Linwood Knight and Greg DAE discuss the marriage of Marvel Comic's Storm and Black Panther.
Greg DAE: So it was 2006, Marvel decided to marry off the King of Wakanda to the X-Men Goddess. This one marriage has been a huge source of controversy within fandom. Many excited for it, many against it. Some writers have written them very well together, some... questionable. So T'Challa and Ororo. What are the first things that come to mind?
Linwood Knight: Unbridled and untapped potential. Both together and separately.
Greg: Oh, most definitely. And I'm sure a lot of people would say T'Challa is highly untapped within the last few years, same with Ororo. Their marriage: highly untapped.
Linwood: If I may, let me give you a short history of my reactions. Back in 2006, it was this and the new Spider-Armor that got me back into Comic Book Store, so the happening definitely got me interested. Unfortunately, I felt burnt on both Civil War and OYL, so I pretty much sat 2007 on the sidelines. When I came back in 2008, I felt differently about the proceeding events and it didn't take me long to find out why.
I thought things happened too fast. Yes, I realized that this relation did have its roots in past lore and I was fine with that. It just felt that their journey to the altar happened too fast.
You know what changed my mind? Beyond the countless debates, the fact that there was a LARGE fan contingent that wanted Storm with any number of characters ranging from Thor to Wolverine to Namor and while she and Wolverine know each other as well as friends can, I had to ask myself this question: If T'Challa and Storm had a weak romantic connection, then what about the rest of the characters not named Forge?
From there my mind was opened to the possibilities of the union and I've been a supporter ever since.
Greg: I actually was excited with the idea of them being married. I remember this time when I was talking to this girl and she was a big Storm fan. She wanted her with Wolverine and I understood why. I always felt they had good chemistry, but I read the stuff with Storm and T'Challa in [Christopher] Priest's run and I felt the thought of them together was fantastic. They fit perfectly together. And what really made me enjoy the prospect of them being together was how T'Challa was being portrayed in this run. The man was stoic and highly mysterious and what made him dangerous was that no one knew what was on his mind. That was why we got Ross as his sorta spokesperson. But Storm came along and all the defenses T'Challa had were gone and all his troubles and insecurities were revealed in a very touching and natural way. They had some great scenes and you felt the love they had with each other. That was the first time I knew of the characters together.
So hearing them being married got me hype. Then I read the issues... and I wasn't too impressed. They weren't written the way I was used to, but I went with it because I felt there was a crap ton of potential. It was far too rushed for my taste also. I felt Hudlin, as a whole, wasn't too good of a writer at the time. He had great ideas and I loved what he was setting out to do as a whole, establishing a community within the black characters of the Marvel Universe, and so on. But it took a while for Hudlin to really improve but when he got better, dude was damn good. But I think people got stuck on the low points.
I wish the pairing took longer before the marriage happened. Even a year's worth of stories with us knowing they'd be married. The way of presenting this marriage just was not how it should have been.
Linwood: Since we're on the subject, I have to say that part of the problem lies at the feet of [Reginald] Hudlin. I really don't like blaming Hudlin because he still gets blame for crimes he did and didn't commit, but without question Hudlin wasn't the writer he needed to be when he was writing these characters.
Greg: I have to give props to him because while people were hating on him, he's done quite a bit for the character. I mean, we got a freaking Black Panther cartoon!
Linwood: Exactly. "Who is the Black Panther" is still a great piece of work (even with the Cancer comment) and "Flags of our Fathers" is the Summer Action Movie comic that Marvel and DC should be writing more of. For everything bad you say of Hudlin, you can't deny that he had his heart in the right place.
Greg: Most definitely. One of my favorite things in Hudlin's run was when T'Challa was defeated by Doom and his soul was in Hell. To get him back, Storm went through a ceremony of black magick to go and save his soul and bring him back. I definitely felt Hudlin was at his peak with that arc.
And quite frankly, there wasn't enough of these bad ass moments with these two as a couple. After that we got Doomwar... I won't speak further on that.
There was a crap ton of potential missed besides certain arcs. I thought by getting this marriage, there would be this grand well of stories. Here we had the King of Wakanda getting married to Storm, a mutant. This here was something Xavier has been fighting for, an ultimate union of human/mutant relations. Besides Hudlin addressing this theme, this was presented nowhere else. I also think Storm would have maybe built a school in Wakanda to help with issues. Hell, weren't there mutants in Wakanda due to Vibranium radiation?
Linwood: Yes there were, but remember this marriage took place during the "Decimation" Era so the possibility of Xavier's dream being explored (especially in the wake of Deadly Genesis) was as dead as the exploration of Mutant/Human Relations in Wakanda. In fact, one of the only links to either was in character Gentle whose powers could kill him on a bad day.
