As I think about it, I might have been 7. It was the early 70s and I had been reading a Marvel comic featuring the Black Panther. Growing up, I was one of those kids who seemed, to me at the time, to get picked on and ganged up on a bit more than others in the neighborhood, and at school. I wanted to be strong and to make all the things in my life that were a pain disappear. I couldn’t see, as a 2nd grader, that growing up and graduating from the public school machinery would do more to that end than muscles, tech, and at the time, tights.
BP was a strong character. He was a bad ass. And given the bullshit I was going through as a minor, and the fact that there really isn’t a manual to growing up, I wanted to be him.
My mother was in the den watching TV. It was a school night. I walked in and said, “Mama, I’m going to be the Black Panther when I grow up.” She looked at me, shook her head, and said, “Oh no. You’re not going to be a black panther.”
To paraphrase the immortal words of the Captain in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, what we had here was a “failure to communicate.” Mom was talking about the Black Panther Party, which got it’s start right around the same time the character entered the Marvel universe. Politics and war, and most of the other adult goings-on were mostly a blur to me at the time. That childhood ignorance made my mom’s reaction confusing. No one batted an eye at me wanting to be on the Enterprise bridge, fly like Superman, spin webs, or drive the Batmobile. I don’t remember questioning her. It was a little kid’s fantasy. Eventually I grew out of it. It was much later, after I learned a little bit about the party that I understood what my mom was talking about.
According to Wikipedia, the comic book character predates the founding of the party by a few months during the latter half of 1966,