The main thing preventing Black Panther from fulfilling that Batman niche for Marvel is, frankly, Marvel. Whether knowingly or subliminally, Marvel marketing--if not Marvel editorial--sees Panther in a racial context and, thus, as a less “pure” character than, say, Drax the Destroyer or the Sub-Mariner. I don’t mean racism so much as a level of sensitivity and concern for the reader’s ability to identify with and/or respond to these issues.
For example: a line was cut from my contribution to the recent Deadpool marriage issue because Marvel was concerned black readers might be offended. I assured them black fans would not be offended by the line, but I was overruled. Which troubled me because I was an actual black person assuring them black people really aren’t as thin skinned as they (or the corporate hedgehog above Marvel editorial) may think.
Black people have a sense of humor. Deadpool, the character, busts on everybody. It was a violation of his character for him to start pulling his punches just because he was talking to a black person.
Marvel and DC should stop being afraid of letters, afraid of email. The incident struck me as a little silly, that Marvel wasn’t so worried about their black fans as they were perhaps worried about offending the sensibilities of their white fans and/or of ‘Pool coming across as racist.
It wasn’t a racist line. It was, however, the funniest line in the story and they cut it, despite having an actual black person assure them. If they actually understood humor (or black people), they could have run one of those old Stan Lee asterisk captions; *We were assured, by an actual black person, that this line was okay --Ed.
This is what I mean by a creatively compromised environment. This wouldn’t happen at, say, Milestone. They’d say either the line was funny or it wasn’t, Either ‘Pool was in character or out of character, and that would be the only criteria they would use. Larry Hama, my mentor, taught me that humor involves risk. There was rarely an issue of Crazy Magazine we published without being convinced we would be fired for it. Everybody, of every ethnicity, was fair game.