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The New Image of American Panther and How His Story Will Address Immigration [Exclusive]

The the latest image of the enigmatic American Panther character has been released by Marvel Comics exclusively on ComicsAlliance, featuring the newly patriotic hero taking aim on the cover of Black Panther: Man Without Fear #522 by artist Patrick Zircher.

American Panther will debut in the upcoming Fear Itself event, and is presumably T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther) wearing a new and very specifically American costume.

Black Panther #522 will hit stands later this summer, and will be written by David Liss and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla. We spoke to both Liss and the book’s editor, Bill Rosemann, about the larger thematic implications behind the African king adopting a patriotic American identity, and how the revamp of the character is going to address the controversial issues of immigration and racial tension in America through both American Panther and the racially diverse neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen where T’Challa has taken over guardianship from Daredevil.ComicsAlliance: In terms of the art, this take on the character looks a little sleeker and more dramatic than the initial image, possibly because he’s in action. Is this more representative of how the new costume is going to look in Fear Itself?

Bill Rosemann: The American Panther costume, designed by the amazingly talented Francesco Francavilla, has remained the same throughout our promo process, but yes, maybe you’re feeling a sleeker and more dramatic vibe due to the fact that he’s standing in profile here and has his arm raised. Or maybe being drawn by Patrick Zircher instantly makes you slimmer? I smell a new diet sensation: Body By Zircher!

CA: What does it mean for an African king to become a patriotic American figure? Are there any potential allegories in here for immigration or melting pot assimilation in America?

David Liss: We’ve been very cautious from the beginning about revealing what the American Panther is going to mean to our book or our characters. That said, I don’t think there is any way to tell a story about immigration without it functioning, at least one some level, as a microcosm of the American immigration experience. To say more than that would be to reveal too much about the story, but one thing we wanted to focus on here is the tension between native-born Americans and the people who come here from other countries. It was a complicated and emotional subject before the American Revolution, and it remains complicated and emotional now.

Bill Roseman: From the very first issue, David and Francesco have been tapping into the iconic nature of Hell’s Kitchen as a bubbling melting pot of different ethnicities, and as a symbol for all of New York City as a welcoming beacon for immigrants throughout America’s history. Will we explore ideas of national identity, racial conflict, assimilation and illegal immigration in this story? Following the Marvel tradition of holding a mirror up to society, you bet we will.

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