Panther Tracks: The Rough Guide To Wakanda

This Is NO Rinky-Dink Panther…

“Strange! Though we’ve never met, I have a feeling about you. Why do you search my face so intently?” – T’Challa.  

“The tracks are gouged deep into the snow as if seeking permanence against an umpermanent environment. The Panther moves as the great cat, stalking impulsively…”

“Jungle Action was a collection of jungle genre comics from the 1950s, mostly detailing white men saving Africans or being threatened by them,” recalled writer Don McGregor. “I voiced a lament that I thought it was a shame that in 1973 Marvel was printing these stories, and couldn’t we have a black African hero…” 

He remembered that back in 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had introduced an African superhero called the “Black Panther” – none other than King T’Challa of the secretive state of Wakanda – in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966) so planned to make the title the Panther’s own. 

Hard to believe now, but giving a black character his own ongoing series was deemed to be such a risky move back in 1973. Although Jungle Action was cancelled after only 26 ishs, with McGregor‘s amazing writing – plus art by Billy Grahamit has become a cult classic. 

Anyway, ever since this character bewitched me in an extraordinary ish of Fantastic Four – #241, Render Unto Caesar! April 1982; reviewed here: – at the very beginning of my quest for Bronze Age awesomeness eighteen months ago, knowledge of this king and his country has been duly sought.

The most crucial point to bear in mind is that in the Marvel Universe, as Earth‘s solitary source of vibranium – the most precious, but least understood, mineral of all – Wakanda has become the most scientifically and technologically advanced country in the world.

Lee and Kirby may have brought the Black Panther to life, but McGregor can be credited with not only developing T’Challa’s character but creating the cultural and geopolitical entity that is the kingdom of Wakanda. 

And what a truly marvellous country it is too!

 

Wenzori: “Watch out, Jakak! It‘s that panther-devil ! Get out of my way and I’ll sear him in half!”

Jakak: “But how can it be him, Wenzori? We were with Killmonger when we left him for dead… left him for the wolves of the mist to devour!!”

“The ruby lasers infrared scope changes the night into weird, surrealistic shapes. The sleek, pantherish figure becomes an abstract being against a spectral icescape. It is easier to kill an abstraction than a human being!”

Jungle Action Featuring: The Black Panther is a phenomenal classic title.

The story arc: Panther Rage – unravelling from #s 4-26 (1973-76) is regarded by comic historians as the very first graphic novel, and one of the masterworks in an age brimming with experimental and groundbreaking comics.

Recently – on my last few expeditions into the capital – this series his eluded even my superior tracking skills. Did manage to find a collection of back ishs in excellent condition, but they were going for extortionately-high prices…

However, only last month, a single copy of Jungle Action ish #13 (January 1975) emerged @ my local awemonger’s emporium. The God Killer is an intriguing story; much of the action takes place on an icy tundra – can this really be the heart of Africa?!

Page 14 is just sensational; here is Billy Graham’s original pre-colour draft:

“It was almost like a mythical place to us – to a lot of us, as African-Americans. And that was a very big deal for me to be able to tell this story” – Ryan Coogler.

“There are two major religions in Wakanda. T’Challa wears th sacred attire of the Panther religion. It is torn and crusted with blood and sweat, but it is no less sacred a garment. 

“The regal, savage beings that congregate below him are the foundation of  Wakanda’s second religion. They have the stature of gods… the awe-inspiring White Gorillas!”

Undoubtedly, Wakanda is a deeply spiritual place.

In ancient times, the panther goddess Bast bestowed the power of vibranium to the very first Black Panther, granting himand all his descendants – super-strength and enhanced agility.

Fast forward to 2016, and what appeared to be a baffling appointment: National Book Award winner: Te-Nihisi Coates to write the current manifestation of Black Panther.

No worries, it has become a critically-acclaimed, unputdownable success – highly recommended. Not to be left out, your correspondent was glad to pick up #17 (October 2017) and yes, that is Storm of the X-Men sharing the cover. They were married, (until the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover forced T’Challa – as High Priest of Wakanda – to annul that union.)

