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)

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