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Fear Files

Fear Files: The Black Panther

Does the former King of Wakanda stand tall as a true Man Without Fear?

By Ben Morse

In 2011, terror overtakes the Marvel Universe as Fear Itself envelops its heroes and villains.

To delve deeper into what lies at the root of this climactic event, each week in Fear Files we will speak with Marvel’s biggest creators about exactly what frightens the premiere heroes and villains whose lives they guide.

T’Challa, formerly the King of Wakanda and currently the protector of Hell’s Kitchen in his Black Panther guise, has endured great trials of late, losing his royal status, isolating himself from his wife and getting off to a somewhat rocky start in his new role. Have these trials made him a Man Without Fear? We spoke with BLACK PANTHER: MAN WITHOUT FEAR writer David Liss…

Marvel.com: What is The Black Panther most afraid of?

David Liss: Black Panther is so driven by honor and pride that I have to imagine his greatest fear is failing when he ought to have succeeded.

Marvel.com: Do you see this as a motivator, a potential weakness, or perhaps both?

David Liss: I definitely see it as both. Black Panther is never more dangerous than when someone thinks they have an advantage over him because he is never going to willingly let anyone get the upper hand.  However, the down side is that he can be blinded to consequences or collateral damage. He will get the job done at any cost, which makes him a cool character to write because while he has an astonishing intellect and can anticipate his enemies' moves; he is less good at anticipating his own emotions.  

Marvel.com: Has T’Challa added an additional element of fear to his life since getting married? Is fear for Storm’s safety an ongoing concern for him?

David Liss: That's a great question. I see T'Challa as feeling a certain amount of patriarchal protectiveness toward Storm. In our “Storm Hunter” arc, he is a force to be reckoned with when Storm is in danger. But that said, Storm is far more powerful than he is—more powerful than almost everyone in the Marvel Universe—so I'm not sure how much he needs to feel vulnerable. But like any tough guy, by allowing himself to love, T'Challa opens himself up to anguish and loss, and I do think that makes him more vulnerable than he was before.

Marvel.com: Contrast how concern for Storm’s safety weighs on T’Challa versus the obligation he feels to protect “his people,” be they in Wakanda or Hell’s Kitchen.

David Liss: His concern for Storm is personal and directly emotional. His concern for his people, native or adopted, is more about duty and obligation. Of course there will inevitably be an emotional element, but his role as protector of Wakanda or Hell's Kitchen begins with the intellect and his understanding of his obligations.

Marvel.com: Can this sense of obligation be an undoing? Did it cost him Wakanda?

David Liss: I would not say his sense of obligation cost him Wakanda. I would put it more that the kingship was the price he had to pay to do what was right, which is what T'Challa is going to do, every time. I don't see him as someone who has regrets about anything as long as he believes he behaved properly. He would certainly regret a decision he later saw as wrong or impulsive or misguided, but not one—no matter the cost—that was the right one.

Marvel.com: Does T’Challa truly see himself as a “Man Without Fear”?

David Liss: I've always seen the "Man without Fear" thing more as an aspect of the costume than the man, for both Daredevil and Black Panther. Part of their mystique is an intense, daring illusion of fearlessness that terrifies bad guys. Both characters, in their own way, are deeply feeling guys, so of course they have fear, even if it is only for the people they care about and the responsibilities they've accepted. Those people and responsibilities are what make them vulnerable—and give them strength.

Marvel.com: What is the Black Panther’s worst nightmare?

David Liss: I think this goes back to the issue of his sense of responsibility, honor and duty. His greatest fear is failing to due what is right and allowing others to suffer because of his mistakes. 

The Black Panther will find himself besieged this summer when Storm comes under fire by Kraven in the two-part “Storm Hunter, beginning with BLACK PANTHER: MAN WITHOUT FEAR #519 on June 8, and then into July as T’Challa faces Fear Itself!

For more information on Fear Itself, visit the official event page.

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Dats awesome, luking 4ward 2 seeing BP & Storm 2gether again.