Before he co-created the first black superhero in 1966, Marvel Comics writer Stan Lee adopted opposing philosophies from the civil rights movement three years earlier when crafting the racially-vilified X-Men. Turn-The-Other-Cheek Professor X and By-Any-Means-Necessary Magneto reflected the approaches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, respectively, and similar competing ideologies would pop up between T’Challa and his nemesis Killmonger, giving Black Panther a depth that dares anyone to view Killmonger as one-dimensionally evil.
Lee and Jack Kirby introduced T’Challa in Fantastic Four #52, dated July 1966…a few months before the official launch of the Black Panther Party. In online tributes marking Monday’s passing of Lee at age 95, many outlets are recalling his 1968 missive against racism and bigotry, written for his column “Stan’s Soapbox” and retweeted by the Marvel icon in August 2017, after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
In 2006, while promoting his Sci-Fi Channel reality series “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” Lee reminded us that his intention at Marvel – first as a teen assistant, then writer, then publisher and studio head – was always to incorporate social issues, competing philosophies and contradictions in a concerted effort to expand the audience beyond just “very, very, very young children” and “illiterate adults.”
Listen below, followed by his 1968 “Stan’s Soapbox” column: