MY TAKE: BLACK PANTHER (COMICS ONLY)
So, I think it's been long enough (three years or more) since I and several other writers were asked to pitch their arcs for the, then, upcoming Black Panther reboot comic. David Walker, myself and some dude named Coates were up for the gig along with two others, maybe, whose names I never got. We know who got the gig and it's been long enough that I thought it would be fun to post my first pitch for the comic series. I won't be posting the second pitch which is QUITE different from this one and has multiple elements I might want to use later or elsewhere. As always, this is not a criticism against what is being done in the comics. The best gladiator won and that's the end of that. But some people have asked me about what I would have done and if the Black Panther's Quest show is similar. It is not. Anyway, here's what I would've done.. BLACK PANTHER: THE RULE OF FIVE
After the many recent upheavals in his life– the loss of Wakanda’s vibranium, the devastation of his country, the betrayal of his wife/annulment of his marriage and the loss of his throne– T’Challa is juggling a lot of inner conflict and doubt. So he returns home to reconnect with his spiritual roots, hoping to find a path forward.
In the past many have asked, “Who is the Black Panther?” Now T’Challa is asking, not “Who?” but “What?” Ruler? Scientist? Spy?
It’s a big question. The Panther God isn’t answering prayers. His people have their hands full rebuilding the nation. For the first time in his life, T’Challa has no answers. For the first time he is truly on his own.
One of the things that gets lost sometimes in all the intrigue of T’Challa’s story is he spends a significant amount of his time as a ruler not ruling, not being at home, not looking after his people and only his people. Sure, his sister’s the Queen now but, with a nation like Wakanda– whose hereditary rulers span back thousands of years in an unbroken line– not being King feels like a massive betrayal of everything T’Challa was raised to be.
Wakandans are navel gazers, something T’Challa has never been. Which path is the right one?
THE RULE OF FIVE
ARC 1: DUTY
Duty. Knowledge. Honor. Loyalty. Justice. These are the claws of the Panther Clan.
For its ruling family they form the pedestal upon which all action, all thought, is built. Let's begin.
HAMMER BAY, Genosha, Southern Africa. In the wee hours of a dark night, three terrified people are stalked through the city streets. Their cells do not work. There are no cops available.
Whatever it is that’s hunting them brutally kills two of the runners before it’s zapped unconscious by more of their comrades. The rescuers (and victims) are operatives of a private agency equipped with high‐end weapons akin to those used by SHEILD.
They drag the unconscious hunter– a man in strange circuit‐laced, clothing– home, where they argue about what to do next.
The debate is shut down when their boss, JENNIFER SWENSON, arrives.
Jen’s livid. The Genosha office was meant to be the expansion of her company, an NGO that provides “advance relief” to people on the brink of some disaster.
Now two of her people are dead and, instead of calling the cops, the survivors chose to bring the killer here?! WTH!
They point out that there’s a problem. She should take a look at the prisoner and see for herself. When she does, Jen is shocked to find the killer is none other than the former ruler of Wakanda, the Black Panther.
When she confronts him, he explains: Days previous, T’Challa foiled an attack on his sister made by what turned out to be some sort of disguised monster/human hybrid never seen before.
After tracking it to the home village of the Panther clan, they find the place filled with corpses. The hybrid killed all the villagers over a long period and no one noticed? This is past bad. With difficulty, T’Challa and Shuri put the creature down but not before Shuri is injured terribly. She’ll be out of commission for some time.
An examination of the creature’s weapons reveals an exotic sort of syringe- possibly alien technology.
This thing meant to infect Shuri with some sort of toxin. Studying the creature’s personal effects reveals it was part of an NGO that had sent a small team to offer proposals to help with Wakanda’s rebuilding efforts. The other three members of that team have just left the country for their HQ in Genosha.
Wakanda’s ruling council expects T’Challa to take over as regent until Shuri recovers but, to everyone’s shock, he refuses. If the others are hybrids, he says, they can’t be allowed to escape into the world at large. They must be found. If they’re not hybrids, they must be questioned. If they are, they must be put down, fast. Ebola fast.
He tracks them to Hammer Bay and manages to kill two more before the rest of Jen’s people zap him unconscious.
Now Jen’s all caught up but the weight’s on her now. If T’Challa’s on the level, this is a big, REALLY scary deal. If he’s not, it’s almost worse. Decisions, decisions.
T’Challa confirms: It’s worse.
By now the surviving hybrids will have converted all her people. That’s what the toxin is, a virus that turns humans into hybrid monsters. Jennifer is likely the only one of her crew who hasn’t been turned.
Swenson’s colleagues return, confirming T’Challa’s hypothesis. The rest of Jen’s people are now hybrids. He has also deduced their identity. These are Skrulls.
Well, sort of.
The virus overwrites human DNA with Skrull, creating the hybrids with one little wrinkle. Hybrid: Singular. Not plural. There is only one Skrull here.
The hybrids are a single intelligence, replicated virally in its victims. The original Skrull means to punish Wakanda’s royals for what they did in the Secret Invasion.
Though there are now treaties between the Skrull throneworld and Earth, this is a blood debt between the family of the general T’Challa killed and the Wakandan royals; it’s a personal vendetta.
The hybrid plans to take Wakanda and then, just possibly, the rest of the world. There’s no cure for the hybrid conversion, after all.
T’Challa doesn’t care about the motive, only the mechanism. By allowing himself to be captured here, he’s got the hybrid where he wanted it. All the players are in one place, away from his home and people. Now he can finish it, Wakanda Style.
Needless to say a fight breaks out, pitting T’Challa and Swenson against a building full of shapeshifting monsters. Swenson turns out to be an asset, using some of her NGO’s tech to help fight off the monsters. Even so, the fight is brutal.
In order to protect Swenson, T’Challa is forced to run. He’s in unknown territory, being pursued by the hybrids (now all melded into a single form for better massacring).
Sending Swenson to the Wakandan embassy, T’Challa leads the hybrid to the city’s central plaza (Genosha’s 30 Rock) where there is a Wakandan gift- a small version of a jungle- ringing the main building like a park.
T’Challa scatters the few people who are around and dives into the jungle, chased by the hybrid, who thinks this is a big joke– poor little cat, trying to hide in the woods.
But, as usual, Wakandan gifts always hide a secret. In this case, the park is a smaller version of the famous techno jungle (think techno-organic Danger Room with no safeties) which can only be activated by one of the royal family.
The jungle attacks the hybrid as it hunts for T’Challa, whittling away at its strength and pissing it off. Now with a fighting chance, T’Challa braces the creature directly, hitting and running, literally cutting it down to size before he finally kills it.
The Genoshan authorities arrive to clean up but the work here is done. Score one for the Panther. It makes him think. Maybe he’s never been cut out for kingship. Protecting the world’s innocents from its villains and monsters has always been where his heart lies.
What is the Panther? Not a king. Not a vigilante. Not even a man. The Black Panther is a hero– always has been. It’s time he admitted it to himself and everyone else.
Geoff Thorne – September, 2014, Los Angeles
WRITER’S NOTE: For many years now, comic book fandom has mistakenly referred to the Panther as “Marvel’s Batman.” In my opinion this has never been an accurate description.
While their silhouette might be vaguely similar, the Black Panther has never been “that guy.” He’s not broken by tragedy and obsessed with crime (Batman). He’s not a mad scientist, good or bad (Dr. Doom or Reed Richards). He’s not a narcissistic genius (Tony Stark).
He is a protector, an innovator, an explorer. He’s not Marvel’s Batman; he’s Marvel’s Doc Savage.