Beauty, as goes that popular adage, is in the eye of the beholder. And the same goes for coolness, too. What’s cool to one person may only be––figuratively speaking –– about ‘room temp’ to another.
After seeing this carefully curated list of the 20 coolest Black Panther comic book covers, though, we’re sure you’ll agree that those we’ve collected here are all pretty darn cool. The task of putting this list together was also pretty darn hard. Well, much harder than expected.
Historically speaking, Marvel’s Black Panther has never been one of the company’s most successful, and thus, continuously published titles. Not like, say, The Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, or Uncanny X-Men. In fact, since the first series was launched back in 1977, there have been 5 different Black Panther comic book series, the most recent of these launched in 2016.
Some volumes, like the 2005 series (vol. 4), which featured stories by Reginald Hudlin and Jonathan Maberry, lasted only a year before its cancellation. Others, like the 1998 Black Panther series, clawed out a longer lasting spot on comic shop racks. This second volume, which featured stories written by Christopher Priest, had a fairly impressive five-year and 64 issue run.
And so, unlike several other Marvel titles, even without four or five decades of continuously published comics, a list of the 20 coolest Black Panther comic book covers still presented quite a challenge! But this cat-alog (see what I did there?) of cool-looking covers shows that Marvel, over the years, still put a surprising level of care into the presentation of Black Panther comics.
Note: Covers listed in no particular order––they’re all uber cool.
20. Black Panther (Vol. 4) #18, Frank Cho Cover
First up is a cover that captured a very special moment in comics: the much-awaited marriage of T’Challa (aka Black Panther), the ruler of Wakanda, and Storm, one of the leaders of the X-Men. To suit the tastes of insatiable collectors, Marvel produced three different covers, the standard cover being a beautiful, front and back gatefold affair featuring pencil work by fan favorite artist Frank Cho.
As you can see, the piece had a lot going for it, starting with an absolutely ravishing Storm wearing a designer dress that was the cat’s pajamas. Because the couple’s marriage played out during Marvel’s ‘Civil War’ comic event, Iron Man and Captain America are featured in the foreground, mean-muggin’ each other as maid of honor Kitty Pride looks on. The back features a bevy of costumed guests, including a misty-eyed Bishop––who shows us all that real men do in fact cry.
19. Black Panther (Vol. 6) #8, Brian Stelfreeze Cover
For much of his career in comics, artist Brian Stelfreeze has been known as a cover artist, achieving recognition in the 1990s for producing more than 50 cover illustrations for the DC Comics’ series Batman: Shadow of the Bat. In recent years, Stelfreeze has helped to define the look of Marvel’s current crop of Black Panther titles, both inside and out. These books include Black Panther: World of Wakanda (2016), Black Panther and the Crew (2017), the online exclusive graphic novel Black Panther: Soul of a Machine (2017), and Rise of the Black Panther (2018).
In addition to his contributions to the aforementioned titles, Stelfreeze has also been the cover artist for the monthly Black Panther series launched in 2016. Along with series writer Ta-Nahisi Coates, and veteran comic book illustrator Chris Sprouse, Stelfreeze’s cover art –– like the brilliant image he created for issue #8 (take a few steps back to fully appreciate the visual) –– asserts the specialness of the Black Panther title in the Marvel Comics universe.
18. Black Panther (Vol. 5) #5, J. Scott Cambell Cover
With the 2009 re-launch of Black Panther (Volume 4), Marvel made a valiant attempt to make the nerdiverse sit up and notice by having the first six covers illustrated by fan favorite artist J. Scott Campbell (Gen-13, Danger Girl). Amidst his many eye-catching accomplishments, Campbell is known for a stellar series of covers he drew for Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man.
With issue #5 of his Black Panther cover run, Campbell brought the caramel colored hotness with an image of a scantily clothed Storm with her gorgeous flesh pressed against her hubby T’Challa, who gazes at the horizon with an ‘I’ve got the baddest dame in the game’ look on his face. Meanwhile, in the cover’s background looms an ominous vision of a tormented Shuri, T’Challa’s baby sis.
17. Black Panther (Vol. 3) #23, Sal Valutto Cover
Artist Sal Velluto was the longtime artist on the 1998 Black Panther series, producing the interior illustrations and covers for 30 of this volume’s 62-issues. Valluto’s illustrations weren’t as stylish or dynamic as Marvel’s many superstar artists, but writer Christopher Priest considered him to be one of the most reliable artists when it came to delivering faithful interpretations of Priest’s written work.
