Female Black Panther to Debut in February
The Washington Post, this morning, broke the news that Marvel intends to cancel Black Panther and reboot the series with someone new in the totemic Panther outfit. This time, though, it will be a woman.
The timing of the relaunch is clearly tied to Black History Month, February 2009, and current writer, Reginald Hudlin, will be back. No artist was named.
Hudlin told the Post, "Over the course of 40 issues [over three years], we … really defined the character in a way that hadn’t been done before. … Having done that, you go: "How do we up the stakes?" Marvel is great about doing really shocking changes to their character — they don’t believe in just keeping everything as status quo."
Introduced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966, T’Challa was the first prominent black character in the Marvel Universe and was a popular supporting player until he received his own series in Jungle Tales in the 1970s. The current title was first written for the Marvel Knights imprint by Christopher Priest before Hudlin took over.
Under Hudlin, the Panther married Storm from the X-Men and has defended his country of Wakanda from foreign and intergalactic invaders.
He has been challenged to be the Panther in the past but this time the change appears more than cosmetic. "There will be another after him," Hudlin said of T’Challa. "In the same way that he became the Black Panther because his father was assassinated and died before his time, the same could happen to T’Challa."
Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada, told the paper, "It was a very cool idea. Especially thinking about the legacy of the character," he says. "The fact that this is sort of a part of the Wakandan religion, and their royal family. It was a neat approach to the Black Panther, and I think it will add a wonderful twist to everything."
"Honestly, my entire run on the series has been controversial. Which is great," Hudlin added. "All the writers I admire are hotly debated online, and I feel like I’m always in great company in that situation. But more importantly, it means that people care about the book."
"That’s one of the goals I set: to broaden and diversify the comic book audience," Quesada said. "We’re breaking that gender barrier." Of course, this is far from the first time a prominent hero has been replaced by a female version dating back to the 1980s.
T’Challa will live on in animated form as his series remains scheduled to air on BET, where Hudlin recently resigned as head, in 2009