Greg: Yeah, I understand, but c'mon now. Eventually we got Cyclops and his Utopia. Cyclops decided the best way after the Decimation was to not only make a nation for mutants, but to separate them. Xavier's dream was officially dead and Cyclops started to become more and more like Magneto. Not a bad idea overall, but Storm, one of the biggest advocates for Xavier's dream, a mutant who's LIVING Xavier's dream with her marriage to T'Challa, went along with Scott no problem. There was NO reason why Storm shouldn't have opposed this whole thing. She should have brought mutants who didn't agree with Scott's way of thinking and brought them to Wakanda. We did have Gentle, who I thought was great, especially in Storm's mini series. But c'mon now.
Linwood: "C'mon now" could be used to described X-Men for the past 7 years come this November. Hell, even 12. But I digress. However, since we're speaking of the X-Men. What role do you think X-Universe creative has played in this union not working as well as it could've?
Greg: Well, concerning this, I'm gonna go back briefly to Hudlin. Hudlin ended up taking the bulk of this marriage and had to try to make it work. I didn't see the X-books do crap. Storm's status on the X-books were gone and she'd come back here and there and we'd get mention of her marriage, but that was it. T'Challa was never a guest star nor played a part. While yes, this was a union of T'Challa and Ororo, this should have been a union of the franchises themselves. And we didn't get any of that. The biggest thing was finding out T'Challa helped fund Utopia on some level, and that was it. We also got that fantastic mini by Christ Yost, where Storm debated on her status as a Queen, wife, and X-Men member, and we got nothing of that in the X-books. I truly think the X-books passed on in trying to establish this relationship with the characters and claimed she was in Black Panther and couldn't do both, but of course we had Logan in 192742 different books.
Linwood: From where I sit, there are 3 big failings of the X-Universe of comics since 2000.
1) The nigh-extermination of the racial minority male mutant.
2) Decimation, which did something far worse than cull the number of mutants. It robbed the mutants of hope for better days and by doing so, the storyline lost the hope that carried it such heights.
3) Ignoring the Storm/T'Challa union. Listen, I understand that the way things came together wasn't the best, but if Alonso or anyone else in power had objections they should've said something before Black Panther #18 dropped. Because the minute it did. The whole company was on the clock to make this work, and with the power that the X-Office commanded (and still commands) they had the power to make it work. Storm should've been front and center in Mutant affairs in some manner, just like how Wolverine starred in a minimum of 4 different books back then. The lack of action is made WORSE by the fact that Alonso edited both the Black Panther and X-Books. There's no reason why BP shouldn't had been adopted into the X-Family like Deadpool was.
Greg: Jeez, don't get me started on the whole minority male thing in the X-universe.
T'Challa could have helped a lot with funding Utopia, helping Dr. Nemesis and his team with science discoveries. I will say one story that showed great potential... McDuffie's Fantastic 4!
Linwood: Most definitely. From everything I've seen of it, Storm and T'Challa are written masterfully. But you know what else sticks out to me about that Fantastic Four run... the fact that McDuffie wasn't afraid to write Storm experiencing issues that Black Woman would have. I know people rage about the weave scene, but I found it to be a stroke of genius.
Greg: The Storm weave scene cracked me up. I actually showed it to my girlfriend at the time and she laughed saying, "This isn't fair. The person who wrote this has inside info!" McDuffie had a great sense for these two as a couple. I loved Storm threatening to embarrass T'Challa in front of his friends. They were portrayed as equals, working well as a couple and as team mates. They had a wonderful dynamic, something that's just been missing for years. The closest thing we got was that one issue by David Liss, who also wrote a fun dynamic between the two.
Linwood: Talk about a writer who gets hate he doesn't deserve. When "Storm Hunter" first dropped, there were many X-Boards Storm fans (I say we give them this distinction, because not all Storm fans are like this) that hated on the comic from cover to cover, but from the amount of pages he has to work with Storm (21) he did a pretty good job with it. What I liked most about it was the fact that she was challenging his pigheaded "self-discovery" journey that he was on at the time. I really fell is Liss had more time with Ororo, he would've done her justice just like he did T'Challa.
Greg: The thing that really worked with that was that everything that was coming out of Storm's mouth was all the concerns and complaints that Black Panther fans were stating about what wasn't making sense with T'Challa's so-called self exile. You wanted T'Challa being put down a peg, you read Storm's interacts to T'Challa. Despite all that, they were a loving couple. And it was fun to see.
Linwood: Indeed, and since we've come to that 800 Pound Gorilla in the room, let's ask that all important question. Have the Fans stepped up when it comes to these characters?
