Monday, February 26, 2018

Real Name: Piccolo Jr
First Appearance: Weekly Shonen Jump #998 (February, 1988)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Yet To Be Featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Between the wanderlust of a new year, and gearing up for Black Panther in theatres -- I kinda missed out on noting a fairly major event in comics/pop culture multimedia! I figured Hero of the Week can double-back to pick up the tab on a personal favourite that's still hitting its stride.

Dragon Ball FighterZ was released to home consoles around this time last month, bringing Dragon Ball's trademark ki-blast hyper fighting back to the traditional fighting game arena. Think Street Fighter IV more than Tenkaichi Budokai and you get the general distinction of the new game.

It's all about focused side-to-side combat, rather than powering-up in three dimensions. Of course, one of the great aspects of FighterZ has been its strong sense of character, and its anime-influenced presentation! Past DBZ games did an admirable job of emphasizing the vast roster of obscure characters, and their story-driven locations and skirmishes -- but FighterZ really hones in on being a great fighting game with a library of intuitive references. Great news for gamers and fans alike!

I'm always a little mindful of the traditional divide between American comic book readers and Japanese manga/anime culture. Around these parts we obviously favour the former, but for the sake of my own nourishment, I've been inviting more of these other interests into the mix. Of course, if you really examine it, the era known as Dragon Ball Z is really a gateway between the two worlds.

What started as a 'boy's own' version of Journey to the West took a hard and iconic twist with the late eighties. If you know to compare Goku with fellow good-natured alien refugee Superman, then you're on your way to common ground. From there you might observe a character like Vegeta as a stand-in for General Zod, and Piccolo as loosely analogous to Martian Manhunter.

Unlike DC's Martian; Piccolo begins life as an antagonist spawned from the elder demon king - Piccolo Daimou. Junior pursues a similar brand of evil until the emergence of common enemies from space tempts a team-up with Goku. This begins Piccolo's path to redemption, leading him to become a more soulful, noble warrior, who supports the increasingly powerful feats of Goku and Saiya-jins.

So far on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths we've scratched the surface of Dragon Ball with the first of four Quarter Final bouts at the 23rd Tenkaiichi Budokai tournament: Taopaipai versus Tenshinhan, and Chi-Chi versus Goku. The next battle will feature Piccolo, and I look forward to getting to it.

In the mean time, we'll have to settle for inducting Piccolo as our final February Hero of the Week! If you're on the look out for more Dragon Ball, be sure to scroll past the DC and Marvel blocks of the Secret Index Archive to find future updates! You can also dabble in some other similar realms of interest by checking out the master list for our 2017 Heroes of the Week!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Chapter 4: Third Contest: Siege in the City of the Dead! (Marvel)
Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions #3 When: August 1982 Why: Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant & Bill Mantlo How: John Romita Jr

The Story So Far...
Across the universe there exists immortal entities whose existence determines cosmic reality. The Grandmaster is one such being: an Elder of the Universe whose taste for games inspires a Contest of Champions!

Snatching the world's heroes from a temporarily frozen Earth; The Grandmaster drafts a team of twelve to represent him in a contest of life and death! His team will race to find segments of a golden artifact scattered to the four corners of the Earth!

The Grandmaster's ultimate prize is the restoration of his immortal brother: The Collector! Killed by the man-god Korvac; The Collector's demise is beyond even the vast cosmic might of a fellow Elder. Thus, The Grandmaster's contest pits him against the ultimate opponent - Death herself!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Black Panther 5 (Professor)
Speed: Black Panther 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Black Panther 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Black Panther 2 (Projectiles)
Total: Draw 26 (Meta-Human)

At long last we arrive at one of the legendary texts in comic book combat lore!

Contest of Champions is an early Marvel Comics event
that gathered the world's heroes to compete as representatives of The Grandmaster and Death herself! The Contest pre-dates the more famed Secret Wars by a few years, and is distinguished for making opponents out of would-be heroic allies!

There's little love lost when Canadian X-Man Wolverine stalks Wakandan royal Black Panther in today's Contest of Champions battle!

Technically the heroes are part of two three-man teams: Wolverine, Thing & Le Peregrine represent The Grandmaster. Black Panther, Angel & Vanguard represent an unrevealed Death. Like a cosmic edition of The Amazing Race: the teams are teleported to China for a race to discover a hidden artifact.