Rather helpfully, Te-Nihisi included a map of Wakanda. Landlocked, and seemingly impenetrable from the outside world by the mountainous Jabari-Lands to the northwest and the sprawling Lake Nyanza to the east, any outsider would, nevertheless, recognise its big and bustling cities (known in the Wakandan tongue as ‘Birnins’) sprawling into the jungle and touching the sky with super-sleek skyscrapers.

All seven Birnins are named after the greatest Panthers in antiquity, and each actually resembles a fortress, rather than an urban area. The Panther Throne is set in Birnin Zana (th Golden City), while the spiritual centre of the country lies to the south of Birnin Bashenga. 

Mena Ngai (The Great Mound) is where the vibranium lies – hidden in plain sight…

“Move! Or you will be moved!” – Ayo.

“The sun never penetrates Serpent Valley! It is banished from the lush, primeval interior by the dense cloud forest that has been the only “sky” this land has ever had…

“Erik Killmonger maintains his brisk, tireless pace. The others sweat profusely, but Killmonger’s brow remains dry and he seems not to notice the sweltering vapour…”

Before signing on to make the 18th MCU movie, writer/director Ryan Coogler informed Head Honcho Kevin Feige that he would have to travel to Africa to be able to effectively create an amazing African adventure. 

Although Wakanda is a fictional country, it was deemed imperative that the essence of Africa – its sights, sounds, smells and tastes – be represented in all its stirring vitality on film. Ryan spent several weeks (alone) in various locations in South Africa.

Was he able to capture th essence of Africa on film? 

“We’re trying to explore that through every means of communication. Through the music. Through the language. Through clothing. Through production design. Through the structures of the building and the colour of walls. And through the ugly stuff too. Through conflict. Through weapons.

“It’s all those things. We tried to look at both sides, and as you would with any human being or human society. 

“You know what I’m saying?”

Judging from the ultracool clips we’ve glimpsed so far, the movie looks every bit as cool and colourful, exciting and emotional as any of the MCU’s finest entries. Besides, how can a movie set in a highly-advanced Afrio-futuristic wonderland where the Monarch of the Panther Throne is protected by a crack troop of female bodyguards: the Dora Milaje (see above!) NOT be awesome?! 

“He has not spoken for 24 hours, and the words come from blistered lips, deeply split by the glacial cold. Dried blood is on his tongue, and speaking has ripped the healing wound open. Fresh blood spills into his mouth. 

“He wonders if they have understood one word of his clever repartee…”

Blood and death? Is this all I am to hear for the rest of my days? Could you not find pleasure in the act of love… or have you become so perverted that you find excitement and entertainment only in brutality?” – The Black Panther.

 

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Universal Pictures: An Exploration Of Cosmic Comics!

Because You Demanded It! Brad Goes Cosmic!

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“I spent some time in your system monitoring your television transmissions. I learned all about Earth’s culture from watching sitcoms” – Sphinxor.

“You have teleported me here to talk,” the being known as the High Evolutionary protested. “To discuss why my planet has been stolen. I await your answer.”

“My Ring-Shippers and I were contracted to move your planet by a race of beings called the Beyonders,” replied Sphinxor, Captain of the Ringship 1, Command Vessel of the Prime Movers of Tarkus. 

“They became aware of your experimental world while you were collecting the extra-dimensional mass to build it… This Warlock fellow looked to be a problem…” 

Yes! That’s Adam Warlock, the golden-skinned cosmic hero, and the primary reason for picking up what has turned out to be a quite scintillating ish of Marvel 2-In-1 (#63, May 1980). The Thing, Moon-Dragon and Starhawk team up to help save Counter-Earth. 

Mark Gruenwald (writer), Jerry Bingham (artist) and Gene day (inker) “join forces to concoct the wildest cosmic adventure ever!”

In this Summer’s voracious surge for Bronze Age delights, the overwhelming theme has been: cosmic. So what is it about cosmic comics that make them so enthralling?

Apart from tapping into that lifelong fascination with outer space (with which most of you would concur, right?), the joys of galactic adventures, bedecked with multitudes of weird and wonderful extraterrestrials, with supercool blasters and gleaming star cruisers is veritably the fuel on which traditional SF runs.