Greg: Eeeeehhhhhh. It's definitely the Man-Ape in the room. I will say it depends on the fans. The most open to this idea of the marriage was in fact the Black Panther fans. I feel they were open to it because they understood what Hudlin was trying to do. I understood what he was trying to do, so I was open to it, especially given how Priest wrote the two of them originally, so yes, they had a past. Then you have the fans that trash it automatically, bringing their shared race as to why they shouldn't be together. You have a crap ton of people believing their past was only brought up as a mini that came up during the marriage. But their past being established from years back, establishing that they were together for a good while. I can understand feeling cheated because they rushed into marriage, but the constant back and forth that they only just met and got together because of them being African... c'mon now. I've noticed, though, a lot of the support for this couple end up being Priest fans or actually black people. We don't have a power couple like T'Challa and Ororo. Wakanda represented an unconquered African country where their culture flourished without being colonized. To have this fantastic union between these two characters generally have black fans cheering. But there are a lot of people who don't understand the underlying sub-theme with this union and just trash it, due to them being African, black, etc. People claim they have nothing in common when their personalities, when written well, fit together in such a beautiful way. It's just that the writers aren't writing them well, and in return, fans are against the union. In the end, there's always going to be this schism between the fandom when it comes to this marriage. It'd make it a lot smoother if the writers actually cared, the writers who aren't named Hudlin or McDuffie.
Linwood: I agree with every point you bought up, Greg. To add to your excellent assessment of the situation, you have to look at where both characters have been for the past 15 years.
In 1997, T'Challa was a broken character. Years of misuse had led to years of non-use and the Black Panther was considered a joke. When Priest launched his run back in '98, it literally came out of nowhere. Here was this character that had been boxed into the "nice, friendly, noble savage" being the "super intelligent, beyond capable, take-no-prisoners" badass that Kirby intended. It was literally Jungle Action on steroids and it was also a book that didn't sell as well as it should've. Black Panther '98 came close to cancellation a number of times and it finally was cancelled in 2003.
However, it was the series that the character needed, because it made him matter again, which lead 6 years of a nearly uninterrupted solo run that saw its share of ups and downs, but pretty much sold well for the 4 years of its existence. Yes, most of those years were propped up by events, but when you consider the natural disadvantages minority led books have, the fact that it was able to survive for that long is a feat in of itself. The sales problems began when T'Challa got injured and Shuri became The Black Panther and they only got worse with D***w*r and the Hell's Kitchen run. Even T'Challa become the Most Dangerous Man Alive didn't help, because the damage had already done.
The lesson one should take away from this? When you start to play T'Challa up to the segment of the audience that's uncomfortable, you lose the audience that's there and they aren't afraid to put their money where their mouth is, even if the book sinks.
As for Storm, 1997 - 2006 was a strange time for her. On one hand, Ororo had been a feature player in the X-Men Animated and would go on to be a star in the X-Men movie trilogy and second X-Men Cartoon "X-Men Evolution". Thanks to the foundation Claremont built in the 80's, Storm was now an iconic X-Men, but she wasn't treated as such.
- In the animated series Storm was portrayed with all sound and no fury as she would faint more than be useful.
- In X-Men Evolution, we didn't really get to see her much, due to the focus on the younger X-Men. Storm as a mentor made sense, but it was a missed opportunity.
- The X-Men movies? The less said, the better.
As for the comics, slowly but surely she became more and more minimized. Her exclusion from Morrison's New X-Men series was where the cracks began, even if it didn't look that way. The X-Treme X-Men treasure hunt went no damn where and the XSE year would become the true equivalent of a throw away. By Decimation M, the X-Office allowed her to shipped off to Africa, something that seemed extremely off to me, but it allowed for T'Challa to become the scapegoat for Storm's issues that persist to this day. Still, I have to wonder where Storm would be without the marriage as the poor performance of "World's" Apart reflected poorly on the fan-base and is probably the main reason why Captain Marvel is getting launched in July instead of Storm.
Greg: And we're coming to now of this marriage... how awful is this marriage in these most recent issues of Avengers vs X-Men? Really, Marvel? Once again... c'mon now. While they haven't been showcased as much as they should, they were established as a happy couple. But now we have them facing each other. First off, it doesn't make sense that both characters would agree to fight, they would have been on the sides trying to find another alternative. The first time I caught this event would compromise this union was when Storm walks out of the Avengers meeting during the Phoenix briefing, and T'Challa stands down from following her after Captain America tells him to. Are you freakin' kidding me?! This is his wife!!! When they do come face to face, we find out they've been with a marriage counselor. And then a strike team to Wakanda that causes damage due to their fighting where apparently T'Challa knocks his wife out, leading to a depressed and angered Storm referring to T'Challa as her estranged husband. I'm really sorry, but this event has been so awful to these characters, so badly used and COMPLETELY out of character.
