T’Challa isn’t quite like the other Avengers. Although Black Panther has been a long running Avenger and has a tremendous amount of familiarity with Marvel’s New York and its local heroes, his Wakandan kingdom will always give the character some distance. Simply put, Tony Stark has corporate demands, Peter Parker has rent problems, and King T’Challa has a nation-wide rebellion to quell. If it seems like Black Panther is a class above the more down-to-earth American civilians of the Avengers, well, you won’t hear him disagreeing.
This separation makes for a fascinating character, and gloriously for comic book readers, a hero willing to speak truth to power (and then some). It’s easy to overlook because of his heroism and ties to Avengers, but T’Challa’s day to day responsibilities have more in common with the likes of Doctor Doom, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Magneto (Genosha-ruling era) than they do “street-level” Marvel. It’s a beautiful part of his authority and confidence that can often come across as arrogant superiority. Black Panther’s royalty is also a part of what makes his insults so devastating. While he is a generous king with a sly sense of humor, T’Challa does not have time for nonsense, and he’s not afraid to let people know.
20. DISSES TONY STARK’S EGO TO HIS FACE
There will always be a place on the Avengers for the heroes willing to poke fun at Tony Stark. Black Panther takes Tony down a peg better than just about anyone. This particular case study in deflating the Iron Man comes during Ta-Nehisi Coates’ time writing Black Panther (with art primarily by Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse).
Even while requesting his analysis of Zeke Stane’s bio-weaponry on Wakandan soil, T’Challa still finds time to make sure approximately nothing exceeds Stark’s ego. The ongoing Black Panther series is well worth a read for many reasons, but T’Challa firing Iron Man the equivalent of “Did I stutter?” is high on the list. Bonus points for pulling off the insult in what is still one of the lighter moments between these two frenemies.
19. TAUNTS THE BLACK KNIGHT
Black Panther’s sly sense of humor is highly underrated, and frequently at its best in the middle of a very serious and dangerous conflict. This fact is expertly brought to life during Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr’s opening story arc, “Who is the Black Panther?” The invading forces of Wakanda recruit a deeply religious and out-of-time Black Knight to their invasion of the country that’s never been conquered.
To trash talk the Black Knight and take him out of the picture, T’Challa resorts to philosophical questions about the Knight’s religious affiliation and it really seems to throw the invading Knight off. In a legitimately valid question, Black Panther wonders out loud about the reality of Black Knight’s god given his sudden turn toward the losing side.
18. WHIPS OUT THE SCIENCE VS DOCTOR DOOM
Somehow extremely nerdy and cool at the same time, Black Panther one-ups Doom’s claims of scientific genius before throwing down in a fight between national powers. In another element that makes Doctor Doom and Black Panther’s animosity so memorable, it’s never enough for the two to simply win on a physical level. No, it’s essential that T’Challa and Victor Von Doom also prove that they’re smarter than the other.
During the Latverian fisticuffs — in what was supposed to be a diplomatic visit by T’Challa and Ororo after their wedding — Doctor Doom points out that T’Challa’s armor is something he designed as a teen. In a savage twist, Black Panther makes sure to let Doom know he was three years younger than Doom when he built his own version. The kick to the face may have hurt, but nothing stings worse here than Doom’s pride.
17. TELLS AMERICA THEY CAN’T HANG WITH WAKANDA
Throughout the ’00s era of Black Panther, runs by writers Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates have all made it clear that T’Challa views America as an inferior “ally” of sorts. The trend continues in Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort’s incredible Ultimates, as T’Challa makes it clear to the American ambassador that they aren’t interested in trading military secrets with a nation that would “only slow us down.”
This insulting approach to foreign relations comes at a tenuous time for the Black Panther, as Wakanda reels from the attacks of Doctor Doom, Morlun, Namor, and Thanos and his Black Order. Still, T’Challa is nothing if not confident in Wakanda’s ability to circumvent any tribulation without foreign aid. Given that he and the Ultimates would go on to scientifically manage Galactus in this story arc, who’s to say otherwise?