There are numerous reasons for why cosmic comics will forever be the best in my book (or blog).

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^ Page 10 of Marvel 2-In-1 #63 shows plenty of stellar action to satisfy anybody’s cosmic cravings.

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“From what we’ve been told, the Beyonders may be more powerful than any beings yet encountered by man – greater than Galactus, the Watcher, Thanos… any of them. As a scientist, I am curious” –  The High Evolutionary. 

The cosmic brand of story-line holds greater appeal,  primarily as the imagination is allowed the freedom to run a tad wilder. Moreover, this scintillating subgenre features some of the coolest and most powerful characters in the known Marvel Universe.

Not to mention the biggest – take (on) Galactus (if you dare!).

Asked who the most powerful character in the Marvel Universe could be, Stan Lee did not hesitate to answer: “Galactus, without a doubt.”

Undoubtedly, the cream of the cosmos has to be “The Coming of Galactus” which appeared in Fantastic Four # 48-50. 

But what are the chances of acquiring this series and NOT breaking the bank…?

Our old friend John Byrne contributed exceptionally to the cause of cosmic awesomeness by creating “The Trial of Galactus” which sprawls across Fantastic Four # 242-44; 252-55; and 257-62. Have already set my sights on them, regardless of my indifference to Reed Richards…

As a huge fan of Rom The Spaceknight – keen to pick up some of his classic cosmic escapades – Galactus actually appears in ish no. 26(!)

By Jove, the Bradmonitor lit up spectacularly when that news filtered through!

Minions! To the Bradmobile!

You’ll be pleased to know that they have already been dispatched forthwith across the quadrant to track THAT ONE down.

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“Fascinating. I’m in outer space, yet my costume automatically creates an energy field that not only protects me from the deadly cold and radiation… but provides me with a breatheable atmosphere as well” – Ms. Marvel. 

One of the classic cosmic stories – essential to anyone’s collection – would have to be The Magus Saga.

Featured in Strange Tales #s 178-81 and Warlock – yes! him again – # 9-11, it’s the reason why Adam Warlock is one of Marvel’s most intriguing protagonists. (If you don’t believe me, check the heaving prices of individual ishs charged by some of yer leading local Awemongers…)

Have already picked up some back ishs of Future Tense, a weekly comic produced by Marvel UK back in 1980; they include some reprints of early Adam Warlock stories. Fabulous stuff, but they only make me crave more of the Warlock

My mission to find more Ms. Marvel continues apace, and has turned up some surprisingly cosmic results.

#3: “The Lady’s Not For Killing” featured the Kree-powered superwoman flying into space on an intercept vector to prevent a missile from diving into the Kennedy Space Center. Upon finding an access hatch, what should spring out but the Doomsday Man!

Bingo – the same robot supposedly destroyed by the Silver Surfer way back when. Cue a bout of feisty female fisticuffs (in orbit). 

Written faultlessly as always by Chris Claremont, and amazingly imagineered by the invincible John Buscema it’s another great addition to the collection.

Groovy.

And there’s been no opp here to squeal about the Mighty Thor’s cosmic scrapes. Particularly that epic in which Galactus must call for Thor’s help in tackling a galactic foe which even he cannot smite…(!)

More mouthwatering delights yet to materialise here on Bradscribe!

Stay tuned: same Brad time! Same Brad channel!  

Meanwhile, back on that orbiting planetoid… 

“…We simply set up our stasis-rings and took off with Counter-Earth in tow…” Sphinxor droned on bureaucratically. “We kindly refer you to the Beyonders for any questions pertaining to what they intend to do with your world, okay?” 

“Then…” frowned the High Evolutionary. “You do not even know why they want my world?”

“That’s not my job, man.”

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“It just gives me the willies, bein’ taken apart atom by atom and bein’ put back together somewhere else” – The Thing. 

From All-Star To Dawnstar: Recent Vintage Acquisitions Read And Reviewed

The Quest For Classic Comics Continues…

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“Silence, please, everyone! I’ve been a little worried about how to tell you this … but, in my identity as Carter Hall, I’m going to enlist in the US Army!” – Hawkman.