Still very much the surly loner of the X-Men in 1982; Wolverine goes his own way after a few terse introductions. Thus, we have an intriguing clash of hyper-keen senses, battle-tested combat technique, super-human physical prowess, and command of rare metals!

Wolverine's mutant claws and skeleton were famously coated with nigh unbreakable Adamantium, while Black Panther commands the world's largest deposit of rare Vibranium! There seemed to be a little less fuss made about The Panther weaving the flexible mineral into his costume, back in the early days, so avoidance is probably preferable to testing metal against metal. Sorry, fanboys!

Agility is clearly one of the Black Panther's key advantages over Wolverine. The X-Man is a skilled fighter, but the facility of his mutant healing factor means he can afford to fight sloppy -- and often does, especially in these early days. Untamed aggression frequently gets the better of Wolverine, while T'Challa is all about being in control. Combat technique steered by a brilliant mind!

We've seen Black Panther outwit Wolvie's Contest teammate Thing in Fantastic Four #52, outplay arch-villain Klaw in Fantastic Four #53, and fight Captain America to a complete standstill in Tales of Suspense #98! With upgraded armor, and Storm at his back, The Panther was even able to beat the metal of Doctor Doom and his Doombots many years later, in Black Panther #19!

Wolverine is no stranger to foes like these. We saw him terrorize the Fantastic Four in Wolverine #22, slice & dice nemesis Lady Deathstrike in Uncanny X-Men #205, and fight werewolf Cap to a near standstill in Captain America #405! Of course, we also Cap put an end to a rampage against the X-Men that briefly cost Northstar his life, in Wolverine (Volume 3) #25.

What's the net result? Clearly these are two bad ass fighting heroes!

It's difficult to ignore the superior skill, speed, and agility that have made Black Panther famous. Wolverine's healing factor means he'll always come back again, and his warrior spirit means he's a dangerous man, but his discipline is inconsistent. I'd say T'Challa probably wins 3 to 4 in every five matches.

The Tape: Draw Ranking: Wolverine (#4)

What Went Down...

For all the wonders of Wakanda, even Prince T'Challa is in awe of the terracotta army that greets him in China! Walking amongst the eerily still rows of warriors -- his keen senses detect movement: Wolverine strikes!

Black Panther ducks at the perfect moment, narrowly avoiding the clutches of the diving X-Man! Wolverine is impressed to see his speed matched, but he isn't playing around. He unsheathes his claws and makes his challenge known!

Once again The Panther proves fast and nimble enough to evade Wolverine. He flips forward, leaping over Wolverine and his lunging claw slash! He's shocked by the severity of the attack and the X-Man's intent to be deadly.

The Panther favours stealth, disappearing into the crowd of surrounding clay soldiers. He soon learns that Wolverine's mutant senses are as keen as his own! It's only a matter of time before the mutant finds him - so this time he attacks!

The Black Panther dives out of hiding to snatch Wolverine by the wrists, hoping to control his deadly weapons. The clawed X-Man is able to turn the momentum against his opponent, flipping Black Panther onto his back with brute strength!

Wolverine looms over his opponent, who does not break the wrist-lock that keeps the mutant's claws from finding their target!

As Wolverine presses down with his full body weight and talks trash -- his teammate in the game, The Thing, arrives to admonish his methods! Thing doesn't much like seeing his old friend Black Panther threatened -- not that the fight is over just yet! The slightest diversion in Wolverine's attention is all Black Panther needs to send him vaulting head over heels!

Thing joins the two heroes in the pit, and contemplates the personal pleasure of kicking his teammate's butt. The stand-off is ended when both Wolverine and Black Panther detect the foreign scent of the object they are meant to find.

Thing plunges his massive hand into the dirt below, scooping the strange golden object out of the earth. Victory in The Contest for The Grandmaster's team.

The Hammer...
Indeed, by the terms of The Contest of Champions it is Thing who claims victory on behalf of The Grandmaster's team. Our concerns, however, are purely of the combative! In this arena, the fight between Black Panther and Wolverine can only be considered an inconclusive draw!

Neither man established a definitive upper-hand during the battle, nor was there any finishing blow. A minor disappointment for fans looking to settle the age old debate of Adamtnium versus Vibranium, but a match-up we can no doubt revisit some time in the future!

We saw Thing defeated by Black Panther earlier this month, in his classic first appearance [Fantastic Four #52]. It's kinda fun to come back two decades later, to a time when Black Panther and the FF are longtime friends.

