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Black Panther Became Black Leopard to Avoid Controversy

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Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther has become one of Marvel’s most iconic heroes. Already one of the company’s premiere black characters, T’Challa’s solo movie shot him into the stratosphere of representation. Ironically, his name is shared with that of a controversial black political group, which almost made Black Panther himself guilty by association.

Not wanting an unnecessary connection to be made with their character, Marvel considered making Black Panther give up his now-famous name. This would have seen him take on the name of another feline entirely. Here’s what kept the character’s latest movie from being called Black Leopard: Wakanda Forever.

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Black Panther Shares His Name With a Controversial Political Party

Black Panther debuted in Fantastic Four #52, which was published in 1966. A few months later, a political organization espousing black empowerment and independence took root in the United States, quickly overshadowing the comic book character in notoriety. In fact, for much of his early life, Black Panther was merely a Fantastic Four side character. It was in that book that he would briefly take on a different persona. 1971’s Fantastic Four #119 had T’Challa introducing himself as the Black Leopard, not the Black Panther. Ben Grimm comments on this strange new moniker, a change that has a political basis.

T’Challa doesn’t condemn or support the actions of the American Black Panther Party but wishes to remain separate from them. Thus, he decides to change his name to Black Leopard, with those cats being the same as panthers anyway. A few issues down the road in other books, however, this would change, as T’Challa went back to being called Black Panther. His reasoning was that he was proud of the name, and despite its connotations, he was no one’s stereotype. Thus ended the brief naming hopscotch of the King of Wakanda.

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Marvel’s Black Panther Briefly Became Black Leopard

Roy Thomas wrote the issue of Fantastic Four which transitioned T’Challa into the name Black Leopard, though he didn’t like the idea. Apparently, it had come down from Stan Lee himself, who didn’t want the hero associated with an unrelated and increasingly contentious organization. The irony is that many erroneously believe that Lee based Charles Xavier and Magneto on the competing ideologies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with these characterizations coming later under Chris Claremont’s pens. Nevertheless, Lee would inject many social issues into his comics, with the realistic flare making Marvel Comics popular among kids and young adults.

During the interim between T’Challa being called Black Leopard and going back to Black Panther, he was simply referred to in the Avengers comic book by his real name. Again, this reflects how he was more of a side character at this point, not yet achieving his own success as an independent hero and property. Since the early 1970s, Black Panther’s roaring renaming has never been mentioned again, with only some of the most ardent Marvel fans remembering it. With the Black Panther character now being far more well-known than the political party, that’s probably for the best.

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