Essential Black Panther Vol. 1

First Published: May 2012

Contents: Jungle Action #6 (September 1973) to #22 (July 1976), and #24 (November 1976); and Black Panther #1 (January 1977) to #10 (July 1978)

Key Creator Credits: Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Keith Pollard, Jack Kirby, and others

Key First Appearances: Erik Killmonger, Venomm, Mister Little, Princess Zanda, N’Gassi,

Overview: Coming in on a 12:30 flight, we are taking a journey to the land of Wakanda on the African continent. A country built on Vibranium, a rare and powerful element that makes this small country one of the most important ones in all of the world, which in turn brings a lot of threats and dangers to the land. This is Essential Black Panther!

For years, we’ve known of the Black Panther as a supporting character. First introduced in the pages of Fantastic Four, he was a member of the Avengers for many years. Now, we see Black Panther return home, to handle the responsibilities of leading his country.

This collection is broken up nicely into two distinct runs. In the first run, writer Don McGregor, with art from the likes of Rich Buckler and Billy Graham, gives us two great storylines that show the range of the Black Panther character. The Panther’s Rage storyline has Black Panther fighting off a challenge to his throne by Erik Killmonger. The story runs across Africa, from deserts to jungles to waterfalls and caves, Black Panther stands up to the challenges of Killmonger and Venomm to protect his land.

The second storyline from McGregor has T’Challa returning to the United States with his girlfriend Monica Lynne, only to encounter the racist threats of the Ku Klux Klan. This is a powerful story arc on a subject that doesn’t get enough coverage in comics.

The second run in this collection comes to us from the mind of Jack Kirby, so sit back and enjoy the run. During his return to Marvel in the mid-1970s, Kirby was given complete control over his projects and went balls-to-the-wall with everything he did, with titles like Captain America, The Eternals, 2001, and Devil Dinosaur. But my favorite run in this period is his work on Black Panther. He takes Black Panther on a wild journey, chasing after King Solomon’s Frog that can travel through time or bringing in his cousins to protect Wakanda from the radioactive Jakarra. These may not be the greatest Black Panther stories, but they have to be the most fun Black Panther stories.

What makes this Essential?: These are some must-read stories for the Black Panther character, but I don’t know that this is the best collection to read these stories. I would have liked to have seen the Black Panther’s first appearance reprinted in this collection, or even his origin story. You can track those down in other Essentials, but it would have been nice to have them in this book, too. The final five issues of the 1977 run (including Jack Kirby’s final three issues!) are not included here. You cannot even find them in an Essential. I truly believe that Black Panther should have been done in two Essential volumes, to include all of these missing issues.

My other issue is the printing process for this collection. With a character that where’s a black costume, reprinting the story in black and white makes these stories hard to read at times. This is one of those rare times when I wished I had read all of these stories in a color edition.

With all of that said, I do really like these stories. This was the first time that Black Panther got to stand on his own as the lead character in a title or in his own self-titled book. The current success of the character would not be possible without these stories laying the groundwork to establish T’Challa as an A-list hero.

Footnotes: Jungle Action started as a reprint comic. Jungle Action #5 starts the Black Panther run in the title, reprinting Avengers #62, which told the Black Panther’s origin (see Essential Avengers Vol. 3). Jungle Action #23 was a reprint of Daredevil #69 (see Essential Daredevil Vol. 3). The covers to issues #5 and #23 are included in this collection.

The 1977 Black Panther series ran for 15 issues. Kirby stayed on the book through issue #13. The series was cancelled, but the storyline was finished up in Marvel Premiere #51-#53. Those issues of Black Panther and Marvel Premiere can be found in the Black Panther Marvel Masterworks Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: any of the following choices. There are so many great options when it comes to tales involving the Black Panther.

  • The first choice has to be the Christopher Priest run of Black Panther from 1998 to 2003. This originally started out as part of the Marvel Knights imprint, but moved over into the main Marvel publishing group with issued #13. You cannot mention Black Panther without mentioning Priest’s name. So much of what we think of with T’Challa, Wakanda and all things Black Panther were introduced in this series. The entire series was recently collected in four Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection trade paperbacks.
  • The Black Panther series that followed the Priest run is great too. There is a period around 2007 when Reginald Hudlin was writing Black Panther and Dwayne McDuffie was writing Fantastic Four. During the Initiative storyline, Black Panther and his then-wife Storm were serving as members of the Fantastic Four, replacing Reed and Sue. There are a lot of fun stories in each title, and the time-traveling Brass Frogs make a re-appearance.
  • Finally, it would be hard to imagine anyone not having viewed it yet, but the 2018 Black Panther movie is a must watch. If you have not seen this movie, stop reading this blog and go watch it. If you have seen the movie, finish reading the blog and then go watch it again. This may be one of the most visually-stunning Marvel movies to date, and it is both a critical and box-office success.