And with this bombshell, so begins “Never Step On A Feathered Serpent!” the fifth issue of All-Star Squadron, a title whose debut ish (in September 1981) – with its mix of of superheroes and World War II history developed into an unputdownable phenomenon in the Bradhouse. 

My only regret is that (apart from #10, ten years later), no further ishs could be found.

Staying in the UK on extended leave, belaboured over the bonce by the Mace of Nostalgia, yours truly set aside this Summer to finally track down those comic classics from the so-called “Bronze Age” that eluded me all those moons ago, as well as checking out previously unseen titles. 

Three months ago, perusing the back ish departments of some handy awemongers’ emporiums in London, the ball started rolling with the purchases of All-Star Squadron, #s 5 & 7.

Was it a good start?

  • Squadron scrambled, or brain scrambled?

Amazingly imagineered by the invincible creative team of Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler, its reserved status in my collection is well-assured! But equally astounded at how this ish could have slipped past my Radar of Ninth Metal back in the day…

#7 is equally compelling, with the introduction of the Nazi costumed super-villain: Baron Blitzkrieg! 

Already looking forward to snapping up further ishs of this great title!

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“I’ll have to hit-and-run – use my speed and Kree-training to counter his brute strength – and try to wear him down!” –  Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel #15 (March 1978)

“Carol Danvers a woman who had it made – until the day radiation from an exploding alien machine gave her the skills and powers of a Kree Warrior, plus an uncanny Seventh Sense – transforming a human woman into… a heroine!”

With a proposed Ms. Marvel movie in the works, now would be a good time to catch up and get to know her – if anything, isn’t everyone curious to find out what radiation from an exploding alien machine does to you? Moreover, this Seventh Sense – it sounds groovy! – could we have some?

The woman with the Kree powers must battle Tiger Shark. This villain looks supercool on that dynamic cover (see above) and makes for a mighty antagonist inside.

The script is provided by Chris Claremont – always a big plus in my book! 

But when you consider the premise: woman in leotard is punched and has cars hurled at her by lunatic dressed as a shark… 

  • Marvelous, or Ms. Fire? 

Despite this dodgy premise, this ish is fab; the art by Mooney & DeZuniga is great, and there is a craving for more of this title.

Please note: his captive (who turns out to be the cousin of Namor – y’know: The Sub-Mariner!) is actually fully-clothed during the few panels in which she appears, so no fish-scale bikinis or strategically-placed hubcaps herein…

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“The thing is: that’s my Mom up there! What’s come over her since she won the Earth election?” – Colossal Boy. 

Legion of Super-Heroes was a title hugely enjoyed as a nipper. Now, an irresistible curiosity to find out what other ishs looked like spurred me on. #273 was the ish selected. 

Such characters as Wildfire and Tyroc were as cool as fudge, while others such as Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad(!) made the title unintentionally hilarious. 

One member of the Legion of Super-Heroes stood apart from the others: a graceful figure with a stunning pair of wings, her name was Dawnstar – or as her co-Legionnaire: the blond, green-skinned Brainiac 5 called her “Dawny.”

Hey, just be thankful this Post was not entitled Finding Dawny jeez, that sounds as corny as heck…!

  • So, Legend, or just leggo…?

What a swiz – she’s not in it! 

Undoubtedly, this is a compelling epic, bristling with drama!; intrigue!; the craziest super-cozzies you will ever see! And the story-line involving a revered Legionnaire framed for murder, wasn’t bad, but considering the immensity of the issue, and a high turn-out, where was the yellow, tassled one?

By the Black Nebula! It feels like your correspondent has been stood up…  

That other strong fave, Wildfire, barely got a look-in either.

Its been great to look at art not seen for 35 years – one or two other ishs will certainly be tracked down…

Even if it is just to see her again…

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“I am Gaius Tiberius Augustus Agrippa! I am power! – What kind of beings are you? Is all the world now the domain of monsters?” – 

During online research for comic art a few years back, my trail led to pages for an ish of Fantastic Four. Although not a fan of this so-called “World’s Greatest Comic,” both pen an’ pencilling duties for #241 (April 1982) belonged to the legendary John Byrne.

