The grandson of Jack Kirby, co-creator of Marvel superhero Black Panther, shared the earliest sketch of the character that Chadwick Boseman would bring to life on the big screen, and he posted it only hours before news of Boseman’s death broke on Friday.
The concept art that Jeremy Kirby posted on Twitter — intended to commemorate what would have been his grandfather’s 103rd birthday — is a far cry from the dark outfit that would become recognizable to viewers across the globe after the film adaptation of “Black Panther” rocked the box office in 2018.
It was previously published in 1974 in the 10th issue of the Marvel comic book “Jungle Action” as a sneak peek into the creation of T’Challa, aka the Black Panther and the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.
A message in the issue explained that artist Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee originally debated giving T’Challa the superhero name “Coal Tiger” — exemplified by the “C” and “T” on the original art — but decided against it, revamping the character and his costume into the sleek combination of today.
Following the announcement of Boseman’s death, Jeremy Kirby updated his Twitter feed with a eulogy for the 43-year-old actor, who died after being diagnosed with colon cancer four years earlier.
The accompanying image showed the more familiar superhero suit as illustrated by the elder Kirby on the cover of “Black Panther” issue seven, which was released in 1977.
Jack Kirby and Lee devised Black Panther in the 1960s in an effort to include more prominent Black figures on Marvel’s comic book roster.
Lee said in interviews that the character bore the same name as the Black Panther Party, which was an unplanned and “strange coincidence.” Technically, T’Challa’s July 1966 debut predated the official formation of the Black Panther Party that same year in October.
Boseman’s death occurred on the elder Kirby’s birthday, one of two other unusual coincidences.
Boseman also portrayed baseball legend Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film “42,” and the world learned of his passing on Jackie Robinson Day — a fact that was not lost on Marvel writer Dan Slott.