Linwood: Where do I begin with AvX...? Besides the plot contradicting 30 years of history needlessly (seriously, the brain trust could've solved the problem with 29 words or less), the way everyone has been written is so god damn horrific that it would take me days to go over all of the issues the main series has had. But that's not going to stop me from talking about how Black Panther and Storm have been written. What has gone wrong exactly? Let me count the ways.
1) Ororo walking out of the meeting? Okay, I can accept that, especially if she's going to warn the X-Men about what's going to happen. What I can't accept is T'Challa being the good little Soldier Boy and listening to Captain America when he tells him to stop. I'm sorry, while T'Challa can and will follow Steve's orders, I cannot accept him not tell Steve to bugger off and going after his wife. Sorry that's not going to fly.
2) The Marriage Counselor line. What the hell, Aaron? Seriously. What the hell?!? With all of the things they could be talking about at that moment, airing their dirty laundry is the LAST thing they would be talking about. Not only is it completely immature and unprofessional, but it flies in the face of what we've been shown over the past few years. This is the type of dialogue that has become more prevalent, and it hurts the stories big time.
3) The Versus Issue. When I saw the solicitation to AvX Vs. #5, I literally cringed. I was hoping and praying that they wouldn't fight, but I NEVER thought things would be as bad as they've been for the past 30 days. Not only did Storm invade Wakanda on Cyclops call (think about this for a second, people), but she bought Dr. Nemesis with her. The same Dr. Nemesis who worked for the Nazi's. How can Storm come out looking good through all of this? How can T'Challa when he hit his wife? When I saw that panel I literally had to put the comic down and walk away from the shelf (no way in hell was I buying that "comic") to calm down. It's a moment I'm never going to forget and for all the wrong reasons.
Greg: Honestly, I am rather speechless when it comes to the current event with this couple. I think I've gotten a tad exhausted with this whole thing with them to the point where I may just say, "I don't really care anymore." Do you have any hope for this couple? After this event?
Linwood: Honestly... I can't say I'm too hopeful at all and it especially hurts to say this after Fantastic Four #607 which was such a damn good story. The problem is that there are far too many forces against the union than are for it. No matter the story potential, or the good that can come from it, Marvel is going to make sure that its main fan-base is kept happy, and right now they want to see the union ended.
I really hope Marvel proves me wrong and they come out of this together.
Greg: I'm definitely hoping we're proven wrong because honestly, this union should be prospered and explored and we're not getting much of that. It seems there are writers now, like Hickman in his Fantastic 4, that has plans for T'Challa, and hopefully they're good plans for the future. But it's not just T'Challa I would like to see worked on, but Ororo also. I hope both parties, the BP and X-Men parties, take advantage of what could be done with this franchise.
Fantastic Four # 607 was a pretty fun read, but I hope next issue we get to see some perspective with Ororo, which has sorely been missing in this current issue.
Linwood: What future scenario do you want to see Storm and T'Challa in?
Greg: What I would like to see? I would like to see both characters written well as strong individuals that led to their fan-base first and foremost. And then as a strong couple, supporting each other without losing what made them who they were. I'd love to see them treated with respect and not as a joke. I'd love to see them actually together, solving problems and actually being a couple. We've got a bit of that here and there (Deadliest of the Species, Liss' two-parter, McDuffie's Fantastic Four). But there can be sooo much more, especially considering they've been married for 6 years now. What about you?
Linwood: Personally I'd love to see everything you said about them being strong individuals and an excellent couple. Is it a balance that's hard to achieve? Sure. But is it worth trying? Definitely. I'm a lot more tolerant of shortcomings when there's actual effort to do and be different from the rest of the pack.
Beyond what you said, I'd also like to see them challenged by each to become better people. For T'Challa we all know about his tendency to have a plan for everyone and everything, which leads to his tendencies of shortsightedness and questionable moves. For him, Storm could be the person that gets him to stop being paranoid in certain situations and to learn to trust others.
As for Storm, this is a lot harder because it sometimes feels like Storm hasn't been a consistent 3-dimensional character since the 80's, but for me T'Challa can open Storm up to the possibilities. With her position as a World Leader, Storm could become so much more important to mutant/human relations than ever was. With her as a member of a Royal Family, Ororo could influence so much that it just burns me to see her not use her position in such a manner. I want to see Storm out there and be a real Mutant leader, not a Squad commander.
Written or Contributed by: Linwood Knight, Greg DAE