Once upon a time… Marvel created “The white nation of Azania”


Azania_001.jpgTo those in South Africa, especially those who have been involved in the recent fallist movements as well as those who know South African history, this might seem a bit of a contradiction: “The white nation of Azania“. Yes, once upon a time, Marvel created the fictional “white African nation of Azania” in its multiverse. It was a nation of white supremacists that bordered the fictional Kingdom of Wakanda, the homeland of the Black Panther, aka T’Challa. It even had its own team of superhumans, called “The Supremacists”. And yes, the creators based it on, then, apartheid South Africa. As the Black Panther has been formally introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and because he has always been one of my favourite superheroes – in times long before superheroes were “cool”, it would be interesting to look back at this forgotten part of Marvel history. It is so forgotten that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page… (contrast Wakanda, which has a page too long to deal with).

Black_Panther_Vol_2_2This white supremacist version of Azania first featured in Vol 2 Issue 1 of the Black Panther, in 1988. Obviously as some sort of political statement by Marvel regarding the South African apartheid regime. The names of the team members of the “Supremacists” are just clear in every way: led by the White Avenger, it even had a member called Voortrekker, a white Zimbabwean who chose to fight for the white supremacist Azania. It is an absolute hilarity really that Marvel created this fictional country, and even replicated the struggle against apartheid through the conflict between “Azania” and Wakanda… Wakanda supposedly imposing sanctions on Azania and this leading to conflict between the two nations. The “great spirit of the Black Panther” even inspired the “poor masses” to revolt against the apartheid government of “Azania”, masses that were then accused of being supported by communists by the right wing “Azanian” government…

supremacists_azania001.jpg

In its 4 issue arc, the Black Panther eventually defeated the Supremacists and they were imprisoned in Wakanda. I’m not sure what happened to “Azania” in the official canon of Earth 616 of the Marvel universe, I think it kinda became a forgotten part that was never revisited. There are some more interesting tidbits actually. For example, the “Great spirit of the Black Panther” disagreed with the approach T’Challa took of sanctions, divorced him and possessed a Black man in “Azania” who then went on a rampage murdering white real estate agents, clergy, and the governor. Eventually T’Challa had to battle the man possessed by the spirit (who then had turned into a sort of were-creature) in order to reclaim the Black Panther spirit for himself. Overall the analogy is clear in the fight between the “spiritual nation of Wakanda” against the “white supremacist Azania”, but also in the way the Black Panther had to fight against the were-creature that was killing the white elite of this “Azania”… Somewhere, APLA soldiers must be turning in their graves at how the name of Azania has been used, and the subtext at how they were portrayed. The political commentary was anti-apartheid but filled with T’Challa as the mystical Mandela-like figure that not only tried to curb the apartheid governement but also stop the “evil” APLA-like force that waged an all out war against white supremacy.

Perhaps it gives some food of thought for the upcoming Black Panther movie? While I have, since childhood, enjoyed Marvel comics, looking back I am more and more seeing problematic issues that I previously didn’t pick up on. Furthermore, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is unfortunately not free of this…

 

 

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2 Responses to Once upon a time… Marvel created “The white nation of Azania”

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