Black Panther and Captain America’s Shared History
Read ‘Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers’ for FREE on Marvel Unlimited.
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Ten years ago, writer Reginald Hudlin capped off his time with Black Panther by teaming up with artist Denys Cowan for a four-issue limited series called CAPTAIN AMERICA/BLACK PANTHER: FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (2010). This series expanded upon a scene from Hudlin’s BLACK PANTHER (2005) #1—the first ever meeting between Captain America and Black Panther during the waning days of World War II.
However, the man under the Black Panther’s mask was not T’Challa. Instead, it was T’Challa’s grandfather, Azzuri the Wise, who fought and befriended Cap. Although neither Steve Rogers nor Azzuri could have predicted it, their shared experience in ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ paved the way for Cap’s long friendship with T’Challa. A bond that’s still playing out today.
Marvel Unlimited is currently offering CAPTAIN AMERICA/BLACK PANTHER: FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS for free. It’s an important chapter in Black Panther’s canon, and has a fresh take on historical events told through an action-adventure lens.
Surprisingly, Steve and Azzuri are not the point of view characters in ‘Flags of Our Fathers.’ The events actually unfold through the eyes of Gabriel Jones, the only Black member of Sgt. Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos. In the first issue, Gabe expresses how he feels to be among the Howling Commandos at a time when the United States armed forces weren’t integrated. Gabe was keenly aware of the racism and bias in his own nation, yet was proud to storm the Nazi’s strongholds to knock down evil in its path.
A large part of ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ also follows Gabe’s reaction to the very concept of Wakanda itself. He even receives a rare opportunity to become its citizen after saving Azzuri’s family. Gabe’s loyalties are also tested by the demands from his commanding officer, Fury, as well as his feelings of kinship with Azzuri and his connection to the Wakandan way of life.
Both Steve and Azzuri also walked away as different men following this series. Although BLACK PANTHER (2005) depicted their battle as a largely one-sided fight in favor of Azzuri, ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ #1 made it even more of an encounter. In the aftermath, Azzuri and Steve were fast friends, much to the amazement of Fury and Gabe.
Azzuri was one of the first to realize that Captain America had the potential to be a powerful symbol for Americans, just as the Black Panther is for Wakandans. The king also offered an education that allowed Steve to see beyond the conflict between the Allies and the Axis. When Azzuri told Cap that Wakanda had chosen their own side, he wasn’t being flippant. Azzuri was demonstrating that Wakanda could easily stand alone. But he also showed Steve that Wakanda’s vision for its own future was far more important than any global empire.
Speaking of which, this limited series also featured early clashes between Captain America and the Red Skull, as well as Fury’s lifelong enmity with Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. The Nazis intended to overrun and conquer Wakanda with some of its heaviest hitters. But between the efforts of Black Panther, Cap, Gabe, the Wakandan warriors, and the Howling Commandos, Wakanda remained unbroken and unbowed.
It should also be noted that T’Challa’s father, T'Chaka, and uncle, S’Yan, both appeared as children in this run. Their sibling rivalry nearly led to tragedy, but they also learned some valuable lessons from their father. In turn, the inspiration for Cap’s iconic shield came from the final showdown in issue #4. Even Azzuri embraced new ideas by series’ end.
The spirit of that friendship was reflected decades later, when T’Challa fought by Steve’s side in landmark issue CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #100. In AVENGERS (1963) #51, Cap even asked Black Panther to join the team. Their bond was further strengthened in CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #169-171, when T’Challa designed the Falcon costume for Steve’s new partner, Sam Wilson.
Years later, when Steve had resigned as Captain America, T’Challa gave him a magnificent new Vibranium shield in CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #342. That gesture echoed Azzuri’s offer to let Steve keep his first Wakandan shield. It should also be mentioned that T’Challa stood by Cap’s side during CIVIL WAR (2006), another example of their enduring friendship and alliance.
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Within the pages of AVENGERS (2018), Steve and T’Challa’s mutual respect remained strong. Black Panther was instated as the current team leader, to Cap’s full support and approval.
Together, Captain America and the reigning Black Panther have saved the world several times over. And that’s a tradition that won’t be ending any time soon, as their bond has crossed nations and spanned generations.
Read CAPTAIN AMERICA/BLACK PANTHER: FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS for free, and see what other complete series, arcs, and pivotal storylines are free to read right now too, all spotlighting prolific Black creator-led comics that feature the work of incredible writers and artists throughout Marvel history.
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