16. GLOVE SLAPS TONY STARK
While T’Challa’s approach to pep talks is unquestionably harmful, when a fully costumed Black Panther is glove slapping Tony Stark in a sleeveless tee, it’s ok to cheer a little. Ok, it’s ok to cheer a lot. Black Panther has a history of seeing right through Tony Stark’s self-righteous posturing, and this moment from “Avengers vs. X-Men” is no exception.
T’Challa suffers mightily for his involvement with the Avengers during this 2012 event. A Phoenix Force infused Namor lays waste to Wakanda’s Golden City, in a devastating attack that has ramifications through present day. Nonetheless, T’Challa’s willingness to stand up to a downtrodden Iron Man and insult his attempts at self-flagellation helps keep Hope Summers out of Cyclops’ hands and gives the Avengers a fighting chance.
15. CALLS BULLSEYE A CIRCUS PERFORMER
During Norman Osborn’s “Dark Reign,” Bullseye is positioned right up there with Venom as the most deadly and unpredictably murderous of the Dark Avengers. The villain truly takes off as a psychotic mass killer during Frank Miller’s time on Daredevil through the early ’80s. Throughout Marvel history, readers have seen Benjamin (Lester) Poindexter awash in blood and bodies on more than one occasion. Just ask Daredevil and Karen Page.
None of this stops the Black Panther from hilariously mocking a Skrull invader exhibiting the skills of Bullseye. While technically T’Challa’s comparison of Bullseye to Wakandan circus performers would have been better suited for the villain himself, a Skrull copy during “Secret Invasion” is the next best thing. Nobody tell Hawkeye what Black Panther thinks of his skillset.
14. TELLS BLACK WIDOW SHE’S BENEATH HIM
In an uncomfortably sexist moment, Black Panther disses and dismisses Black Widow like she’s nothing. The moment comes with Black Panther at odds with the pro-registration superhero movement of “Civil War”. The hero becomes a wanted foreign adversary, and Black Widow is sent to bring him in or stop him from aiding rebel factions.
Having seen the Black Widow in action as an Avenger, you would think Black Panther understood the threat she posed. This doesn’t stop the Panther from ignoring her, and insulting her ability by saying she’s not worthy of his attention. As it stands, the particular insult might be the worst looking for the Black Panther, as his antiquated sense of chivalry (“I would never fight a woman”) comes across as chauvinistic and belittling.
13. OWNS THE FANTASTIC FOUR
Sometimes the Black Panther takes down major Marvel Universe players with his verbal slams, sometimes with his fists, and other times with simultaneous quippy one-liners and kicks to the face. In his very first appearance in Fantastic Four #52 by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, the Panther literally invited the Fantastic Four to Wakanda to beat them to a pulp and make them look like fools.
Of course, since he’s not an actual supervillain, T’Challa also had the ulterior motive of testing the first family’s mettle so he could rely on them in a fight against Klaw. Nonetheless, the partnership can’t take shape until T’Challa compounds insult and injury in one of the Fantastic Four’s worst early whoopings. We like to imagine it was one kick for every time The Thing would call him T’Charlie in the future.
12. CALLS HAVOK AND POLARIS FAKE X-MEN
During his courtship of Storm, it becomes pretty apparent that T’Challa is less than impressed by America’s X-Men. This leads to a number of humorous dismissals of the merry mutants (and a barely contained jealousy between Wolverine and T’Challa), including the above moment during the X-Men and Black Panther crossover story “Wild Kingdom.” Black Panther is (rightly) annoyed with Havok’s attempts to take control of the situation, leading him to ask “Where are the real X-Men?”
Of course, the best part of the interaction is Storm’s attempt to hush her future husband from saying anything too embarrassing about her friends from work. As is so often the case, when the Black Panther laments the inclusion of any computer or science experts on the X-Men’s current roster, he highlights a glaring hole in the team.
11. TRASH TALKS DOCTOR DOOM
Doctor Doom is a wonderfully well-suited adversary for Black Panther. Both characters are sole monarchs of their fictional Marvel countries (with varying shades of dictator, tyrant, and benevolent overlord attached to each). Both absolutely will not suffer fools. And both generally tend to want the other six feet under.
