When Black Panther Re-Named Himself 'Black Leopard'

In every installment of Abandoned Love we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer without actively retconnng away the previous story. Feel free to e-mail me at brianc@cbr.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Longtime readers Tom A. and Chris N. both wrote in with a few different Black Panther suggestions and amusingly enough, they both sent in almost precisely the same exact suggestions (it's kind of nuts just how similar each of their suggestions were). Both of them suggested that I re-visit the odd saga of the Black...Leopard?!

This is a story that I first covered in a Comic Book Legends a few years back (by "a few years back," I, of course, mean almost TWELVE years ago. Yikes!), but obviously this is in a different context, as we'll examine how the name change was abandoned.

The name change first showed up in late 1971's Fantastic Four #119 (by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Joe Sinnott), where Human Torch and Thing were called to help out their pal, T'Challa, when an agent of Wakanda has stolen a device that could affect Vibranium and then traveled to Rudyarda, a stand-in country for South Africa. T'Challa had traveled after him but then his people had not heard from him since. So Johnny and Ben head to Rudyarda (what a great name by Thomas) to find their friend. They eventually discover that he had found himself arrested simply for being black in an area of the country where black people were not allowed with a special ID.

Okay, so this is late 1971, so the Black Panther Party was in the news a lot. Although the Black Panther character debuted before the Black Panther Party was officially formed (although the name predated Lee and Kirby, just not used with the specific Black Panther Party - it was used for other political groups that directly influenced the naming of the Black Panther Party), obviously a few years later the Black Panther Party was a lot more famous than the comic book superhero.

So Thomas decides to have T'Challa determine that he would rather not be associated with the American political group (not as an insult, just in a general "We're different from each other, so let's not confuse anyone by sharing the same name") and took on a new name...

This change, as it would turn out, would not last very long.

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