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2

First Published: November 2008

Contents: Supernatural Thrillers #5 (August 1973), and #7 (June 1974) to #15 (October 1975); Brother Voodoo introduction from Tales of the Zombie #2 (October 1973), #6 (July 1974), and #10 (March 1975); Strange Tales #169 (September 1973) to #174 (June 1974), #176 (October 1974) and #177 (December 1974); Marvel Team-Up #24 (August 1974); Haunt of Horror #2 (July 1974) to #5 (January 1975); Monsters Unleashed #11 (April 1975); Marvel Two-In-One #11 (September 1975), #18 (August 1976), and #33 (November 1977); Marvel Chillers #1 (October 1975) and #2 (December 1975); Dead of Night #11 (August 1975); and Marvel Spotlight #26 (February 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Len Wein, Doug Moench, Mike Friedrich, Bill Mantlo, John Warner, Scott Edelman, Val Mayerik, Gene Colan, Tony Dezuniga, Sonny Trinidad, Billy Graham, and others

Key First Appearances: Living Mummy, Elementals (Hellfire, Hydron, Magnum, Zephyr), Asp, Jericho Drumm/Brother Voodoo, Daniel Drumm, Damballah, Black Talon, Gabriel/Devil-Hunter, Modred the Mystic, Chthon, Scarecrow (Straw Man)

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1

Overview: Welcome back to more marvelous debuts of characters from the horror-themed titles of the 1970s. This volume features the first appearances of six characters of varying degrees of success.

  • First up is the Living Mummy. Awakened after 3,000 years, the Living Mummy finds himself adapting to the world of 1973, whether in the streets of New York City or in the deserts of Egypt.
  • Next up is Brother Voodoo, perhaps the most successful of the characters featured in this collection. Jericho Drumm returns to his home in Haiti. Caught up in a spiritual war, Drumm learns the secrets of the Loa and becomes Brother Voodoo. With the spirit of his deceased brother Daniel living in him, Brother Voodoo challenges zombies, ghosts, vampires, and villains.
  • Gabriel, Devil Hunter comes to us from the pages of the horror magazines. With one good eye, the former priest conducts exorcisms to draw out the demons inhabiting innocent souls.
  • Golem hearkens back to Jewish folklore, as a clay figure comes to life, powered by love. The Marvel Comics’ Golem has very few appearances. (If you are interested in reading a great story about a Golem, check out Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001.)
  • Modred the Mystic comes to us from King Arthur’s court. Modred was to become an apprentice to Merlin, but that tended to be red-shirt situation, if you catch my drift. He embarks on a path to explore the Darkhold, which casts him into suspended animation until he is revived in the 1970s.
  • Finally, the Scarecrow jumps out of a portrait to battle demons. (When he appeared later, he was renamed as Straw Man, to differentiate himself from the Silver Age villain known as Scarecrow.) I really want to write more about him, but there is not a lot to work with here.

What makes this Essential?: This is a book that can go either way — it’s a must-own book or it’s a do not own book. It’s all dependent on your personal tastes. I found that the Living Mummy and the Brother Voodoo stories worked the best, as we were given multiple issues to really dive into the characters. The other four characters each get 3-5 issues, which in most cases is not enough to really get a solid or favorable position on the character.

Personally, I might have preferred seeing more established Marvel Universe characters in this volume. For example, Greer Nelson debuted in the pages of The Cat in 1972. In 1974, she became Tigra in Giant-Size Creatures #1, followed up by a run in Marvel Chillers. She would later have stints in Fantastic Four and The Avengers (see the later Essential volumes of those titles), and has remained a fairly active character in the Marvel Universe since her introduction. This would have been a perfect showcase (pardon the use) for a female character, in a volume that is very male-centric to begin with. 

If any of the six featured characters interest you, then pick it up. If these characters do not interest you, stay far away from this book.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #11 and #18 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One #33 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #24 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the 1980s Elementals series from Comico. The idea of characters with powers representing the basic elements is nothing new in comics. The argument could be made that the Fantastic Four is the best representation of this concept. In the Living Mummy stories in this collection, we see an actual team of adversaries called the Elementals. Over at DC Comics, a team of Elementals was introduced (but never used again) in the pages of Super Friends – see Showcase Presents Super Friends Vol. 1. But the greatest use of the concept came in 1984 at Comico, when Elementals #1 hit the comic book racks. The four characters that would comprise the Elementals (Vortex, Morningstar, Fathom, and Monolith) actually made their debut in the Justice Machine Annual #1 from 1983.  The basic set-up for Elementals is that the four element spirits find physical hosts (who have each recently died in that element) to help bring balance back to the universe due to the actions of the evil sorcerer Lord Saker. The book was written and drawn by Bill Willingham, many years before he became the grand storyteller of the Fables series. This is a really great series that sadly is not easily available today. Comico went through ownership changes and bankruptcy courts, and these characters have remained in limbo since the late 1990s. Comico released a trade paperback in 1988 collecting the initial story arc, but again, that is more than 25 years ago and its no longer in print. You might have to go to eBay or a really good back issue dealer to find these comics, but it’s well worth the hunt.