Velluto’s visual interpretation featured on cover of Black Panther #23 shows T’Challa baring his claws as he prepares to go toe-toe-toe with the mutant “merc with a mouth,” Deadpool. Looking on are T’Challa’s fellow Avengers She-Hulk, Iron Man, Triathlon, Giant Man, and the Wasp. The book itself is the second installment of the 2-part “Cat Trap” story that began in Deadpool #44.
16. Black Panther (Vol. 1) #1, Jack Kirby Cover
In July of 1966, writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby introduced their newest superhero creation, the Black Panther, into the pulse-pounding pages of Fantastic Four #52. The historic entry of the costumed king T’Challa of the fictional African nation of Wakanda made this character the very first black superhero to claw his way into comics.
Eleven years after his creation, and after several appearances in other Marvel titles, including Captain America, The Avengers and Jungle Action, T’Challa was given his very own book. In January of 1977, the first issue of “the all-new, all-exiting Black Panther” hit newspaper stands and corner drug stores across the nation. And the covers, interior illustrations, and the writing in the first 12-issues of this short-lived series were all handled by Kirby, T’Challa’s legendary co-creator.
15. Black Panther (Vol. 4) #13, Jae Lee Cover
Between 1991 and 1993, artist Jae Lee established himself as a visual force to be reckoned with through of his illustrative work on spine-tingling tales found in Marvel Comics Presents #85–92, soon followed up by Namor the Sub-Mariner, issues #26–38. Other notable Marvel books that featured his haunting and expressive illustrations include Spider-Man, Captain America and, most notably, Inhumans (vol. 2).
In 2008, Lee’s distinctive style made a gorgeous fit for the cover of Black Panther #13, a book that featured a dark tale penned by series writer Reginald Hudlin, and set in the bayous of Louisiana during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The tale would involve vampires, voodoo magic, and a visit from a super cool vampire slayer! The ever-popular Luke Cage, and a super-heroine with a French surname also co-star. Oh, and an old geezer who looks just like Fred Sanford also makes a cameo. ‘Nuff said!
14. Black Panther (Vol. 6) #7, Brian Stelfreeze Cover
The story in the seventh issue of Marvel’s current on-going Black Panther series was made to serve as an introduction to the launching of the 2017 team book Black Panther & The Crew, featuring T’Challa, Storm of the X-Men, Luke Cage/Power Man, Brother Voodoo, and the cult favorite character Misty Knight. Unfortunately, ‘The Crew’ was cancelled only after two issues, with Marvel blaming racial diversity and therefore thus poor sales on its demise.
Instead of launching into a snippy diatribe about Marvel’s proven track record of diluting the quality of good comic books properties by over-saturating the market with much more product than the market will sustain (see: Spider-Man, X-Men, Wolverine and the Punisher), I’ll play nice and just marvel over at how beautifully Brian Stelfreeze illustrated the cover of Black Panther #7. Ain’t it purrrty?
13. Black Panther (Vol. 4) #11, Mike Dedato Cover
Even the most casual fans of old school kung fu flicks may recognize this sweet homage to the 1973 martial arts classic Enter the Dragon, which was featured on the cover of Black Panther #11. The Warner Brothers film was Bruce Lee’s first and––tragically––last film produced for the domestic market before his untimely passing a few months before its release.
The popularity of Bruce Lee in the early 1970s had a tremendous impact on several Marvel Comics titles of the day, the most obvious these being the comic book Master of Kung-Fu, featuring the martial arts master Shang Chi. And Shang Chi’s often quite visible likeness to the Enter the Dragon back in the day star is on full display in this cover illustration by Brazilian comic book artist Mike Deodato Jr., whose work has graced the cover and interiors of various Marvel titles, including Elektra, Moon Knight, Amazing Spider-Man, and Daredevil.
12. Black Panther (Vol. 4) #34, Salvadore Larocca & Paco Roca Cover
If you weren’t reading Black Panther when this issue came out back in March of 2008, the gorgeous woman with a large white Afro and wearing a shoulder holster and black leather mini skirt isn’t Misty Knight. It’s actually Storm, who––unfortunately––doesn’t actually rock a ‘fro in this issue. Nonetheless, it’s a gorgeous cover image that wonderfully coveys the underlying vibe of this uber cool parallel universe tale skillfully woven by Reginald Hudlin.
Spanish artist Salvador Larocca (Uncanny X-Men, Invincible Iron Man, Darth Vader) produced the line art of the cover image and received a painterly assist from fellow Spaniard Paco Roca, who handled the artwork’s colors and textures. As goes the saying: teamwork makes the dream work.