Thing doesn't much like his teammate Wolverine during the issue. Tensions between the two would infamously escalate to a brawl in the 90s that left Thing scarred, and wearing a helmet. Some form of cigar-chomping comradery was settled upon in the convening years. Even in gentler times, Wolverine still had to check off marquee fights with just about every hero in the Marvel Universe!

It's easy to forget just how much Wolverine has evolved over time. The cantankerous loner has softened considerably, especially in the new millennium. On the flipside, it could be argued Black Panther has hardened, expanding his technological arsenal, and responsibilities to the kingdom of Wakanda.

This month's theatrical release of Black Panther has introduced vast movie-going audiences to the world of Wakanda and its heroes. It's a kind of global acknowledgement American-centric media often overlooks.

The world beyond the United States in comics has been a subject of interest on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths over many years, which makes Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions a long overdue addition to our archive!

Unfortunately, many of the characters suffer from the familiar failings of heroes arbitrarily created to serve a singular focus. The likes of Le Peregrine (France), Shamrock (Ireland), and Talisman (Australia) debut with a relatively dull thud.

Established international heroes like Black Panther, Wolverine, Storm, and Captain Britain go a long way to giving the event a bit of credibility. Not that the international theme of The Contest is of any great focus, or consequence!

The Grandmaster and Death disqualify alien influence, even eliminating Atlanteans, but nothing in their rules seems to demand drafting from obscurity. I quite like the idea of a Marvel Universe "world warrior" tournament, but in the end, the global theme is a strange subtext that doesn't really serve the story.

There are plenty of fan-favourite American heroes keeping things interesting with unusual match-ups. No doubt they'll be the focus when we return to look deeper into The Contest of Champions -- forebear to the famed Secret Wars!

If you'd like to find more curious contests and major match-ups: dive into the Secret Archive Index to find a menu of featured fights catalogued by publisher, series, and issue number! For more direct selections, be sure to take advantage of links littered throughout this post, or follow on Twitter and Facebook to get daily fights inspired by the topics of the day!

Sharing links to your favourite fights is a great way to support the site! You can also donate via the PayPal button further up the page, or sponsor the site by making your next purchase via the Amazon link provided [right]! Buying a collected edition of Contest of Champions, or anything else, means Amazon will kick back something small to the site at no extra cost!

Stay tuned as we venture on! Who knows where the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths will take us next? Perhaps even to a fantasy match from Contest of Champions II?

Winner: Draw
#4 (--) Wolverine
#45 (+2) Black Panther
#10 (--) Thing [+1 assist]

Monday, February 19, 2018

Real Name: James "Bucky" Barnes
First Appearance: Captain America Comics #1 (March, 1941)
Fight Club Ranking: #49

Featured Fights:
- vs RED SKULL & NAZIS: Captain America #5 (May 2005)
- vs WOLVERINE: Wolverine #39 (Apr 2006)
- vs CROSSBONES: Captain America #25 (Apr 2007)
- vs THE HOOD & DORMAMMU: New Avengers #54 (Aug 2009)

The world is united in enthusiasm for Black Panther! The latest Marvel cinematic offering is dominating screens globally, where one of the biggest questions has finally been answered: what would the customary post-credits scene reveal? By now you've probably seen it, but if you've gotten this far into Hero of the Week without getting a clue, uh... Look away now?...

Calling it a spoiler may be overlooking the obvious. The self-contained nature of Black Panther meant it was always unrealistic to expect an Infinity War bound Thanos cameo. Instead, the story ties back into Civil War, with Winter Soldier stepping out of stasis as Wakanda's mythic "White Wolf".

Comics readers know the White Wolf as Black Panther's adopted brother, which might suggest more blood ties in future sequels. For now, the nickname is bandied about by children as Bucky steps back into the light, presumably freed of his Manchurian-style Hydra programming.

T'Challa took custody of the unintended assassin at the end of 2016's Captain America sequel, and his mental cleansing should smooth things over for a return in Avengers: Infinity War later this year!

It isn't quite as fun as the wild theories of Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, or another FOX held property making the crossover to Marvel's cinematic universe. By now it should probably be given that it's never the wild, cool, comics-style surprise.

