only reason Wakanda is advanced is because of the rare metal viranium. Not only can it make great things but it's rare and expensive and they use it to get technology. If you knew anything about Black Panther you'd know that his father hired teachers and the best scientists around the world to teach him and help him create things. He didn't do it alone like Richards or Stark who didn't need any teachers to teach them how to build. I've read Black Panther for decades unlike you.
Black Panther is a terrible character now and I despise that BET writer for ruining him. He acts as if he's better then everyone and is arrogant as all get out! He always tells anyone that comes from another country to leave Wakanda and not to bring any trouble there but during the Civil War he came to America and when Iron Man told him it wasn't his fight Black Panther said he didn't have to leave and was making it his fight, WTF? We can't go to that arrogant pricks country but he can do as he pleases in America? Again WTF!
They need to stop making Black Panther such a Mary Sue (can't remember the male name for it) because it's boring reading. Him marrying Storm was also a bunch of bullcrap and the only reason they did this was because Storm was black and had time in Africa (she isn't even from Africa though as she was born in New York City). She doesn't belong with that prick and needs to stay on the X-Men."
Posted 06/24/2010 at 02:39:05 AM
Caucasians have assigned themselves the executive privilege, divine right and power (coercion, warfare, bribery, seduction, murder, etc.) to universalize their ethnicities and cultures. They have quite literally assigned themselves the responsibility to map out not only their reality but for the most part, the reality of others. This is why changing so called white characters to so called black characters is easy. Some Caucasians view "Blacks" as just another shade of white. After all from the Caucasian's perspective Afrakans use their names, language, fashions, technologies, philosophical concepts and regard them as the pinnacle in aesthetics, ideology and culture. Some Caucasians even see Afrakans as beggars trying to get what they have procured.
This returns us to my hypothesis. By promoting ourselves more as a distinct, culturally empowered ethnic group based upon our many unifying similarities the act itself will help develop homogeneous ideologies that will continue to evolve our Afrakan centeredness. The similarity being that we are an Afrakan people period. American Afrakan, Jamaican Afrakan, Brazilian Afrakan, British Afrakan, Nigerian Afrakan, Ghanaian Afrakan etc. This lends itself to a concerted effort on our commonalities without a loss of historical or geopolitical distinctiveness. One ethnic group with multiple nationalities or citizenship. Let us too be done with intentional misconception that the Europeans (Portuguese, Spanish, French, British) captured slaves not Afrakans (Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa). Using the word slave as a proper noun destroys cultural relevance and ethnic identity. It diminishes Afrakan historical and geographical references. It distorts the Afrakan temporal lineage and fosters shame and disgrace. It was such an amazing tribute to the resiliency of Afrakans in America when in the mid 1980s it was decided to replace the term Black with Afrakan American. There is now further attempts being made to adjust that term to American Afrakan making American the adjective that modifies the proper noun Afrakan. Other attempts include the unifying politics of the Afrakan Socialist Internationalist organization, the independent Afrakan educational facilities that form the Council for Independent Black Institutions. Further attempts are being made to promote Afrakan centered stylings and sensibilities. Look at the fashions coming out of Kenya's Festival for African Fashion and Arts.
The changing faces of superheroes from white to black has a serious consequence that may not be apparent at a cursory glance. The desire to render the Afrakan as racially (race being an artificial term to begin with) interchangeable with Caucasians leads to cultural theft and a loss of ethnic and historical identity. To this day few can envision the ancient Egyptians as an Afrakan people, or that Afrakans in America have a history that begins with civilizations millennia old not with captivity and enslavement.
What has this to do with the Black Panther? Everything. The Black Panther epitomizes the the logical progression of an Afrakan cultural evolution that has not been curtailed or sullied by such corruptibles as imperialism, colonization or enslavement, all of which have been too often inflicted upon Afrakan civilizations. When Reg wrote Black Panther he was engage in the promotion of a a distinct, culturally empowered ethnic group. Reg (and company, as there maybe others involved) has done more to promote the Black Panther than any other writer. While Priest may arguably be the better writer, he reluctantly took the job. His aspirations lied with Daredevil. How ironic that some of the best writing of his career occurred with Black Panther. Reg on the other hand came in wanting to do Black Panther. He embraced Black Panther with an enthusiasm that is only marred by the contempt of his critics. A contempt based upon their inability and desire to see Afrakans (historically as well as contemporary) fully realized.