In “Render Unto Caesar,” S.H.I.E.L.D. has detected a mysterious power source emanating from the interior of Africa. With the aid of the Black Panther, the Fantastic Four go to investigate and discover – “Jupiter!” – a being, once a soldier in a distant outpost of Emperor Caligula. Almost two millennia ago, he stumbled upon alien technology to create a fabulous city, more splendid than the Roman Empire at its height.

He even neutralises the Fantastic Four’s superpowers. Irate at being selected to be his “Empress,” Sue Storm removes his golden helmet, only to find that- ha! Well, don’t let me spoil it for you! 

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  • Really Fantastic, or just a 4-letter word?

When this Summer of nostalgic comic-collecting set forth, a mental note was taken to look out especially for this one.

That priority was well-rewarded. 

Yes! Fantastic by name – undeniably fantastic by nature. With terrific guest-star appearances by Nick Fury and the Black Panther – two characters high on my Wanted list, this story: “Render Unto Caesar” is an absolute classic.  

Particularly enjoyed the amusing nod to Raiders (above), a light moment that presents its creator perfectly at the height of his enchanting powers.  

Feel the Byrne!

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“The X-Men would have trained me to use my mutant abilities more efficiently… If only I had joined them when I had the chance!” –  Dazzler.

Dr. Doom happened to be one of those characters sought after 30+ years ego, but never got him – could not find the relevant ish of the Fantastic Four that featured him.

Dazzler was a cult figure – “gifted” with the ability to convert sound into dazzling light – who got her own solo series.

The Monarch of Latveria guest-stars in #s 3 & 4. Ended up picking up the latter (it has a slightly more thrilling cover).

  • So, truly dazzling, or just dazzled off? 

Nah, this is not one of my better purchases.

The art by Frank Springer is good enough, but the prospect of a cutie mutie (…on frickin’ roller skates, fer cryin’ aht lowd!) never excited me even way back when yours truly was cute an’ supple enough to arse about with frickin’ roller skates. 

White flares are no match for a yellow, tassled cozzie. Any day… 

Good Grud, this is precisely the sort of infantile mag a chap of my age should not be bothering with – so will sell this on asap!

Hang on… 

If a character as lame as this could get her own series… and a popular fave such as Dr. Doom – or Dawnstar, for that matter! -couldn’t, well… 

Undeterred, my quest – delving further into the dense jungle of back issues – continues… 

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“This is one time… all the words in the Universe aren’t enough…” – Dazzler.

Sherlock Holmes and The (Bad) Sign Of Four

I Say, Holmes, This New Fantastic(?!) Four Movie Really Is Quite Dire! 

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“Now, let’s not jump to conclusions. We need much more scientific evidence before we can say that” – Reed Richards. 

“First things first, Watson. Inform Mrs. Hudson that it’s about time for afternoon tea.”

“Certainly, Holmes!” I replied. I could tell by his furrowed brow that the World’s Greatest Detective had found a most perplexing case upon which to cogitate. 

“Now, upon my return to our beloved home at 221B Baker Street this morning after wrapping up that most bothersome Case of the Missing Characterisations, I received a most curious telegram; it outlines a most perplexing case-“

“Aha! Thought so, ho ho!” 

“…Ahem. Here, I shall dictate, thus:

“Why, oh why. Stop. When Captain America, Iron Man, the Avengers et al consistently produce such splendid sequels, absolutely no one can make a great Fantastic Four movie? Stop. Please, please, please, make them. Stop. J. Whedon Esq.”

“By Jove! Now, that- that is a frightfully complicated conundrum to elucidate!” I blurted. “Gad, that should keep you occupied for a jolly long time!”

“Indubitably, my good man,” he huffed, rather world-wearily. “Although let it be known that I am about to embark on a most trying venture, so it will be anything but jolly, I’m afraid.”

“Of course, I’m sorry, Holmes.”  

“I shall acquire your help too, old friend; I will need to summon all the powers at my command. My fortitude. My resilience… and some tea. Make it so.”

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“Wow, Dr. Phil, that’s deep. Let’s think about that. You got Victor: more money than God, Stud of the Year. And you got Reed: world’s dumbest smart guy, worth less than a postage stamp. That’s a real toss-up” – Johnny Storm. 

