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

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