Bride Of The Panther

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Twenty-five years ago, Chris Claremont wrote the one hundredth issue of Marvel Team-Up, a “special double-sized” issue featuring Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Xi’an Coy Manh, a young Vietnamese woman, unwittingly brought them together in a desperate attempt to save her younger brother and sister (and herself) from her evil uncle.

It was a good story, with artwork by Frank Miller and Bob Wiacek. But no one could have guessed at the time that the Marvel Universe was about to change drastically, or that this particular comic book would help shape the future of The House of Ideas.

In December 1982, a couple of years after the anniversary issue of Marvel Team-Up, the first issue of New Mutants was published. It’s hard to remember a time when Marvel didn’t have 15-20 mutant-related comic books being released every month, but back then, New Mutants was a gamble. Sure, the Uncanny X-Men title was going strong, but could the premise support a second monthly series?

Marvel Team-Up #100 gave us Xi’an, who would eventually become one of the five original members of the generically-titled “New Mutants”. It could be argued that the introduction of Xi’an (who went by the “codename” Karma) set the events in motion that would eventually transform Marvel into a mutant-owned franchise.

It could also be argued that the ramifications of that one comic book are still being felt twenty-five years later, albeit in yet another previously unforeseen manner.

On Thursday, January 26, Marvel held a press conference to discuss the upcoming marriage of T’Challa and Ororo (otherwise known as Black Panther and Storm). In Black Panther #14-18, Reginald Hudlin, the director of critically-acclaimed television shows like “The Bernie Mac Show” and the phenomenal “Everybody Hates Chris” and the writer of “House Party” and “Bébé’s Kids”, will be telling the story of how two of Marvel’s iconic black characters decide to tie the knot. In Storm #1-6, Eric Jerome Dickey, the author of several New York Times bestselling novels including Drive Me Crazy, Genevieve, and The Other Woman, will show us how T’Challa and Ororo first met.

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And the inspiration for both series? You guessed it...

While the main story focused on the introduction of Karma, Marvel Team-Up #100 also featured a ten-page story titled “Cry—Vengeance!” starring Storm and the Black Panther. Written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, the backup story revealed that the two heroes had met as teenagers and “traveled together for a time”. Although the story is fairly straightforward, the final two panels suggest that the two of them might have been much more than friends.

“It was good seeing you again,” T’Challa said, once they had successfully taken care of their mutual enemy. “It’s strange, but suddenly I find myself thinking...”

“Of what was, and what might have been,” Ororo finished. “I, too.”

“That had been a special, unique moment in both their lives... a moment which—once denied—can never truly be recaptured. Both know this. Perhaps that is what makes their parting all the more painful. Yet part they do. As friends. They may wish for more, but that is what they are, what they will remain.”

“I wanted to write comics, I’ve always wanted to write comics,” Reginald Hudlin admitted, when asked why he chose Black Panther over film and television projects. He even joked about the process, amazed that he had to become successful in other mediums before he could break into comic books. And it’s “literally...a dream come true” for him to be writing the courtship of the Panther and Storm.

As for Eric Jerome Dickey, he confessed to being “a comic book baby from way back in the Sixties.” What attracted him most to this project was the opportunity to bring together a young T’Challa (the son of the reigning Black Panther) and Ororo (a thief just beginning to learn that she’s so much more) and tell their story in a way that would convince even the most skeptical of readers that they were destined to be together from the start.

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This is an exciting time to be reading comic books. Having two incredibly talented writers writing a love story that will have a major impact on the Marvel Universe is enough to make even casual readers take notice. But with the revelation that the actual wedding will feature a key moment in the events leading to Civil War, and with the guarantee that what happens after the wedding will make Black Panther and Storm integral parts of Marvel’s future, it’s clear that this is one event that might actually surpass the hype.

And to think it all began twenty-five years ago with Marvel Team-Up #100, which gave us two different team-ups (along with the obligatory Hostess Fruit Pies advertisement, this time pitting Iron Man against hungry bank robbers).

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