Stan Lee: “I Created The Black Panther”

Here’s a video that’s going to make you Kirby Historians out there want to throw a shoe at your computer monitor. In this clip from his documentary film With Great Power, Stan Lee talks about how he wanted to see more black people in comic books so he decided to create Black Panther. No mention of Jack, of course…

I’m sure Lee really does believe he did create the Black Panther — as we saw in his Disney-Marvel vs Kirby testimony Lee feels that as editor if he approved a Kirby idea, he created that idea… it would just be nice of Lee to say “we” created Black Panther and mention Jack. Right? Or am I really being rude to poor Stan? Am I being a jerk for expecting he would at least mention Jack’s name in reference to a mid-60s supporting character like Black Panther? Or am I just ignorant?

Here’s Jack’s original design for the character, at that time Jack called him the Coal Tiger. Probably not a great name, but obviously Jack was a part of the creation process. I believe this piece may still be owned by Jack’s family. Jack may have come up with this totally on his own.

Here’s the piece that ran in the comics:

Here’s the rejected FF cover with the first appearance of the Panther where you can see part of his face.

The published cover featuring the first appearance of Jack’s Black Panther. Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966).

I doubt Stan Lee had anything to do with the creation of Black Panther aside from approving the idea and adding captions to Jack’s story.

I think Jack wanted to do a black superhero and he pitched the Coal Tiger. I don’t think Lee liked Jack’s first costume design or Jack’s name for the character, so Jack went back to the drawing board (or Jack decided to make the changes). Lee did not like one aspect of Jack’s second costume design, the face, so Lee had him cover the character’s entire face. Jack came up with the story and Lee added his text to it.

I’ve never heard anyone suggest before Lee consciously wanted to create a black superhero in 1966, so he created Black Panther. Plus Jack was handling the stories at that point, and had been doing so for about 2 and 1/2 years, so does anyone out there really think Lee suddenly decided to become a social activist and so he created Black Panther? I think this is another piece of Lee fiction. Yes, Lee did caption Jack’s story and ask for changes as editor — so I think he was a part of the creation process — but for him to suggest he came up with the idea of a black superhero and he created the character because of that… it’s just ridiculous and once again insulting to Jack.

Also notice the guy in the video (not sure who that is) also credits Lee with creating the Falcon. The Falcon first appeared in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969). Here’s what Gene Colan (the guy who was working “Marvel Method” with Stan on the story) had to say on the subject. I highlighted the important part of the text in boldface.

Gene Colan: …in the late 1960s [when news of the] Vietnam War and civil rights protests were regular occurrences, and Stan, always wanting to be at the forefront of things, started bringing these headlines into the comics. … One of the biggest steps we took in this direction came in Captain America. I enjoyed drawing people of every kind. I drew as many different types of people as I could into the scenes I illustrated, and I loved drawing black people. I always found their features interesting and so much of their strength, spirit and wisdom written on their faces. I approached Stan, as I remember, with the idea of introducing an African-American hero and he took to it right away. … I looked at several African-American magazines, and used them as the basis of inspiration for bringing The Falcon to life. (Colan, Gene. “Introduction,” Marvel Masterworks: Captain American Volume 4, Marvel Publishing: New York, 2008, p. 2)

Gene Colan