Greetings fellow comic books fans here at Back To The Past! This week I present, Jack “King” Kirby’s return to Marvel Comics, with the cover dated, January 1977 comic book; Black Panther # 1. With a cover that declared “He’s Back! As only Jack Kirby can do it!”. Jack Kirby returned to Marvel Comics for a short one year stay, (but that wasn’t known at the time of this book’s release) with a story he wrote and drew (Mike Royer provided the inks) entitled; “King Solomon’s Frog!”.
Behind a cover that screams for 3-D effects, Jack returns to a character he created within the pages of The Fantastic Four, during his hey day with Marvel Comics during the SIlver Age! The Black Panther had recently come off a critically acclaimed, but financial failure, run within Jungle Action (a series worth a future retro review). So Jack chose to bring his character back in his own inimitable manner within a new series, and the first Black Panther comic series! He also returned to Captain America, as well.
The issue begins with a bang, as only Jack can do, throwing the Panther and the readers immediately into the action. The Panther, accompanied by Mr. Little, enter into a dead man’s home to find King Solomon’s Frog, in the hand of the aforementioned dead man. Mr. Little reveals that the frog is actually an age old time machine given to the legendary King Solomon, and it had been stolen by the dead man, who, like Mr. Little was a “collector of things”. They are attacked by an “out of time” knight, who had killed the collector, but the Panther fights him off, but allows to escape.
Mr. Little and the Black Panther fly off to Little’s hidden abode, but they are twice attacked along the way. They safely reach the hideout only to find it is already overrun with the forces of Princess Zanda! Her men shoot and kill Mr. Little, and she secures the frog/time machine. After turning down Princess Zanda’s offer to join forces, the Panther makes a play for freedom . He manages to secure the frog, only to see it shot out of his hand, where it activates and brings from the future, rather than from the past, a being unlike any that has been seen on Earth, a bizarre being labeled Hatch 22!
And that’s where the issue leaves the reader, until the following issue! Rather than a letters page, the comic book gave us a full page “letter” from Jack Kirby himself, letting the readers know what he has planned for the series. It’s a lot of hype in the Stan Lee tradition, but offers up a little of what he has planned for the future of the Black Panther. A nice touch for a new series, in my opinion!
As I stated above, Jack Kirby’s return to Marvel Comics only lasted a year and then he was gone again, this time from comics, but not for good, as he would turn up again a few years later doing new comics for Pacific Comics. I’ve always had a soft spot for Kirby and his larger than life art style, so I give this book three (3) out of five (5) Legion Flight Rings! Not his best work, but far from his worst.