11. Black Panther (Vol. 1) #7, Jack Kirby Cover
In spite it’s groundbreaking place in the history of comic books, or maybe because of it, Marvel’s original Black Panther series only lasted for 15 issues before it was cancelled in May of 1979. For the first 12-issues of the title’s existence, Jack Kirby served quite admirably as the books writer, editor, illustrator, and cover artist.
This entry, the second of two Kirby entries in this list of the top 20 coolest Black Panther covers, features pencils by Kirby and beautifully inked lines by artist Ernie Chan. At this point in Kirby’s career, he’d been illustrating comic books for just over four decades (he started in 1936), so the art in some issues popped better than others. And this cover shows glimpses of Kirby at his best.
10. Black Panther (Vol. 3) #46, Jorge Lucas Cover
Long ago, in galaxy far, far away (but not really), the Uraguayan-born artist Jorge Lucas brought his skill as and artist to the pages of the Black Panther comic book with issue #46. The story, which takes place long ago (as already mentioned), in the year of 1875––and in the city of Alberdene, Texas––sees the Black Panther caught in a wacky temporal jump thanks to those crazy critters known in Black Panther lore as “King Solomon’s frogs” (see: Kirby cover at entry #16).
For the cover of this issue, Jorge Lucas, who is in no way related to the creator of Star wars (we swear on our lightsabers), turned in striking cover that captures the otherworldly vibe found in comics and adventure novels of another time. In fact, it shows us that, in the hands of the right editors, T’Challa of Wakanda could have been reinvented as handsome, hunky adventurer in the vein of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, or John Carter of Mars!
9. Black Panther (Vol. 4) #21, Gary Frank Cover
For this entry in the list of the top 20 coolest Black Panther comic book covers, it was a something of a toss up between Gary Frank’s cover art for Black Panther #10 and his art for issue #21. But the latter –– somewhat the strongest of the two covers, visually speaking –– that won the coin toss. Frank has always been known for his delicately articulated line work, but the painterly arrangement of colors applied by artist Dean White here takes this piece to a whole ‘nother level.
Here T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, and Namor, King of Atlantis, are captured seemingly locked in a life or death duel. The rage in Namor’s eyes echoes the fiery tones that inflame the early evening sky above. The previously mentioned tones are balanced by the anchor of blue and black tones found in Namor’s leggings, T’Challa’s Black Panther costume, and the blue-green tones of the waters that flow before them in the foreground.
8. Black Panther (Vol. 6) #13-16, Jamie McKelvie Variant Covers
What’s cooler than one Black Panther variant comic book cover with an illustration by artist Jamie McKelvie? Well, how about four interlocking variant covers! That’s right, True Believers. There was simply no way that we could compile a list of the top 20 coolest Black Panther comic book covers without including this senses-shattering masterpiece. Just look at it!
The best thing about this is that, unlike the 1991 X-Men re-launch, which featured four interlocking covers by Jim Lee––but the same friggin’ comic underneath, these beauties here were spread over four monthly installments! So you have to tip your hat to Marvel. Sure, they botched it when they blamed the cancellation of Black Panther & The Crew on fandom’s inability to embrace diversity, but then they turn around and commission the visual equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” for Black Panther. Yeah, this got ’em some cool points back.
7. Black Panther (Vol. 4) #2, Esad Ribic Cover
In the mid-to-late-1990s, the unique-looking artistry of Croatian-born artist and animator Esad Ribi? made a striking impression when first found on small press comic titles like Crimson Nun and Warrior Nun: Frenzy. Since 2000, the majority of Ribi?’s comic book-related art has been for Marvel, including work on titles like Wolverine, Ultimate X-Men, and the House of M.
In 2005, Ribic provided the visually arresting cover shown above for Black Panther (vol. 3) #2. The piece boasts an image of T’Challa handing a much larger challenger a knuckle sandwich and a side order of stars! BP comic book fans that have actually read this issue might also recognize elements from the tale that were featured on screen in Marvel’s blockbuster 2018 film, Black Panther.
6. Black Panther (Vol. 6) #17-20, Variant Covers By Jenny Frison
Holy Wakandan hieroglyphs! After four months of fans waiting to exhale with the final installment of interlocking variants for Black Panther #13-16, Marvel started another four month long mic drop with a stunning set of interlocking covers for issues #17-166! And, no, the numbering isn’t a typo. Issue #19 was released during 2017’s “Marvel Legacy” re-launch, which saw the publisher reverting back to the classic numbering system dating all the way back to each original first issue––yes, before rebooting every few years with new #1 issues became a standard business model for both Marvel and DC.