If you want some comics-style surprises, be sure to dive into the Secret Archive for a full index of featured fights. You can also follow along on Twitter and Facebook for daily links to topical battles, or just tuned in February for more classic contests with The Black Panther!

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Way It Began..! (Marvel)
Fantastic Four #53 When: August 1966
Why: Stan Lee How: Jack Kirby

The Story So Far...
Wakanda celebrates the invited arrival of the Fantastic Four, but as they do, a sinister presence from the African nation's past plots against their young ruler!

Massive rampaging jungle beasts attack the unsuspecting kingdom! Animal simulations created from pure sound energy! They are weapons of revenge created by the master of sound: Ulysses Klaw!

Klaw attack Wakanda ten years earlier, killing King T'Chaka in an attempt to claim the country's deposit of rare vibranium metal! Young Prince T'Challa thwarted the attack, and must once again go on the hunt to stop the brutal arch-nemesis whose hand he once destroyed! While the Fantastic Four battle Klaw's sonic monsters -- Black Panther confronts his father's killer!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Klaw 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Black Panther 5 (Professor)
Speed: Black Panther 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Klaw 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Black Panther 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Black Panther 4 (Trained)
Energy: Klaw 5 (Lasers)
Total: Draw 26 (Meta-human)

Every great hero has a villainous shadow to haunt them time and time again. Black Panther has faced many ferocious foes, but none ranks quite as highly as today's featured felon -- his brutal arch-nemesis!

Ulysses Klaw (later renamed Klaue) is the self-proclaimed Master of Sound! He was a Dutch physicist who first ventured into Wakanda to claim the world's largest deposit of a rare, valuable mineral called Vibranium.

The early encounter brought Klaw into conflict with Black Panther's father, King T'Chaka, who he murdered in cold blood! Klaw and his machine gunning men spread much death and destruction through Wakanda, but the young Prince turned Klaw's own sound blaster against him! The encounter cost Klaw his right hand and sparked a blood feud that continues into Prince T'Challa's maturity!

Klaw outfitted his damaged hand with a weapon capable of firing deadly blasts of controlled sonic force! His vibranium powered machines can even create animated objects of pure "solid sound" -- a state he himself will be converted to after the initial showdown featured in today's grudge match!

Most will (hopefully) recognize Klaw as the bizarre pink & red villain known for also rattling the likes of: The Thing, Fantastic Four, Captain America, The Avengers, The Thunderbolts, Daredevil, Carnage, and others.

Fantastic Four #53 marks Klaw's first appearance, an early incarnation to be sure. In the issue prior, we were also introduced to Black Panther, who had the entire Fantastic Four on the ropes, specifically upsetting Thing during the battle!

Without the intimate knowledge of each other's arsenals that they'd have much later, it's tough to say who has the advantage. Klaw's sound-based arsenal will one day be neutralized through the unique properties of vibranium, and other sound-based strategies. In a man-on-man struggle, the advantage seems to belong to the Black Panther. Let's see if that's actually true!

The Tape: Draw Ranking: Black Panther (#72)

What Went Down...

Knowing the jungles of his kingdom well, Black Panther leaps through the trees for the one location capable of hiding Klaw's hideous machines. Coming upon the massive cave, he effortlessly disposes of two guards and stalks toward his true target. Klaw recognizes the voice of the Prince as if he'd heard it yesterday!

Klaw turns to face his nemesis, threatening with the metal Force Glove that now replaces his broken right hand! The Panther keeps his distance, confidently stalking like his namesake as Klaw gloats about the sound converter's power!

Rather than test Black Panther's phenomenal reflexes, Klaw returns to his main machine to generate a massive sound creature: a simulation of a panther!

Instead of ironic vengeance, Klaw is shocked to witness T'Challa's speed and strength as he grapples with the sound beast! It is every bit as ferocious as the real thing -- but the legend of the Black Panther is no exaggeration!

Recognizing the true skill and might of his opponent, Klaw knows he cannot toy with the Panther. With the flick of a lever the giant jungle cat disappears!

For a more direct attack Ulysses Klaw again turns to the lethal power of his hand-worn Force Glove! He claims Wakanda's vibranium as his ultimate prize, even if it costs the lives of every tribesman who survives the Prince!

The vile invader seems to be on the verge of victory - but he has failed to learn one of the Black Panther's greatest weapons: his mind!

A brilliant scientist in his own right: T'Challa has found the switch that will send the massive sound converting machine into a fatal overload! It begins to blow itself apart! The delicate circuits burst with uncontrolled energy!

