Kiber, Klaw, and more threaten Wakanda’s favorite son!

For more than 50 years, the Black Panther has stood at the forefront on the Marvel Universe. With T’Challa appearing on the big screen again this year in both Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” take a look back at over five decades worth of comic book adventures for the King of Wakanda!

The Black Panther tracked down Kiber the Cruel in BLACK PANTHER #13, and when he uncovered the bizarre circumstances of his foe’s existence, deprived him of an energy source and allowed him to slowly die.

Later, T’Challa established a Wakandan embassy with ties to the United Nations in BLACK PANTHER #14, but his old opponent Klaw stirred up trouble while seeking to regain his power levels in BLACK PANTHER #15. The businessman-turned-villain Stinger got the drop on the Panther in AVENGERS #179 and attempted to capture all of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to sell them to the highest bidders in AVENGERS #180.

Black Panther (1977) #13

Black Panther (1977) #13

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Government agent Henry Gyrich arrived at Avengers Mansion in AVENGERS #181 to announce that the team would be allowed only a small core group of members, of which the Black Panther discovered he didn’t qualify for. Spider-Man ran afoul of a fake Black Panther in MARVEL TEAM-UP #87, so he dug up the truth by enlisting the real T’Challa in a fight against Hellrazor, a crook hired by the unscrupulous Roxxon Corporation to defame the genuine article and bilk Wakanda of its resources.

The Black Panther began to realize he’d lost memories when Windeagle attacked him in MARVEL PREMIERE #51, but when the Wakandan monarch tried to set up Round Two with his flying foe, his opponent fell dead from an unknown shooter’s bullet.

The Black Panther went down to Georgia in MARVEL PREMIERE #52 on a hunt for stolen memories concerning the Dragon Circle cult. There, he uncovered a link between the group and the Ku Klux Klan, as well as the devilish entity known as the Soul-Strangler. After a battle with the creature in MARVEL PREMIERE #53, T’Challa regained his memories and brought the leaders of both groups to justice.

In DEFENDERS #84, a war broke out between Prince Namor’s home of Atlantis and the Panther’s native Wakanda in Africa, all over a misunderstanding. With the Defenders in the middle of the conflict, they hunted for the villainous Mandrill in DEFENDERS #85, and when they uncovered a trail that led to Wakanda, the team traveled to the country’s New York consulate to inform its king.

With the Black Panther on their side, the Defenders engaged the Mandrill and narrowly escaped from his death trap, while in DEFENDERS #86 the villain himself unleashed a stolen Wakandan device that blanketed New York in total silence. This brought T’Challa and the team’s attentions to stopping a riot brought on by the crushing confusion.

In MARVEL TEAM-UP #100, the Panther reunited with Ororo Munroe, known as Storm to the mutant X-Men. Together they confronted a dark figure from their shared past, the man called De Ruyter the Bull.

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T’Challa aids the Avengers and Daredevil and goes solo to take on Killmonger and Venomm!

For more than 50 years, the Black Panther has stood at the forefront on the Marvel Universe. With T’Challa appearing on the big screen again this year in both Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” take a look back at over five decades worth of comic book adventures for the King of Wakanda!

Captured by the Space Phantom and his temporary ally the Grim Reaper in AVENGERS #107, the Black Panther witnessed the two villains’ temptation of the Vision and their plans to secure a new body for the android. After being freed by Captain America in AVENGERS #108, T’Challa and his teammates welcomed help from the cosmic Captain Marvel to defeat the Phantom and the Reaper as well as the hordes of Hydra.

Following that adventure, the Panther faced off against the gigantic Imus Champion in AVENGERS #109 and received Hawkeye’s resignation from the team. When the team rallied again to aid the X-Men in their battle with Magneto in AVENGERS #110, T’Challa found himself buried under rocks by the mutant villain, prompting a scouting mission in DAREDEVIL #99 to secure assistance for another fight.

Avengers (1963) #112

Avengers (1963) #112

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With Daredevil and the Black Widow at their side, the Black Panther and the Avengers finally put down Magneto’s latest scheme in AVENGERS #111, and welcomed the Widow into their ranks. Her tenure lasted briefly, though, for she left following T’Challa’s harrowing confrontation with the Lion God in AVENGERS #112.

