Black Panther Makes a Splash in Historic 1968 ‘Avengers’ Page Heading to Auction

This first page of ‘Avengers’ No. 58, drawn by legendary artist John Buscema, remains one of the most indelible images from the Marvel Age of comics

Even An Android Can Cry.”

That’s the title of the story found in The Avengers No. 58. It’s also the last line of that comic book, uttered by Hank Pym while The Vision goes off to shed a tear in private upon being made a member of the team that includes Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Goliath, The Wasp, Hawkeye and Black Panther. A heavy sentiment that accompanies an indelible image.

Published in November 1968, Avengers No. 58 in part reveals how The Vision was fabricated by Ultron to kill the Avengers; in time, the story by Roy Thomas would serve as one of the templates for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s just one reason why this issue is considered a classic, “one of those era defining comics.” It took film decades to catch up to the comics; a 12-cent titled helped fuel a $22.5-billion (and counting) franchise.

But the most timeless element of the issue can be found in John Buscema and inker George Klein’s iconic splash page, the original art for which is but one of the myriad highlights in Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art event running Sept. 10-14.

There’s Black Panther perched upon a wall that prominently features the story’s title embedded into its bricks. It was both an obvious homage to the work of The Spirit’s creator Will Eisner, and, perhaps, a subtle rebuke of it as well. This was only the second splash page to feature T’Challa, following the Jack Kirby-drawn Fantastic Four No. 52 in 1966 – the Panther’s comic-book bow.

The Avengers’ kick-off marks the hero’s first solo splash, and Buscema’s pose, that of the Panther stalking his prey, would define the character for decades to come, in the comics and on screen. Even in black-and-white the evocative panel looks almost three-dimensional, as though T’Challa is about to leap off the page and into the reader’s lap.

“It’s just perfect,” says Heritage Auctions Vice President Barry Sandoval.

And in the days since the death of Chadwick Boseman, to many forever and always the only Black Panther, this image now looms even larger. As critic Elvis Mitchell wrote last week, “Boseman’s Black Panther endured pride as if it were the five stages of grief, with the finality of acceptance feeling like enlightenment.” To look at that image now is to see Boseman beneath that mask, or at least to imagine that this rendering by Buscema informed the actor’s embodiment of the warrior-king from Wakanda.

“The reason Boseman was such great casting was because he had such physicality,” says Sandoval. “And he imbued Black Panther with the nobility of the comic book character.”

The Avengers No. 58 splash page was once the beginning of an era. Now, all too suddenly, it feels like the end of one. Black Panther forever.

Posted by Robert Wilonsky

Robert Wilonsky is the Communications Director for Heritage Auctions.

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