With total destruction imminent: The Black Panther makes a hasty exit -- fleeing the catastrophic explosions that bring Klaw's secret cave down upon him!

Outside, rampaging constructs that terrorized Wakanda begin to dissipate. The Black Panther joins the Fantastic Four in victory, while inside the collapsed cave, the man called Klaw finds himself still alive, and ready to take a desperate risk!

The Hammer...
Ulysses Klaw may have lived to fight another day, but there's absolutely no doubt about the victor. Black Panther defeated Klaw's sound beast, thwarted his plan, and saved his kingdom! All in a day's work for the Panther prince!

Unbelievably, even with 888 characters ranked in the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths record -- we've never gotten to Klaw!

The shifting roster of the Frightful Four meant we got real close a couple of times, but it's only now, fighting against his arch-nemesis, that we open an account for the Master of Sound!

Admittedly, part of the delay is by virtue of holding off on the exploits of Black Panther, to best dedicate the month of February to Marvel Studios' latest starring hero! It's one of the most exciting Marvel movie releases since Iron Man, but as always, we look to the comics for even greater source material!

Baron Zemo was ultimately responsible for the death of T'Chaka on screen, but as discussed in The Tape section, the bad blood that makes Klaw arch-nemesis of the Black Panther runs deep. He murdered T'Challa's father and laid brutal siege to the kingdom of Wakanda. A crime he would revisit many times again.

The villainous origin story was revised in more explicit detail in 2005 by writer Reginald Hudlin. His take explicitly cast Klaw as a Dutch invader, recalling raw truths of real-life colonial history in Africa.

The story launched with a new #1 as Volume 4 of the Black Panther series, which may be one of the reasons you didn't read, if you were a comics fan of the mid-2000s. The relaunch officially divorced the series from Christopher Priest's cult millennium revival, and awkwardly positioned it as an undeclared - and indistinct - retcon of the classic origin stories.

The opening story arc, Who Is The Black Panther?, fashions Klaw as a new character in company with old favourites, like Batroc and Rhino. it effectively retells the backstory introduced in Fantastic Four #53, fleshing it out as a modern action-adventure of murder, espionage, and revenge. Taken on its own terms, it's an all-time great Black Panther story, and well worth checking out!

We should really wait until we get to the Reginald Hudlin story to talk more about it, but with February running out, I had to touch on it. It's one of my favourites and an admirable attempt to revamp what was done by Kirby and Lee in 1966. Which itself set a high bar for introducing a new hero into the growing Marvel Universe, and pairing him with a strong new villain, as well!

Typically timid, Hollywood has made a few more modifications to the Klaw character. One of the most noticeable will be the spelling of his name, now the slightly less literal "Klaue".

As always, it's easy to reject the perceived risk to credibility.

I'm not aware of what Stan Lee or Jack Kirby's inspirations would've been, but we know there would've been two contemporaries in 1960s New York City with the surname Klaw!

Just a few months after Ulysses Klaw was created for Marvel Comics, Irving Klaw passed away. Born Isadore Klaw, he was a New York purveyor of raunchy pin-ups, famous for propagating the image of Bettie Page. He was operating since the 1930s, and probably would've been a name known to publishing circles.

In the theatre world, there was Marcus Klaw. A producer and theatre owner of German Jewish descent, he died in 1936. You couldn't necessarily call him a contemporary of Lee & Kirby, but his Klaw Theatre was active on Broadway until being demolish in the mid-fifties. Another prominent example of the Klaw name available to the creators of the comic book villain.

So, yes, to modern American ears "Klaw" may ring false for its transliterate homonym (Claw). However, it is a real surname, and not at all unreasonable under greater scrutiny. Which is why we'll happily continue to refer to it!

You can refer to Klaw, too, when you follow character links littered throughout this post, or below in the tags section! There are thousands of featured fights to find, and many hundreds of characters involved!

You can also dive into the Secret Archive to find battles index by publisher, series, and issue number! Sharing your favourite links is a great way to support the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths! You can also get daily links to battles inspired by the topics of the day by liking and following on Facebook & Twitter!

Want to read the issue featured today for yourself? Jump onto Amazon using the purchase links provided [right] to check out collected editions! Using the link to buy means Amazon will kickback a little something to support the site at no extra charge!

