The Black Panther could have defeated the Fantastic Four by asking this question

Issues discussed

Birth of a hunter

Black Panther exploded onto the scene in Marvel’s Fantastic Four #52, 1966. This issue also saw the debut of the advanced African country of Wakanda, introducing such technological marvels as mechanical trees, flowers that are actually complex buttons and dials, and boulders that “hum with the steady pulse of computer dynamos.”

As a newcomer to the Marvel world, Black Panther knew he had to make an impact, and so he laid a trap for the F4. After enticing them to Wakanda with the gift of a magnetic-wave-powered sky craft gizmo, Black Panther lured the team into a series of elaborate traps, each designed to neutralise their powers (such as an asbestos container for the Human Torch – hope Johnny got his lungs checked out after this). The Panther separated the team, and then targeted them one-by-one, to avoid having to face them together.

It was a pretty ingenious plan, but he made one mistake. The F4 had brought a friend along for the ride – Wyatt Wingfoot, Johnny Storm’s college roommate. Wyatt doesn’t have any powers, but he’s a highly capable individual – a skilled fighter, excellent tracker, and as a the son of an Olympic champion, a top-tier athlete. Wyatt was able to free the Torch, who reentered the fray and turned the tide of the fight.

The mistake

Wyatt Wingfoot has no powers, but as you can see in this exchange, he’s a powerful ally and an asset to the team.

Although powerful, the Black Panther would struggle against the entire F4 at the same time – so he realised that to win, he had to get them on his turf and use tools, cunning, and strategy. The Panther did a lot right – it’s clear that his plan was carefully developed and painstakingly implemented. And he would have succeeded too, if it wasn’t for that meddling kid!

To beat the F4 on this occasion, he only had to ask himself one question:

What if they bring someone else with them?

The F4 have numerous allies and many friends. It’s not inconceivable that they wouldn’t come alone. After asking this question, the Panther, along with his Generals and other advisers, could start coming up with solutions:

  • Ensure no one else comes! Perhaps tell the F4 that, by Royal Decree, the invitation is extended to them only. Or, make sure the Sky Gizmo that brought the team to Wakanda could fit only the four of them.
  • If they bring someone anyway, try to split them from the group before the F4 is led into the trap room – perhaps take their friend to a waiting area where they will be looked after until their business is done
  • Prepare additional traps and guards, whose role would be to capture any non-F4 combatants, just in case the additional person gets into the trap room.

Ultimately, the Black Panther’s failure was one of planning. Although he likely planned for many eventualities, he failed to look outside the box and envision the situation that eventually came to pass.

A solution – the premortem

How can you avoid making a similar mistake in your own endeavours? One solution is to plan as carefully and creatively as you can, and there’s a super-powerful exercise that can help you do that called the premortem.

You know what a postmortem is, of course – where they investigate the corpse of a deceased individual and try to determine the cause of death. A premortem is similar, except you do it at the beginning of some project or pursuit – and you don’t need a dead body. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Think of a project or goal you are planning to start. It could be anything from a work project to a personal goal like a weight loss target.
  2. Now, go forward in time. Like Dr Strange in Infinity War, activate your mental time stone, and envision all the possible futures – focusing on the ones in which you fail, miserably and horribly.
  3. Ask yourself, what happened? Why did you fail? What happened, or did not happen? Write down the reason, then check out more time lines. Write as many potential failures as you can. Don’t censor yourself or analyse what you’re writing – you can do that later. For now just get your thoughts down.
  4. Ask other people for their own ideas – like with Black Panther, you don’t want to get stuck inside your own biases, and it can help to get some outside opinions.
  5. Once you’ve got a list, go through it and write down what you’ll do if each of these things rears its ugly head.

So, say your goal is to start a pizza restaurant. One of your key points of failure might be, the bank doesn’t give you a loan. What will you do if that’s the case? Are there other ways you can find investment? Is there any planning you could do before your meeting with the bank to help that meeting go better?

You get the idea. Write down your countermeasures for each of the failed timelines. This way, if any of these situations come to pass, you know what to do. You won’t wallow in indecision, and you don’t have to worry about making poor decisions due to the stress and pressure of the setback, because you’ll already know what to do.

And remember the cautionary moral gleaned from the Blank Panther’s predicament – think outside the box. The more failures you’ve thought of and prepared for, the more likely you are to succeed.

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  • Original: An original copy of FF #52 is going to cost you! Last time I looked, there was one on Amazon Marketplace priced at nearly $3,500! Price varies wildly based on condition though, and can be as low as a few hundred dollars. You can check the latest prices on Amazon.com here, but you’ll want to shop around, check comic shops and eBay too to get the best price.
  • Digital: You can also get digital versions of this issue to read on the Kindle or Comixology apps – (Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk)
  • Compilation: You can also get the issue as part of a trade (a “trade” is a series of comics combined into a paperback book). For example, The Fantastic Four Epic Collection has it, along with the concluding second part, and some other great F4 stories (Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk)

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