Fantastic Four #119
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #119
Apartheid in South Africa officially began in 1948, but things got worse after non-white people were banned from holding political office in 1970. At approximately the same time, the country of Rhodesia (which is now Zimbabwe) declared itself a Republic with a white government. So this is why this would have been topical in 1972. Of course apartheid wasn't abolished until the 1990s.
In this story, the Black Panther has gone to the fictional country of Rudyarda to hunt down two criminals, one white and one black, who stole a macguffin called the Vibrotron from Wakanda. Rudyarda is enforcing apartheid, so when the Black Panther doesn't return, the Wakandan second-in-command, Taku, reaches out to the Fantastic Four for help.
Only the Thing and the Human Torch are sent on the mission, with Mr. Fantastic saying that he's too busy, which sounds callous until we learn he's in the middle of an experiment that will allow Crystal to breathe in our polluted atmosphere again. Doesn't explain why the Invisible Girl didn't go along, though.
Ben and Johnny find that the Panther has been imprisoned by Rudyarda for being black without an ID. They break him out. They also learn that he's now calling himself the Black Leopard.
His reasoning is to disassociate himself with the Black Panther political organization. He neither condemns nor condones the group; he just doesn't want to be associated with them.
The black criminal had been betrayed by his white partner and left stuck in Rudyarda as well, so he gave up the info on the Panther's imprisonment and the planned exchange site for the Vibrotron. When the heroes show up at the site, they find that the buyer is Klaw.
This isn't a typical heroes vs. villain story, though, and the normally powerful Klaw is defeated rather quickly...
...and turned over to the Rudyarda police, who thank the FF members but make no acknowledgement of the Black Panther's participation.
On their way out of the country, the Thing makes about as powerful a statement as you could ask for.
Regarding that "Europeans" sign, Johnny Storm asks, "What kind of people live on another continent for centuries, and still call themselves 'Europeans'?"
The Civil Rights movement wasn't over in the US, but the Jim Crow laws had been overturned since the mid-60s so taking a stand against segregation in a foreign country might have been a little "safer" than i'm thinking, but i still think this was an impressively political comic. It's diluted somewhat by the Panther's name switch, which seems to project a "middle-of-the-road" attitude: we're against segregation like all right thinking people, but certainly not for something as radical as the Black Panthers. But still pretty powerful.
Rudyarda (named for Rudyard Kipling? A dubious honor...) is obviously a stand-in, but since the Black Panther goes to the actual South Africa in Don McGregor's 1989 Panther's Quest series in Marvel Comics Presents, it means there were more apartheid countries in Africa in the Marvel Universe than in the real world.
In the intro to this story, the Thing and the Torch are having one of their typical roughhousing events, but things seem to get more out of hand than usual and puts people outside the Baxter Building at risk, as well as causing some property damage.
Reed has built an "AUNTIE" robot to clean up Ben and Johnny's perpetual messes...
...but what about the damages associated with destroying that sign?
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
It gets worse- in 1988, the Panther has trouble with the South Africa-analogue of Azania, which means that there were THREE apartheid countries in the Marvel Universe.
Posted by: Michael | February 24, 2013 7:20 PM
In the real world, Rhodesia was also practicing apartheid(or an equivalent) before it became Zimbabwe.
Since when is Klaw's sonic claw a part of him? He was using it as plain old Ulysses Klaw before he became transformed.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 24, 2013 7:33 PM
There have been stories where Klaw is defeated and his body collapses into his claw- Quasar 6 and Marvel Two-In-One 57-58. Thomas shouldn't have described it as a part of him but he's clearly linked to it sonehow.
Posted by: Michael | February 24, 2013 8:28 PM
I really love this issue, this is one of my top defenses for defending Roy Thomas. When he really clicked with a material the guy could click. If he was off by even a tiny bit then his stories were just mediocre or dry.
Posted by: david banes | July 8, 2014 2:58 PM
Rudyard Kipling probably would've been delighted to have a colonized, subjugated African nation run under apartheid named after him.
Posted by: T4 | July 14, 2015 2:04 PM
'It gets worse- in 1988, the Panther has trouble with the South Africa-analogue of Azania, which means that there were THREE apartheid countries in the Marvel Universe.'
Plus, in addition to three countries practicing apartheid against the non-white peoples of the MU, Genosha (when introduced) was a South Africa analogue using mutants as the persecuted group.
Posted by: Harry | July 14, 2015 6:20 PM
Cool sliding timescale trick: T'Challa could have been wanting to distance himself from association with The New Black Panther Party, which the original Panther organization did as well.
Posted by: cullen | August 11, 2015 7:38 PM
Your point about the Invisible Girl being left behind is a good one. There were so many issues where she was left behind, that it was if we were being told that Sue was a hindrance to the team and not able to take care of herself in battle.
Posted by: Frightful Four fan | November 18, 2015 10:33 PM
I'm sure that the falling debris really helped endear the team to the angry mob that is still surely picketing outside the Baxter Building...
Also, there's a fun line from Reed after he breaks up Johnny and Ben's roughhousing -- "World War Three just ended, remember?" I think it's supposed to be referencing the fight he just interrupted, but he could also be acknowledging the recent war with Atlantis.
Posted by: TCP | April 18, 2016 11:35 AM
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