Winner: Black Panther
#47 (+25) Black Panther
#844 (new) Klaw (Ulysses Klaw)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Real Name: T'Challa
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #52 (July, 1966)
Fight Club Ranking: #72

Featured Fights:
- vs THING: Fantastic Four #52 (Jul 1966)
- vs CAPTAIN AMERICA: Tales of Suspense #98 (Feb 1968)
- vs SUPER-SKRULL: Fantastic Four #6 (Apr 1997)
- vs DOCTOR DOOM: Black Panther #19 (Oct 2006)

Black Panther! Black Panther! The time for T'Challa's big screen feature is at last here, and I can't help but sing along to that awesome theme song from the 2010 BET Black Panther animated series!

A lot of folks are really waking up to the classic Marvel hero as he steps out of Captain America: Civil War into his own featured spotlight. By all accounts, it's shaping up to be a rewarding experience for all, with early reviews maybe a little too overwhelming in their praise!

Of all of Marvel's recent offerings: this has probably been the one I've been most looking forward to!

Black Panther was one of the first Heroes of the Week when the feature returned back in 2016. At that time, Ryan Coogler had just been announced as director, and Civil War was a few months away. A year and a half later, we were back again for the first Black Panther trailer, which set expectations high! Marvel flaunted the visual spectacle that is shaping up to be a key feature of the film's appeal, making it one of the most pivotal steps forward for the entire cinematic enterprise!

Of course, as long as those two years of waiting have seemed -- it's been a whole lot longer if you've been following the rumors since the late nineties!

Back then: Wesley Snipes was attached to star in what would've been a very different style of movie. Snipes' Panther always seemed like a cheque Hollywood never cashed, but we were all ultimately winners for having Blade in '98, with a Black Panther movie at long last really here!

For long time comics readers, the much-discussed "afro-futurism" of Wakanda will be less a revelation, and more a relief. Things really could've gone astray in the film's design, but first impressions suggest this could be one of Marvel's strongest efforts to create a film with an aesthetic worthy of comics. There aren't as many pipes lying around as Kirby's era, and there's no Techno-Jungle, but it's a promising follow-up to Thor: Ragnarok, at the very least.

The Dora Milaje add particularly wonderful flourishes to the picture with their red armor, while also supporting the central hero on his almost Bond-like adventure.

The scenes of Black Panther leaping through traffic in pursuit of Klaw are reason enough to go to the theatre! Sadly, Man-Ape won't don his iconic white gorilla suit, but with superhero movies making so little investment in costume design, it would be difficult to reasonably expect comic book aesthetic to supplant American cultural (in)sensitivities in the minds of the audience.

I'm personally slightly bummed that bad-guy Killmonger gets the gold highlights on his Black Panther costume. The look -- popularized during Christopher Priest's run in the late nineties, and turn of the millennium -- always struck me as a great accent to a simple, classic design. It's a very minor complaint, but something I hope might work its way into the design in future sequels.

Overall, Black Panther feels like one of Marvel's most intact adaptations to date. Martin Freeman's Everett Ross might be the only glaring change that wasn't welcome, assuming sequels can do more to build on the villains' story. I would've preferred the out-of-his-depth lawyer of the comics, but it's not enough to distract from a movie worthy of the Black Panther comics.

We just got done talking T'Challa's first appearance in comics with Fantastic Four #52! Be here for more Black Panther battles throughout February! Be sure to discover more by diving into the Secret Archive for every classic contest catalogued by publisher, series, and issue!

Monday, February 05, 2018

Real Name: J'onn J'onzz
First Appearance: Detective Comics #225 (November, 1955)
Fight Club Ranking: #23

Featured Fights:
- vs BRIMSTONE: Legends #2 (Dec 1986)
- vs PROFESSOR IVO: Justice League of America #261 (Apr 1987)
- vs STONE GOD: Secret Origins #32 (Nov 1988)
- vs WOOD KING: Secret Origins #32 (Nov 1988)
- vs KIDNAPPERS: Secret Origins #35 (1988)
- vs DOOMSDAY: Superman #74 (Dec 1992)
- vs HILL STREET CULT: DC: The New Frontier #2 (Apr 2004)
- vs ULTRAMARINE CORPS: JLA: Classified #3 (Mar 2005)
- vs DESPERO: JLA #118 (Nov 2005)
- vs THE SOCIETY: Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (Sep 2008)
- vs GREEN LANTERN & FLASH: Green Lantern #44 (Sep 2009)

There's something different in the air at DC Comics and it might just be the change to finally do them some good! As the cacophony of Dark Nights: Metal subsides, the opportunity to tell interesting new stories with a more classic feel seems to be presenting itself. CBR features design artwork for the new Justice League line-ups coming in their No Justice series, and there's a muted flavor of intrigue that will hopefully be the antidote to some of their less focused, destructive urges of late.