This particular confrontation, during the ascent of Shuri as Black Panther during Reginald Hudlin’s relaunched Black Panther title, does not end well for T’Challa. In fact, Doom achieves such a resounding victory, T’Challa spirals out of his role as King and sole Black Panther of Wakanda for years to come. Naturally, that doesn’t prevent the Black Panther and the Dora Milaje from some expert pre-game trash talk. We get the feeling that an NBA showdown between the adversaries would need refs to break up a fight every time down the court.
10. ERASES THE MOLE MAN
Although it’s partially empathathetic, Black Panther’s dismissal of the Mole Man as a complete non-threat is a brutal assessment of the lord of subterrania. Admittedly, the most brutal and threatening we can remember seeing the Mole Man came during Grant Morrison and Jae Lee’s (out of continuity) Fantastic Four: 1234 during the “Marvel Knights” era. For the most part in recent years, the Mole Man has frequently operated as a sympathetic villain even occasionally comprising with the Fantastic Four and Avengers.
Still, Black Panther’s implication that the Mole Man couldn’t have life any worse, is a bit uncharacteristically mean. We don’t often see the ruler of Wakanda take time for petty insults. That said, the next time the Mole Man gets a little too big for his green pajamas, never forget the king of Wakanda couldn’t even be bothered to lock him up for his crimes.
9. GETS RIGHT IN IRON MAN’S FACE
T’Challa and Tony Stark have had their share of disagreements throughout Marvel history, although few are as prominent as their showdown in Civil War. Depending on the tie-in, Tony Stark is played as a conniving villain throughout much of the comic book event (the MCU’s version did a much fairer job of balancing the conflict). The pages of Black Panther are no exception, as Stark arranges for Black Panther and Storm to be visibly pressured into siding with his pro-registration political maneuvering.
The stunt leads to Sentinels attacking Black Panther and Storm on the White House lawn, with James Rhodes (operating a Sentinel) getting caught in the crossfire. All sorts of misunderstandings ensue, leading to Iron Man and Black Panther exchanging very heated fighting words.
8. SHOWS NO FEAR TO SKRULLS
For the purest concentrated dose of T’Challa acting like a completely iconic warrior king, with the strategic mind of Batman and the hand-to-hand prowess of Shang-Chi, check out the “Secret Invasion” three issue tie-in. Writer Jason Aaron and artist Jefte Palo deliver an incredible look at Black Panther and Storm’s defense of Wakanda during the Skrull invasion of Earth. The heroic Black Panther of the Avengers gets most of the spotlight, but this version is of a king during war, and he would do anything to keep Wakanda free.
During their invasion, the Skrulls attempt to put fear into the heart of the Black Panther, sending their fiercest warrior to face him. As expected, Black Panther puts this dedicated specialist to shame, stating ahead of the fight that the Skrull has “already lost.”
7. INSULTS REED RICHARD’S ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS
Even the Black Panther gets petty with his insults sometimes. When Reed Richards and Susan Richards take their leave from the Fantastic Four (following the division of “Civil War”), they ask T’Challa and Storm to fill in for them. This leads to some excellent Fantastic Four adventures starring Black Panther, Storm, the Human Torch, and the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing.
While getting acquainted with the Baxter Building, Black Panther can’t help but explore Reed’s inventions and designs. A few things are telling about his reaction to a device explained to him. On one hand, he won’t even let the robot finish the explanation of the device’s capabilities. Of course he understands, he’s the Black Panther. More to the point, T’Challa is clear to point out (to a robot no less) that he only didn’t know what the device was due to Mister Fantastic’s poor organization.
6. MAKES A JOKE OF KILLMONGER’S SOLDIERS
When Black Panther fights Killmonger in Don McGregor and Rich Buckler’s epic “Panther’s Rage,” there’s little time for trash talk or goading. The same rules do not apply to Killmonger’s bungling soldiers, Kazibe and Tayete. The over-confident duo are some of (if not the) first Wakandans to join forces with Killmonger during his attempted coup of the Black Panther’s kingdom.
While beating and manipulating the lackeys to his own ends (think Turk in Daredevil comics), T’Challa can’t help but have a little fun teasing and taunting the traitors. Indeed, T’Challa is more willing to face a marching “Death Regiment” than he is try to get any more useful information out of Kazibe and Tayete. Black Panther will always remember the villainy of Killmonger, but there’s a chance that his lackey’s simply bring a wry smile to his face.