The Panther served masterfully in helping his teammates operate on a wounded Vision in AVENGERS #113, and in another bout with the Lion God in AVENGERS #114. In AVENGERS #115 he secured a surrender from the dreaded Troglodytes and in AVENGERS #116 discovered the presence of the mystical Evil Eye in the mystery of the Black Knight’s disappearance. T’Challa found himself pitted against Doctor Strange during the search for the Evil Eye in DEFENDERS #9, and rejoined with his teammates to witness the final moments of a Thor-Hulk clash in DEFENDERS #10.

After the so-called Avengers-Defenders War wrapped up with a big battle involving both teams as well as Loki and Dormammu in AVENGERS #118, the Black Panther returned to his native Wakanda in JUNGLE ACTION #6 to meet the revolutionary called Erik Killmonger and suffer defeat at his hands. Later, in JUNGLE ACTION #7, T’Challa looked into an illegal vibranium mine to gain a new foe known as Venomm.

Jungle Action (1972) #7

Jungle Action (1972) #7

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The Black Panther welcomed Captain America’s partner The Falcon to Wakanda in CAPTAIN AMERICA #169, and by CAPTAIN AMERICA #171 provided the hero with a high-tech rig to grant him the power of flight. Later, T’Challa stopped a new menace known as Malice from invading the royal palace to free the Panther’s prisoner, Venomm, in JUNGLE ACTION #8.

Erik Killmonger directed Baron Macabre to send his undead against the Black Panther JUNGLE ACTION #9, while T’Challa’s friend Monica stood accused of murder. Macabre joined forces with Kind Cadaver in JUNGLE ACTION #10, but faced defeat at the hands of the Panther. Killmonger stole weapons from the Wakandan armory and directed King Karnaj to attack T’Challa in JUNGLE ACTION #11, and dumped an unconscious Black Panther into the wolf-ridden Land of the Chilling Mists in JUNGLE ACTION #12.

Returning to the States and the Avengers, the Panther aided Spider-Man in a conflict with Stegron the Dinosaur Man in MARVEL TEAM-UP #20, then joined with his teammates in battle with the Collector in AVENGERS #119, and a long campaign against the Zodiac in AVENGERS #121123. In the aftermath of that fight, T’Challa helped activate a Zodiac weapon that unfortunately brought the dreaded, dragon-like Star-Stalker to Earth in AVENGERS #124.

Avengers (1963) #126

Avengers (1963) #126

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Next, the Panther served valiantly in an immense struggle between the mad god Thanos and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in AVENGERS #125, and then a rematch with his old foe Klaw and the energy-charged Solarr in AVENGERS #126.

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The Defenders team with the original Guardians of the Galaxy to save humanity!

Even for a Sorcerer Supreme, saving all of humanity takes some effort. The whole ordeal becomes even more impressive when it takes place in the future! Along with his teammates Hulk, Valkyrie, and Nighthawk, Strange helped the original Guardians of the Galaxy save the future in the pages of DEFENDERS #2629 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema.

Roy Thomas and Gene Colan actually kicked the story off in the pages of GIANT-SIZE DEFENDERS #5, which initially brought the two groups of heroes together to face the threat of a monster called Eelar. After making introductions, the two groups attempted to figure out how to return the Guardians to their own time. While Martinex worked on repairing their ship, Vance Astro told his younger self a veiled version of future history that explained where each member of the Guardians came from. Not wanting to burden the boy with the knowledge, Doctor Strange wiped all memories of the meeting before returning the young man to his home.

Defenders (1972) #26

Defenders (1972) #26

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With the ship fixed, Strange used his mastery of the mystic arts to send both squads into the far future to end humanity’s enslavement at the hands of the Badoon. Though various teammates got zapped to different corners of the galaxy facing threats from savage aliens to deadly game shows, Strange linked himself to the ship’s computers, stretched his consciousness out into the cosmos, and brought their people back together.