So counting backwards to Kirby’s Black Panther #1 from January 1977, issue #19 of the current series became issue #166, signifying Marvel’s recognition of 165 issues, from then to now. And Jenny Frison, a talented artist who specializes in variant edition comic book covers, produced the visual equivalent of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling for these four issues and won back still more cool points for Marvel.
5. Black Panther (Vol. 4) #18, Michael Turner Variant Cover
The late Michael Turner (1971 – 2008) was a young artist who established himself in the mid-1990s with distinctive-looking and often sexy illustrative work on Image Comics titles like Ballistic, Witchblade and Fathom. In 2004, Turner contributed covers to various DC Comics titles, including Action Comics, Superman/Batman, Justice League of America and Supergirl.
After producing an incredible run of covers for publishing rival DC, Tuner’s services were wisely secured by Marvel. His first production was the electrifying variant cover for Black Panther #18, followed by additional covers for Black Panther #23-25. And before his very untimely passing from cancer, Turner’s pulse-pounding pencils were featured on several other Marvel titles, including the Civil War mini-series, Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Uncanny X-Men and World War Hulk.
4. Black Panther: Man Without Fear (Vol. 1) #519 & #520, Simone Bianchi Covers
The uniquely created visuals of Italian artist Simone Bianchi, distinguished by his use of ink wash, or watercolor halftones, hit the radar of most Marvel Comics readers in 2007, with his work on Wolverine issues #50-55. He followed this up with artwork produced for Astonishing X-Men issues #25-30 (2008–09), and the Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes, miniseries, #1-2 (2008).
In 2011, Bianchi was tapped to provide covers for the first eight issues of Marvel’s audacious new title Black Panther: The Man Without Fear. After Marvel’s Shadowland cross-title event, T’Challa was extended an invitation by Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) to serve as the protector of his New York City neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen. T’Challa then became the lead character in Daredevil, beginning with issue #513 (Feb. 2011) and ending with issue #529.
3. Black Panther (Vol. 3) #1, Mark Texeira Cover
Despite Mark Texeira’s having entered the comics industry in the early 1980s, doing work then almost exclusively for DC, it was in the early 1990s, while working for Marvel, that his incomparable visual style found an audience. This was in large part due to what “Tex” brought, as both an illustrator and a painter, to titles like Marvel Comics Presents (1990–91), Ghost Rider, vol. 2 (1990–1992, 1997–1998), Wolverine vol. 2 (1993), and the Sabretooth miniseries (1993)
In 1998, when Texeira was tapped to kick off Black Panther vol. 3 with a four-issue story arc, fans with high hopes for the character’s reintroduction to monthly comic book publishing knew T’Challa was being given a firm visual foundation. And Tex’s painted cover on issue #1 offered both old and new fans of the character a tantalizing glimpse of what was to come from the then-new Black Panther. The smart storytelling of writer Christopher Priest did the rest.
2. Black Panther: Man Without Fear (Vol. 1) #517, Simone Bianchi Cover
Just about all of the covers from artist Simone Bianchi’s 8-issue run on Black Panther: Man Without Fear are worthy of a spot on this list. But, somehow, we narrowed it down to only two. Simone’s previous entry, which featured the interlocking cover image produced for issues #519 and 520, was a no-brainer. This one was picked for the intimate but still also incredibly tense depiction of a rooftop fistfight between superhero buds Black Panther and Luke Cage.
The cover of Black Panther #517 also provides a fitting allusion to the back-and-forth struggle that existed during the process of choosing the covers that would fill each entry of this post––and especially the very last one!
1. Black Panther (Vol. 6) #1, Brian Stelfreeze Cover
With the final entry in this list of the top 20 coolest Black Panther comic book covers, a last minute switch was made and a self-imposed rule was broken. Seeing as how variant covers have a built-in edge compared to standard covers (they’re generally made to look extra special so that collectors will fork over more moolah), an attempt was made to limit the variants featured here. Issue #18 (Michael Turner’s Storm variant) is a very sentimental favorite, and any attempt to resist the coolness of those interlocking covers would’ve also have been quite futile.
The attempt to resist the coolness of the 2016 Black Panther #1 hip-hop variant would have been futile, too––and just foolish! So here it is, Brian Stelfreeze’s clever homage to Jay-Z’s iconic Black Album. To paraphrase the chorus of the best-known track on the Black Album: I got 99 problems, but not knowin’ how to properly close a listicle ain’t one. Hit me.
All right, True Believers. Was this list of the top 20 coolest Black Panther comic book covers kitty litter or the cat’s meow? Let us know in the Facebook comments box below!