Friday, April 29, 2016

The Claws of The Panther! (Marvel)
Tales of Suspense #98 When: February 1968
Why: Stan Lee How: Jack Kirby

The Story So Far...
Upon receiving an urgent summons from the mysterious ruler of Wakanda -- America's Sentinel of Liberty agrees to board a remote controlled Magnaship to speed to the aid of the far off nation!

En route; Captain America finds himself caught in the firing line of an orbital energy weapon! He can only watch helplessly as the beam reduces a mountain to melted slag! At the mercy of operators he really only knows from rumor and reading, Cap must consider the possibility that he's being led into a death trap!

Making clandestine touch down at a base hidden deep within the jungle - Cap goes on the offensive! In no mood to play the fall guy any longer, he seeks an advantage over shadowy figures who charge to greet him. Wave one wasn't any problem, but now he must face the claws of The Black Panther!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Black Panther 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Captain America 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Black Panther 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Draw 2 (Projectiles)

Can you say famous firsts? Here on The Comic Book Fight Club we approach each fight as though it's the present, referencing archived examples for fights featured for the first time. This here represents the genuine very first time two of Marvel's most famed hand-to-hand combatants met in battle! A classic!

Black Panther is T'Challa: brilliant son of King T'Chaka of the isolated African nation of Wakanda. Rich with natural resources and advanced technologies, Wakanda honors a line of traditions which include guarded neutrality through closed borders. Wakandan traditions also include the trial of the Black Panther. This rite of passage is a royal ceremonial challenge that proves the winner's fitness to lead the nation, reflecting the peak physical and combative skills of the new Black Panther! The winner is enhanced by a rare herb that facilitates a spiritual confrontation with the panther god Bast.

The enhanced peak physical conditioning of T'Challa makes him not at all dissimilar from Captain America! Steve Rogers was a frail patriot so intent on joining the fight against Nazi Germany, he subjected himself to experimental testing! The enhancements of Dr. Abraham Erskine's super-soldier serum bestowed upon him ultimate human potential! Like The Panther, he was trained in armed and unarmed combat, and honed his skills in a theatre of war!

Personally, I tend to think of Black Panther as the more skilled of the two hand-to-hand fighters. WWII era America wasn't exactly a capital for martial arts. So when it comes to technique, I tend to give The Panther the edge. That said, the custom measure of The Haseloff System tries to balance literal definitions with the realities of comic book variables. That's why Cap rates higher on the fighting measure, for his sheer will to barrel through the opposition. Which isn't to say Cap is any kind of slouch, obviously. I just think of Panther as a more refined hand-to-hand fighter in the mould of a supreme martial artist.

This fight has a lot in common with the deadlock of Captain America vs Batman. Again, in that example, Batman's refined, literal martial artistry was underrated against the intangible "warrior" quality of Cap. A fine line of interpretation.
Of course, Black Panther doesn't just fight with innate skill and sense - he also fights with a brilliant mind. His knowledge of science and engineering sometimes plays out in new tricks in his suit, but can't be under estimated for giving him a unique perspective of opponents and environment.

Both characters have shown they can fight well above their weight, as well. In past featured fights we've seen Black Panther match heavyweights: Super-Skrull [Fantastic Four #6] and Dr. Doom [Black Panther #19]. On the flipside, Cap's gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Master Man [Reborn #2] and Iron Man [Captain America Annual #9]!

Separating the two is very difficult. When the fight starts, Cap has already taken out a couple of Wakandan guards. Let's find out how the main event went!

The Tape: Captain America Ranking: Captain America (#7)

What Went Down...
Springing from his remote controlled ship like a blaze of red, white and blue - Captain America goes of the offensive, hoping to avoid an ambush by taking down the shadowy figures who accompany the Black Panther!

The human dynamo springs from his toppled foes and braces for the attack of The Panther himself! With the momentum swinging his way, the super-soldier expects a single blow can finish the conflict, but the swing of his shield misses its intended target!

The Black Panther's legendary reflexes are too fast for the Captain's arrogant physicality, but Wakanda's ruler fights with honor. He prowls out of harms way, dashing between Cap's open stance, and refuses the aid of his soldiers as he rises to topple the American!

Well versed in hand-to-hand grappling, Captain America uses the Panther's own movement against him! With a cinched in hold, Cap tumbles into the roll, using his legs to vault the Black Panther over him!

The manoeuver is enough to pass T'Challa's martial test! Convinced the man he has summoned from afar is indeed the genuine article - he calls off their battle!
With a deadly menace threatening their very existence from above, the heroes must put all thoughts of combat supremacy aside. They get to work.

The Hammer...
It was a fast and furious struggle, but it was also just a test! Both fighters showed intelligence and intensity in their technique, but it was all for a draw!

There's a lot to like in this fight. I think it's a good illustration of the intensity Jack Kirby brings to his figures during this period of Marvel Comics. There's a reality and weight to the characters, but their logical actions are cranked up a notch. Judo mats be damned!

It may or may not surprise you to know today's featured fight essentially takes place over a single page. The limited range of movements makes this somewhat easy to deduce, but I don't know if it gives enough credit to the fluid continuity of their battle. The story clearly never intends to pit the two heroes at odds, but if you came for a fight between them, you got a decent taste in a small space.

Bit of a dick move on Cap's part to just dive out and start fighting anyone who shows up. Hardly the worst example of the 'superhero misunderstanding' cliché, but an entry, none the less. You can put it down to the Tales of Suspense double feature format. Sharing the series with Iron Man means limited pages and a healthy attitude to cramming a lot in!

The fight is also consistent with Black Panther's other early appearances, where he tests himself against international heroes. It built the tone of mystery and seclusion that is ultimately a unique defining trait for the fictional nation of Wakanda. Cap has ultimately been recruited to fight the new Baron Zemo of the time. In a nice example of Marvel continuity, Black Panther joins Cap as a new Avengers recruit right after this. Solid, pull no punches, organic storytelling.

As you'll no doubt have guessed: today's 1968 sparring session was far from the last time Black Panther and Captain America went head-to-head!

Fans in some parts of the world can already see the pair fighting on opposite sides in Captain America: Civil War! Black Panther is drawn into the conflict by the assassination of his father: King T'Chaka, whose interest in superhuman registration is piqued by the death of aid workers during an Avengers mission gone wrong. These tragedies lead him T'Challa to fight alongside Iron Man and the other heroes in favor of registration.

With Black Panther heading back to theatres for a much anticipated solo film in 2018, I'm hopeful we'll be here to talk a whole lot more about his exploits. The reputations of the Panther and Cap as two of Marvel's best hand-to-hand fighters has certainly spawned a few memorable rematches I can think of!

If your hunger for Civil War inspired entries hasn't been satiated - check out Old Comics Wednesday: Captain America for a choice selection of relevant back issues! You can also find hundreds of previous featured fights in the Archive Issued Index and come back next week for another exciting action-packed encounter with Captain America's past!

Winner: Draw
#7 (--) Captain America
#113 (+15) Black Panther

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