Aided by an unexpected ally, Strange traveled all over the globe destroying prison sites, freeing all 50 million humans still alive on their home planet. He added that he refrained from simply freeing everyone with the snap of his fingers to ensure that the recently liberated individuals felt some hand in their own freedom.

Ultimately, Strange returned the Defenders to their own time period to allow the Guardians and their new ally Starhawk to continue helping the humans put down the Badoon menace. Strange walked away when asked about why they didn’t stick around to do that themselves.

Opening the Book of Vishanti

Renowned writer Steve Gerber took over DEFENDERS with issue #20 in 1975 and wrote through #41 the next year. In addition to making Doctor Strange and company cross paths with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the writer also brought along the likes of Luke Cage, Daredevil, Son of Satan, and Red Guardian to aid our heroes. Gerber and the other DEFENDERS writers and artists went a long way in familiarizing Doctor Strange with the whole playing-well-with-the-costume-crowd thing that he’s become more and more adept at over the years.

Next, the Sorcerer Supreme experiences his first major costume change as the first DOCTOR STRANGE volume comes to an end.

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The infamous non-team brings together Hulk, Namor, Doctor Strange and more for offbeat adventures in the 1970's!

Each Marvel decade of history has a super hero or super team that helps define its era. For the 1970’s, DEFENDERS—a team that considered itself a “non-team”—typifies the quirky times the series debuted during as reflecting the distinctive voices of inimitable writers like Steve Gerber and David Anthony Kraft.

Originally, Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk banded together to thwart the evil plans of the Nameless One and his minions, the Undying Ones. They established themselves as distinct from other teams because they did not always necessarily want to work together; instead events conspired to make them join forces. A case in point: DEFENDERS #10, when team founder Hulk said: “Hulk was Avenger once…didn’t like it! Hulk doesn’t like Defenders, either.” The green behemoth’s assessment of his plight doesn’t exactly serve up a rallying battle cry on par with “Avengers Assemble!”

Defenders (1972) #4

Defenders (1972) #4

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The arrival of writer Steve Gerber on DEFENDERS with issue #20 came after he laid the groundwork for a larger story in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #6 and #7, where Ben Grimm first teamed with Dr. Strange, then Valkyrie, who joined the team in DEFENDERS #4. Gerber capitalized upon Val’s quest to find out who she possessed as a human host—Barbara Norriss—to reveal a connection to the Harmonica of Destiny and a return of classic Defenders villain the Mindless One. 

That’s right: Gerber introduced a harmonica of destiny into the Marvel Universe. That just scratches the zaniness that the writer imbued into DEFENDERS.

Gerber wasted no time setting his tone with issue #21 by immediately introducing a villainous team, the Headmen. Partially a revival of Marvel 1950’s horror characters—which the company reprinted at the time in an example of 1970’s-style corporate synergy—the group included Jerry Morgan—who would later become known as Shrunken Bones—and Arthur Nagan—who would opt for the moniker Gorilla-Man—aligning themselves with Chondu the Mystic. An excerpt from issue #21’s narration reveals a glimpse of Gerber’s ambitious scripts in 1975:

Defenders (1972) #21 cover

Defenders (1972) #21 cover

“Employing a strange diamond-tipped hypodermic drill, Nagan injects the Morgan serum directly into Chondu’s skull. Almost at once, the mystic’s brain cells react. Impulses race from neuron to neuron at shorter and shorter intervals…and he enters a trance that is more than a trance. And, according to plan, he probes further than he ever dared beyond our universe…for a weapon! The fingers of his consciousness reach out…clutch… pull…drawing a nightmare into our world…a sinister dream that dissolves into black rain and seeps into sleeping minds throughout the city.”

All of that happened in only four Sal Buscema-drawn panels. As with most Gerber scripts, a great deal of action took place in only one issue.

Later Gerber would bring Chondu back to transfer his brain into the body of a deer that the Hulk had saved and nicknamed Bambi. Also the Headman added a new member, a woman called Ruby Thursday—with a ruby for a head—who would later go on to run for President of the United States. But that did not occur until later. A lot of brain switching went on in this period, as the mind of Jack Norriss—the husband of Valkyrie’s human host—ended up in the body of another Defender stalwart, Nighthawk.  This swap occurred while the team battled Nebulon and his horde of Bozo forces. All of this provides just the tip of the fun that ran through the series during Gerber’s run, which ended in issue #41.

