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When Marvel Took the 'Black' Out of Black Panther

In every installment of “If I Pass This Way Again,” we look at odd comic book plot points that were rarely (sometimes NEVER!) mentioned again after they were first introduced.

Awhile back, I noted how Marvel decided to avoid any controversy surrounding the Black Panther's name in the early 1970s (due to the widespread fame of the Black Panther Party at the time) by changing his name to the Black Leopard. However, that surprisingly WASN'T the first time that T'Challa's name was altered for presumably the same reason.

After debuting in the pages of Fantastic Four #52 in 1966 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott) before fighting against his arch-rival, Klaw, in Fantastic Four #53, the Black Panther made only sporadic appearances for the rest of 1966 and most of 1967. His last appearance before getting involved with the Avengers came in the 1967 Fantastic Four Annual...

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A couple of months later, the Kirby, Lee and Sinnott then brought Black Panther to the pages of Captain America's feature in Tales of Suspense in Tales of Suspense #97...

He even got to appear on the cover of the next issue, where he is just "Panther"...

But the story inside always calls him Black Panther...

At the end of that story, Captain America (then on a hiatus from the Avengers) recommends to his new buddy that Black Panther should join the Avengers as a sort of replacement for Captain America. He's so impressed with T'Challa that he figures that Black Panther would make a great replacement for himself.

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However, now Roy Thomas took over writing T'Challa for the first time and it seems very pointed that at this very same time, Stan Lee was discussing minority superheroes and talking about Marvel's black characters and started to refer to the Black Panther as just "The Panther."

When T'Challa shows up in Avengers #52 to join the team, he's calling himself just "The Panther"....

And it's totally treated like this has ALWAYS been his superhero name.

He used it, as well, in the next issue where the Avengers fight the X-Men...

However, in the following issue, the Avengers fight against a new Masters of Evil and one of the team members is Klaw, and he makes sure to remember Black Panther...

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And suddenly, Panther is back to being Black Panther again...

He would remain Black Panther until the aforementioned early 1970s story where he adopts the name Black Leopard.

Okay, that's it for this installment! Thanks to reader Deuel R. for the suggestion! If someone else has a suggestion for an interesting plot point that was introduced and then almost instantaneously ignored, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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