Martian Manhunter emerged as an important player in Metal, and will be leading a high-profile team of Justice League aliens dubbed "Team Mystery" in CBR's preview. The group [pictured above] includes Superman, Sinestro, Starfire, and Starro.

Dark Nights: Metal may not have been everyone's cup of tea, but it feels like it's initiated the next phase of a decision making process that feels a little more traditional, and comics oriented, rather than multimedia pandering. It's there in the restoration of Superman's trunks, the elevation of heroes like Martian Manhunter and Hawkman, and the introduction of The Terrifics.

There are some other interesting team-ups coming in No Justice, with aesthetics to tie the groups together in pleasant fashion. Team Entropy and Team Wonder are looking pretty spiffy with hues of orange and purple. Team Wisdom a little less strong, but high on fun quotient.

I like seeing Martian Manhunter back in a position of prominence. It was real disappointing when the New 52 stripped him out of Justice League history. It's great to see him back saving the day in Metal! It bares repeating that David Harewood is always kicking goals as TV's J'onn J'onzz on Supergirl, as well! That's more than enough to render him this week's Hero of the Week! Hussah!

Friday, February 02, 2018

The Black Panther! (Marvel)
Fantastic Four #52 When: July 1966
Why: Stan Lee How: Jack Kirby

The Story So Far...
When the royal leader of an African nation gifts the Fantastic Four a hi-tech flying vehicle, they're invited to participate in a great Wakandan hunt. Little do they realize - it's the Fantastic Four who will be the prey!

Upon arrival they discover a nation built with the wonders of super-science and riches beyond belief! This is the remarkable kingdom of The Black Panther!

Black Panther hopes to test his fighting prowess and advanced technology against the cosmically powered might of the Fantastic Four. A gambit that begins by separating the group, leaving Thing to unwittingly stumbled into a trap that will leave him vulnerable to unarmed combat!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Black Panther 5 (Professor)
Speed: Black Panther 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Thing 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Black Panther 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Black Panther 4 (Trained)
Energy: Black Panther 2 (Projectiles)
Total: Black Panther 26 (Meta-Human)

What is this? The year of beatin' up on Aunt Petunia's favourite nephew?! We're back talking another classic case of hero-on-hero action, with the ultimate measure of power being the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing!

This could be a slightly controversial entry, given its status as a fight-within-a-fight against the Fantastic Four. More on that in the Hammer section at the end. For now, we merely concern ourselves with a battle of speed, agility and wits against unstoppable brute strength!

Black Panther is T'Challa: Son of King T'Chaka, and rightful heir to the Wakandan throne! Black Panther lives up to the virtues of the isolated African nations rule by honing his body, senses, and mind through rigorous training.

T'Challa possesses phenomenal speed, agility, strength, and hand-to-hand technique, harnessed with an engineering mind that rivals that of Mister Fantastic! This genius not only furnishes Wakanda with technology beyond that of most modern nations, but also T'Challa himself, who hides many useful tricks within the thin lining of his Black Panther uniform!

The advanced technology of The Panther's suit was on display when he battled Doctor Doom in Black Panther #19! Perhaps more impressively, we saw his physical feats when he fought Captain America to a standstill in Tales of Suspense #98, and the Super-Skrull in Fantastic Four (Vol.2) #6!

His unassisted opposition to the Super-Skrull is the most effective example of how his fighting technique can stall even an opponent as powerful as Thing! Black Panther's stand was made brief by Super-Skrull's cosmic powers, of which Thing possesses none. As The Tape shows -- Thing is all about power!

The Panther has the fighting acumen to turn strength against an opponent, but he may not have to. This fight is the Black Panther's first appearance, and it's taking place in his home arena! At this stage of the fight, he's already used his hi-tech surroundings to entrap Human Torch and Invisible Woman.

Thing is a long way from home and quite possibly out of his depth!