5. PUTS AMERICAN DIPLOMATS IN THEIR PLACE
Lest we leave former Black Panthers off the list, it’s worth highlighting one of King T’Chaka’s finer moments. The father of T’Challa deals with a great deal of institutionalized racism in global politics, finding countries unwilling or unable to assume he comes from anything other than a backwards dump of a nation. It’s a consistent theme highlighted throughout Reginald Hudlin’s time writing Black Panther, epitomized in the above exchange.
After cutting off King T’Chaka with a joke about the “socialist wearing a crown,” the former Black Panther decides he has had enough with the charade of diplomacy. The quick meeting cancellation does a great job of showcasing the standing of Wakanda and their approach to isolationism. It’s also clear where T’Challa gets his confidence and command from.
4. SAYS THE HAND ARE ‘DAMN STUPID’
During the perennially under discussed time period when Black Panther took over Hell’s Kitchen for Daredevil, the new “Man Without Fear” crosses paths with (you’ll never guess!) the Kingpin. Hot on the heels of “Shadowland,” Wilson Fisk was the current ruler of the Hand, and opted to direct his ninja forces toward a hostile takeover of the Golden City of Wakanda.
Wakanda’s current Queen and Black Panther, Shuri (the sister of T’Challa), sees the invading Hand forces and rightly assesses the situation with a burn suitable for a Black Panther. “Ninjas? In my home? You dare attack our sacred palace when it is under protection of Wakanda’s sons and daughters? That’s pretty damn stupid.” The war in New York continues between T’Challa and the Kingpin, as Shuri more than takes care of business at home.
3. ACCUSES ATLANTIS OF STEALING WAKANDA’S ARCHITECTURE
At the best of times, T’Challa and Namor have had a rocky relationship. The King of Wakanda and King of Atlantis identify the other as global powers, and recognize the value of negotiating as allies. Naturally this is all rendered moot when a Phoenix infused Namor drowns Wakanda’s capital city, but for much of their history, the Black Panther and Sub-Mariner have had an understanding.
Even so, friendly terms between Wakanda and Atlantis still generate an inherent rivalry. While riding under the ocean with Storm, Black Panther acknowledges the beauty of Atlantis’ design. He can’t help himself but turn the sentiment into a backhanded compliment, though, asserting that Atlantis got their good ideas from copying Wakanda. This is quite possibly the last friendly jab between Wakanda and Atlantis for years to come.
2. MAKES A MOCKERY OF DEADPOOL WHILE BREAKING HIS BONES
Sticks and stones will break Deadpool’s bones, but a knee kick to the chest from the Black Panther will only fracture his sternum. T’Challa and the Merc with a Mouth have a strange history together, with Black Panther calling in Deadpool as his ace in the hole during the “Doomwar” event. Although Black Panther thinks Deadpool is an idiot (“I’ll use short words,” he tells a clowning Wade), he also trusts him with the most significant part of his strategy to take down Doctor Doom.
That’s all out the window when Deadpool invades the Ultimates facility and tries to take on Black Panther in hand to hand combat. We’d give points to Deadpool for the superior burn saying Stilt Man fights harder, but unfortunately for Wade Wilson, he can’t even finish the slam before Black Panther breaks his face.
1. DISSES SPIDER-MAN’S FIGHTING ABILITIES
Black Panther and Spider-Man don’t get a lot of team-ups. A rare example occurs during Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, during the time period when T’Challa fills in as Hell’s Kitchen’s protector for a vacant Daredevil. While not an insult, the first excellent exchange between the duo occurs when Black Panther instantly corrects Spidey’s assessment of T’Challa’s standing as the “ninth smartest man in the world” (although it seems unlikely that T’Challa would be personally accepting of eighth place in the rankings).
The highlight then comes as Black Panther dismisses Spider-Man as any kind of physical fighting threat. Fans can argue about who would actually take the fight, but there’s no doubt in Black Panther’s mind that the fight is already won, and that’s the difference between him and Spidey.
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