Monday, December 26, 2016

Panther Powers Part 3: the Annual Tournament and Tribal Challenges

[This is Part 3 of a multiple post series going over the details and intricacies of the multiple sources of superpowers in Wakanda and how they have changed over the years. 

In Part 3, we take a comprehensive look into the Annual Tournament and Tribal Challenges]

The Tournament

Once a year, Wakanda holds a tournament so any Wakandan can challenge the current Black Panther in unarmed, hand-to-hand combat. The winner has the ability to conduct the Rite of Ascension and get access to the HSH, and presumably, become the Black Panther.

The tournament stems from the belief that every warrior in Wakanda has the strength and ability to protect Wakanda from outsiders. And only a fit king is capable of it.

We have seen only two tournaments: a glimpse at one of T'chaka's defenses and three isntances of seeing T'challa's initial victory int he tournament.

The tournament was basically a battle royale of sorts one participate jumped in after the one before was dealt with. A notable difference in regards to the Tournament and the Trial by Combats is that a knock out was sufficient in the tournament while it has been stated in previous Trial-by-Combats that someone must die or yield.

The first tournament in the comic timeline shown was one of T'chaka's defenses, before the birth of T'challa. We only got a one panel glimpse but this panel made it clear that this happened yearly and that some challengers would repeat the challenge despite defeat.

Rise of the Black Panther #1
The first tournament that apearred int he comics was shown in Kirby #8. It doesn't outright state it was an annual tournament but everything about it is consistent with future portrayals. The biggest difference between Kirby and Hudlin is that the Black Panther is unnamed in Kirby's run while it was S'yan in Hudlin's. But, due to the reagent not really having a name, we can safely assume it was S'yan under the habit in Kirby #8.

Kirby #8
Hudlin in his Who is the Black Panther arc basically told the same story but updated it and fleshed it out substantially. Plus the introduction of Shuri as well.

Hudlin #2
In the Rise of the Black Panther book, we got another look at T'challa's tournament win over his uncle. However, the edition changed the tournament once again. T'challa first had to win against some unnamed Wakandan warriors, then defeat a group of Doras, and then he was given a chance to fight the Black Panther. The use of weapons is also new. As is the information that the tournament location changes yearly to prevent people from prepping, although T'challa was still able to do it. 

Rise of the Black Panther #2

Tribal Challenges/Trial-by-Combat

Tribal Challenges are basically like free-style annual tournaments. They seemingly can be issued at anytime and anywhere and have their own specific rules to them. We have seen a handful of Tribal Challenges on panel that varied in their formalities.

T'challa vs M'baku in Avengers, vol 1 #62

- This was actually the first Trial Challenge in the history of the mythos. You can see the full fight between the two HERE. This wasn't much different than a normal fight, other than T'challa felt the need to fight M'baku alone.

T'challa vs Killmonger in Priest #19-21

- This is easily the most famous and most detailed Tribal Challenge in the history of they mythos. You can find the full fight HERE. This fight introduced many of the formalities of the Tribal Challenges, such as having to yield or die, the ruling king could declare the match over, the multiple breaks taken and the length of the fight, and that fact a location could be chosen.

T'challa vs M'baku in Priest #34-35

- This was another detailed Tribal Challenge in Priest run, this time issued by M'baku. It first started by a battle-by-proxy with T'challa using Gyrich has a pawn as he freed Vibraxas. As Queen Divine Justice forbid M'baku from killing T'challa, T'challa knew Gyrich would be safe.

Gyrich had another trick up his sleeve though. Due to his knowledge of Wakanda Tribal Law, he declared D'narga, making it that the challenge became skill based only and not to the death.

T'challa then proceeded to take back over the Challenge and preceded to defeat M'baku rather easily. You can find that full fight HERE. What is interesting is that he was not killed however, which contradicts the "yield or die" thing seen in the Killmonger fight.

Shuri vs G in Age of Heroes #4

- The last Tribal Challenge on panel was way back in 2010 in an obscure Age of Heroes mini series. Following Deadliest of the Species and Doom War, Wakanda quickly went through a huge transition period, ushering in a new ruler and losing their Vibranium. Under these circumstances, Shuri's rule was challenged by G'tuga. What is interesting about this Tribal Challenge is that it was in the format of the annual tournament. It was held in a ring in front of a great crowd of people.

One Tribal Challenge I have not mentioned is Kasper vs Killmonger during Priest's run during the Ascension arc. That is because it didn't follow any of the established rules and wasn't a "true" Tribal Challenge. The Tribal Challenge has historically come before the Rite of Ascension (as defeating the Black Panther gives you the ability to take the Rites) but in this case, Kasper completed the Rites first. The Rite of Ascension was modified from the very beginning by T'challa so nothing about the situation was "normal" and it was more of a one-time thing.

Peter Gillis introduced a different type of Tribal Challenge during his four issue mini series. When the Panther Spirit left T'challa and he was depowered, Mendinao and the Tribal Council put T'challa through various challenges to determine if was still a worthy champion of the Panther God.

T'challa first had to undergo the Ordeal of the White Ape, He had to climb a sacred mountain that was inhabited by the Great White Ape, take a leaf from a tree at the peak, and make it back down. In this particular challenge, T'challa failed as Bomvana cheated the process to help T'challa.

Gillis #1 of 4
T'challa was also challenged by T'swana the Powerful  to confirm it T'challa was still blessed by the Panther God or not. Mendinao stated this wasn't a true test to determine his ability to rule, it still serves as a Tribal Challenge of sorts, even though T'swana did not want the title or the throne. T'challa was losing this fight until the Supremacists interrupted.

Gillis #2 of 4
After T'challa defeated the Supremacists, the Council decided that was enough evidence for T'challa to remain ruler.

In our next installment of this series, we take a detailed look at what any Black Panther hopeful must complete before becoming the true protector of Wakanda: the Rite of Ascension.

[Edit 01-05-2017: Added in a few pages from Kirby #8, which seems to show T'challa's victory in the annual tournament, waaaaaaaaaaaaay before Hudlin thought it up.-- Shadow]

[Edit 02-12-2018: Added new information from Rise of the Black Panther #1 and #2.-- Shadow]

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