Black Panther

Black Panther, the Marvel superhero, is one of the best things about Captain America: Civil War (and there are very very many great things about this film).

The character originated thusly:

Following his debut in Fantastic Four #52-53 (July-Aug. 1966) and subsequent guest appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #5 (1967) and with Captain America inTales of Suspense #97-99 (Jan.-March 1968), the Black Panther journeyed from the fictional African nation of Wakanda to New York City, New York to join the titular American superhero team in The Avengers #52 (May 1968), appearing in that comic for the next few years.

…and apparently has connections with Storm of the X-Men (like, marriage?).

In Captain America: Civil War, he provides an outside viewpoint to the Avengers’ conflicts over whether and how superheroes should be regulated. He grows as a character, moving from vengeance to balance, from a young man inheriting a kingdom to a regal warrior king capable of defending his people… and other innocents around the world. He carries himself out of costume with poise and what I just really have to describe as regal. He just carries himself like a king. In costume he has all the deadly grace, power and agility of a big cat. In all, he embodies the archetype of the black panther.

Yes, archetype. In How to Train Your Dragon, toothless, the night fury, was inspired by an animator’s cat, and by a screen saver of a black panther, deep golden eyes glowing out of a shadowy face. A symbol of mystery and power, night and shadows. In the recent Jungle Book film, Bagheera materializes out of the shadows, eyes glowing, creating instinctive reactions to humans shivering around campfires… or elation among those who are his allies. he is the keeper of the law, teacher of lost mancubs, and the voice of balance and reason in the jungle. He’s also a great ally if the villagers are threatening to kill your foster parents…

The archetype has been around since humans began telling stories. There is something about a black (rare in nature) animal that is mythic. It belongs to the night, often to the moon and feminine powers. “Within the darkness of night resides the truth of creation.They represent the life and power of the night. They can show us how to welcome the darkness and rouse the light within it. ”

Blazing eyes pierce the veil of darkness of Forgotten Realms,
to bring Consciousness to the Unconscious.

He has insight into the future, or the motives of others. In Civil War, Black Panther is the outsider viewpoint, the one who, when he steps away from his own vengeance, sees the whole situation clearly.

He has high charisma, a lot of power, and therefor, a lot of responsibility. This befits the young King T’Challa.

He has heightened senses, he shapeshifts… T’Challa the man is poised and regal, a young king, diplomat, educated man from a high tech if small nation. In his supersuit, Black Panther is agile, powerful, moving with speed and grace far beyond that of the human.

In our modern world, this image still holds power over our imaginations: in cryptozoology (where things may or may not actually exist), sightings of “ABCs” (alien big cats, or animals seen where they do not naturally occur) are often large and black.

“Black panthers have been part of modern lore in the United States for more than 100 years, despite the lack of any compelling evidence of their existence,” she wrote in August. “I am frequently sent photos of misidentified felines and also often hear stories about black panther sightings … I’m quite skeptical. If black panthers existed in the wild in the United States, we should at the very least be seeing them killed on roads.”

The Marvel Universe keeps this ancient archetype alive… comics, after all, are just our modern mythologies.

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