Defenders (1972) #25 cover

Defenders (1972) #25 cover

When Gerber left, sadly so did any chance for closure on the writer’s plan for the elf packing a gun who appeared throughout his run, starting with issue #25. To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, I guess it best to say in this instance: sometimes an elf with a gun is nothing more than an elf with a gun. With his departure, the offbeat nature of the series did not go away however.

If anything, the wackiness factor to DEFENDERS got bolstered by the arrival of writer David Kraft with issue #46. Kraft’s start marked the end of the elf with a gun as he got run over by a truck in that very issue. Given all the other plots and subplots being juggled in an average DEFENDERS issue, no one had much time to question scenes like that. Before long the heroes and readers focus centered on the Scorpio saga, which opened with a prelude in DEFENDERS #46 and ran through to the series’ milestone 50th issue.

Defenders (1972) #46 cover

Defenders (1972) #46 cover

In this classic arc, Jake Fury, Nick’s younger brother, turned 52 and tried to make something of his life by wielding the power of the Zodiac Key. Holding Jack Norriss hostage for a ransom, he hoped to build a new Zodiac team. Kraft has Scorpio explain his machinations while he and Norriss drink beers. Despite being a villain, Jake would not be so as rude as to not offer his captive a refreshing beverage.

While a non-team with a heavy rotating level of guest stars, DEFENDERS eventually settled upon an additional core membership of Hellcat—who became a member in DEFENDERS #46—Valkyrie—who joined the team in DEFENDERS #4—and Nighthawk, aka Kyle Richmond. Thanks to Richmond, the heroes set up their own base of operations at the Richmond Riding Center, the perfect spot for Valkyrie’s winged horse Aragon, if nothing else.

Defenders (1972) #62 cover

Defenders (1972) #62 cover

Kraft’s run also shows off the writer’s knack to give interesting names to supporting characters. A prime example would be Dollar Bill, who joined the cast along with his pal, Ledge, when Valkyrie enrolled at Empire State University in DEFENDERS #51. Dollar Bill proved critical as the catalyst for the legendary “Defenders for a Day” saga, fancying himself a documentary maker and producing one about the group. Up until this point in the series, the existence of the non-team had been kept secret.

That all ended at the close of the documentary when Dollar Bill took it upon himself to invite anyone to join the Defenders. Before team leader Nighthawk could explain the finer points of what “secret” meant to Dollar Bill, the Defenders were met by an onslaught of heroes wishing to join in DEFENDERS #62. The list represents an impressive roll call of Marvel’s then second-tier 1970’s characters, including Black Goliath, Captain Ultra, Falcon, Hercules, Iron Fist, Jack of Hearts, Paladin, Prowler, Tagak, Torpedo and White Tiger. Dollar Bill’s actions opened up a can of worms for the Defenders, as throughout issues #63 and #64, the cavalcade of new members have to take on villains posing as other additions and committing crimes. The slew of faux evil Defenders ranged from Pecos Bill to Batroc the Leaper. Many of the new Defenders departed immediately after this less than positive experience and the non-team returned to the relative status quo by DEFENDERS #65.

Defenders (1972) #1

Defenders (1972) #1

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No matter who wrote DEFENDERS, it seemed that every writer relished the chance to seize on the opportunity to write the Hulk’s dialogue, given the character’s penchant for saddling his fellow heroes with nicknames. Hulk would rechristen Dr. Strange as “Dumb Magician,” Sub-Mariner as “Fish-Man,” Nighthawk as “Bird-Nose,” Yellowjacket as “Bug-Man,” the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Yondu as “Flag-Head,” Hellcat as “Cat-Girl,” and Valkyrie as “Sword-Girl.”

Looking over DEFENDERS adventures in the 1970’s, the heroes reflected the era in myriad ways and serves as a great time capsule for this period in Marvel history.

For more on the 75th anniversary of Marvel, visit marvel.com/75 and join the conversation on Twitter with the hash tag #Marvel75

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