By Arturo R. García
If Marvel Comics wanted attention for this teaser picture of the “American Panther,” who will allegedly be tied in to this year’s “Fear Itself”
marketing line storyline, they certainly got it: the thread about the image at Comic Book Resources threatened to crack the 500-comment mark within 24 hours of it going live Monday.
Of course, many of those comments were along the lines of “What?” But go fig, there might be a twisted sort of logic behind this move – under a certain set of circumstances.
The shot is designed to make us think this could be the Black Panther we’ve known for years: T’Challa, former ruler of the fictional African land of Wakanda. In current Marvel storylines, T’Challa has been substituting for Daredevil as the protector of Hell’s Kitchen, with a new secret identity as an immigrant from the Congo. But even though he’s been wearing a variant of his traditional garb, technically he’s not the true Black Panther.
The Panther name, which T’Challa inherited from his father, is more than just a heroic identity – it’s part of the mantle of Wakandan leadership, and right now the country is ruled by T’Challa’s sister, Shuri. So, if this is T’Challa, it would be possible for T’Challa (and by extension, Marvel) to take on the AP moniker to re-brand himself separately from the family business.
It would also alienate the character’s fans no end, but it would be possible. It also wouldn’t be the first sketchy name change for the character; for a brief time in the 1960s, a skittish Marvel had T’Challa go by the name Black Leopard, so he wouldn’t be confused with those other Black Panthers.
Assuming Marvel was warned off of that path, several commenters on CBR brought up a more interesting candidate to fill out this new, starry catsuit: Kevin “Kasper” Cole, a biracial character – Kevin, whose father is black and mother is Jewish, picked up the nickname because of his light skin – who was also a Black Panther, sort of. Cole, an NYC cop who debuted in the pages of Black Panther in 2002, stole one of T’Challa’s spare costumes as part of an effort to fight corruption in his precinct.
Cole would eventually meet T’Challa, and demand to go through the same trials the latter did to earn true Panther status. It’s during this process that another Wakandan chieftain offers Cole another mantle – that of the White Tiger, which he donned for a subsequent team-up with T’Challa and the heroic team known as The Crew.
Currently, the White Tiger identity is being used by a Latina character, Angela Del Toro, who has been part of Daredevil’s supporting cast. This would leave Kevin open to take on the American Panther name – perhaps as some sort of agreement between Shuri’s regime and the American superhero community, currently led by Steve Rogers.
Speaking of the former Captain America, let’s all hope that, no matter how this reveal turns out – whether AP is T’Challa, Kevin or an entirely new face under the kittymask – that … well, that it doesn’t turn out like this:
Nuff said, True Believers!
Top image courtesy of Comic Book Resources