“This new Fantastic Four movie, Watson – more needless “origins” pap. What do you make of it, old chap?”

“Hmm, not much to write home about I’m afraid, Holmes.”

“Precisely, Doctor… Often cited as the greatest team in comics, with a 54-year history of stories to call upon, and yet this charmless cinematic curio offers nothing in the way of wit or worth. Already, it has fallen woefully short of its predicted Opening Weekend Haul-“

“You mean it received a clobbering! Oh, ho ho ho-!”

“Watson, for goodness sake…”

“Sorry, Holmes… It received a paltry single-figure total on Rotten Tomatoes… Not much of a Marvel-“

“AH, WATSON!” Holmes yelled, making me jolt so irksomely that I almost fell off the arm of his plush leather armchair.

“That is precisely the point, my dear Watson! Not… a Marvel. Not a Marvel… at all. It’s produced by 20th Century Fox, wouldn’t you know, but… those stupendous X-Men movies were done by Fox, so it’s no fault of the change in studio… Hmm, there is one quintessential fact about the Fantastic Four that these so-called film-“makers” have overlooked: the comic’s wholesome nature is derived from the fact that – as two of them are siblings, two of them are married, two of them are constantly bickering with each other – they are a family unit, so cue a happy, frothy formula: one that has thrived for decades; not this dark, brooding nonsense currently clogging our cinemas, for pity’s sake! …And so, what next…?”

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“Hey, you think you got problems, you take a good look, pal!” – Ben Grimm.  

“Oh my giddy aunt…”

“My thoughts exactly, Holmes (ahem),” I spluttered.

“What is the meaning of this- this trainwreck?!”

“Well, as far as I can gather, this 1993 version was made primarily by Constantin – the studio best remembered for churning out that Resident Evil nonsense – purely as means to retain the rights to the franchise.”

“Yes, there was a time when Marvel Comics were collapsingat the brink of bankruptcy-“

“Oh no, perish the thought-“

“Oh yes, Watson, it was – I can assure you – a very long time ago, but all unbelievably true… They sold the rights of various superhero titles; apparently, Marvel had proposed a Fantastic Four movie as early as 1983, but – having sold the rights to The Human Torch to Universal in 1977 – they had to wait until 1986 before any plans could be developed!”

“Ah, this version never got released, and was never intended to, either.”

“Ha! Just as well! Huzzah for small mercies, eh what? This abomination was doomed to tank anyway. Anybody could see how elementary that is…”

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“Any more bright ideas? Why don’t you strip down and have a hundred people stare at you?” – Susan Storm. 

“Now, some people cite the 2005 movie as awful. Really, this effort wasn’t half-bad.”    

“It had the ever-delightful Jessica Alba as Sue Storm. Why, on Earth, would they want to make her invisible…?”

“Weh-heh-hell, I count my lucky stars I was never hired to figure that one out, thank the Lord!” 

“And you know, the sequel: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (from 2007) featured yet another extraordinary performance by Doug Jones as the Silver Surfer!”

“Good call, Watson! Yes, the Silver Surfer: the iconic fan fave. Hard to believe that comicbook movie is treated with equal disdain!”

“Delightful Stan Lee cameo-“

“Exactly! There is no reason to vilify this sequel either! No, really, Watson, these two movies should not be condemned to the extent that they have been. Too lightweight, underwhelming, mayhap, but simple, decent entertainment compared to this latest travesty nonetheless. Just look at these good points: you have Julian McMahon as a suitably menacing Victor von Doom; great comic relief between Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis); great special effects as always; and Jessica Alba. Taking her clothes off… These are not the traits of a dud movie-”

“No shit, Sherlock… Ha ha ha! By Jove, Holmes, did you see what I just did there? Ho ho! My, I’m in fine jest, this day-!” 

“Really, Watson, don’t. Milk. Your part. Actually, speaking of milk: WHERE’S MY BLASTED TEA?!”

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4 times the action! 4 times the fantastic…! Ah, nuts to this: 4 times the trainwreck, 4fs…