The Tape: Black Panther Ranking: Thing (#10)

What Went Down...
Having been repelled from the rest of his teammates; The Thing recovers by what he believes to be a refreshing pool of water. In truth, he has stumbled into one of the Black Panther's well laid traps -- dousing himself in dangerous amounts of clear, strength-sapping devitalizing fluid!

The Panther Prince seizes his opportunity -- leaping from the shadows cast by labyrinthine machinery to the unsuspecting Thing's back!

The Thing goes to ground, but lifts himself to tackle the head-on Panther. With his strength sapped, he proves far less effective than expected! Black Panther stands his ground and fires off a right hook that sends Thing staggering!

Black Panther grants Thing the opportunity to pull himself to his feet, if only for the satisfaction of knocking him back down. So weakened is the rock-skinned hero, he requires the aid of a nearby post of machinery just to stand steady.

Once back to a vertical base: Thing unleashes a mighty right hand that would rattle the toughest of opponents -- if he still possessed his incredible strength!

Once more the heroes lock-up! The Panther pays homage to Thing's undeniable courage, but cannot compliment his lack of fighting skill.

Riled up by the verbal jab; Thing puts his back into it -- charging like a raging rhino! Black Panther has no choice but to side-step the barreling brute, inadvertently sending him on a path towards a high-voltage refrigeration unit!

Panther tries to warn his opponent of the impending doom - but it's too late!

The Thing smashes into the machine, releasing a deadly deep freeze! It's only by good fortune that he survives the frost as the effects of the devitalizing fluid begin to wear off! He will be frozen solid -- but he will survive!

The Hammer...
Is that a cry of controversy I hear? Objection from the seasoned fans?

Fantastic Four #52 is, of course, famous for the first appearance of Black Panther. It's also relatively well known for The Panther's plan to challenge and defeat the entire Fantastic Four.

It's a test of tactics, tech, and technique, with a healthy helping of teamwork.

Much of the action-packed issue is dedicated to a continuous war game between the Fantastic Four and their Wakandan host. However, under careful scrutiny, and much deliberation, The Comic Book Fight Club determines that the skirmish with Thing functions as an entire fight within the framework of the larger battle.

That means at a later date we will return to review The Panther's battle with the entire Fantastic Four, providing reference to this isolated encounter. It will simply function as a tangent within the larger context of The Panther vs the FF. Similar distinction may be afforded to his brief battle with Invisible Girl, as well.

Why does any of this matter? Hey! Take a look around, buddy. Fight results are kind of the name of the game around here. Sometimes the judge's call has to be invoked to keep the Fight Club Rankings clear. There's something else, too...

Superheroes aren't a whole lot different from any conventional combat sport. When you've got a hot new prospect like Black Panther, you want to get him over by showing what he can do. Like pro wrestling, comics are in control of the outcome and the particulars of the match. So there are a lot of tools to use.

As the headlining act, the Fantastic Four are usually going to come out with the win in the end. Fifty-one issues of victory means they have equity to take a few hits from a new character. So Black Panther may not succeed in beating the team as a whole, but by creating isolated fights within the battle, there's ample opportunity to show he's the real deal.

As The Tape clearly showed: Black Panther isn't in the same strength bracket as Thing, but that kinda protects both fighters.

Supping from a random pool in an indoor environment doesn't say much for Thing's thought process, but the devitalizing fluid means his defeat comes with an asterisk -- he wasn't at the top of his game! So Black Panther gets a big notch on his belt, but Thing gets to walk away with the benefit of the doubt.

Black Panther is undoubtedly one cool character, so it made sense to give him this big debut. It clearly paid off, because he'd have many more adventures in the Marvel Universe, as a title character, and part of memorable ensembles like the FF, and the Avengers!

You can't make it on your own as a hero if you don't have some worthy super-villains to beat up. When you mention Black Panther there's one big bad guy that immediately springs to mind. He debuted in the next issue of FF, and we'll aim to take a closer look at his unique brand of villainy real soon!

We probably won't be doing month-long themes in this year's Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, but anticipation for the theatrical arrival of Marvel's Black Panther has been a long time coming! We've been saving up for it so February could get the black carpet treatment!

Need more Black Panther in your life? Follow links and tags (below) to discover more from your favourite topics - or dive in to the Secret Index to check out past battles filed by publisher, series, and issue!

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Winner: Black Panther
#72 (+55) Black Panther
#10 (--) Thing