June 19, 2024

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #160: White Tiger

A character who was something of a Black Panther borrowed a different Marvel hero name for a period.

Black Panther hit the silver screen recently, and it’s been a big hit.  But since the title of “Black Panther” is something that can be passed along, there have been other Black Panthers beyond the current king of Wakanda.  His sister Shuri and even his enemy Killmonger have both gone by that name at various periods.

But then there’s the curious case of Kevin “Kasper” Cole…

What makes Kasper Cole a bit more of a curious case is he ended up borrowing not just one superhero name, but two.  Eventually, Kasper would be known as the White Tiger, a name that is often associated with a character named Hector Ayala.  Hector found a magical tiger amulet that endowed him with various martial arts-based powers and, donning a white costume, became the first White Tiger.  Hector would die and his amulet would be passed along, first to his niece, and later to a kid sister.

Here’s one of those women disemboweling someone I hope is evil. Context is everything.

There was also another White Tiger that served briefly on a Heroes for Hire team who, it turned out, was an actual white tiger the High Evolutionary messed around with and made into a half-human, half-tiger person.

Kasper Cole has nothing in common with any of them.

No, Kasper was a cop of half black and half Jewish descent, and his black father nicknamed him “Kasper” because of his light-colored skin and also apparently because he was kind of a jerk.  Because of Casper the Friendly Ghost?  Get it?  Nah, that ain’t a cool nickname, but apparently it stuck.

Kasper first appeared during writer Christopher Priest’s Black Panther run, and it’s a curious sort of appearance.  T’Challa had, through some weird time travel, discovered he had suffered some really bad brain damage during a fight with a possessed Iron Fist, and as a result, he would eventually go into something bordering on senility.  As a result, T’Challa ditched his Panther suit and went into hiding in New York City.

It should be noted Priest’s (rightfully) celebrated turn on the character probably did more to update and modernize the Panther into what he is today.  The Dora Milaje and the character of Zuri both first appeared during Priest’s run, as did American ally Everett K. Ross, all of whom appeared in the movie, and the Dora Milaje at least still play a large role in the Black Panther’s adventures.  He also liked to push the envelope where possible on race-related issues, and having a half-black and half-Jewish cop nicknamed Kasper suddenly be the main character certainly reflects that.  Priest was also the writer who essentially turned Black Panther into Marvel’s version of Batman, where it came out T’Challa only joined the Avengers so he could, if necessary, take them down from the inside to protect Wakanda and even had an anti-Galactus contingency plan stashed in his desk.

For what it is worth, the Avengers more or less forgave T’Challa for the whole “seeing how to take them down from the inside” thing as Captain America saw it as a very understandable motive for a king.  And that’s what Priest emphasized more than anything else:  T’Challa was a king, and he should act like one, not a superhero with a nice chair, but the leader of a mighty nation.

As it is, with some encouragement from the Falcon and using a discarded Black Panther suit, Kasper took to the streets as a superhero.  The one thing he needed was the heart-shaped herb that granted the Panther his superpowers.  He did manage to get a synthetic version, and ran afoul a bit of Killmonger after that fellow took T’Challa’s place as King of Wakanda.  As it is, Kasper had one other thing going for him:  T’Challa was advising him on the side.

So, let’s review a bit:  after building up this strategic and political mastermind in the form of T’Challa as the Black Panther, Christopher Priest rather suddenly shifted gears and made an American cop of mixed race the new guy.

To be fair, and keeping in context of this article, Kasper actually called himself the White Tiger, and he was eventually given some Wakandan weapons to go with his new, all-white suit.  Now, I could ask why the Wakandans had a “White Tiger” sort of thing going since tigers are an Asian animal and Wakanda is a fictional African nation, but they also had a guy called the White Wolf at the time, so draw your own conclusions.

Kasper would run around as the White Tiger for a period, eventually joining an all-black superhero team (again written by Priest) called the Crew and under the leadership of James “War Machine” Rhodes.  But then he eventually gave it all up.  Last seen being approached to become a new hero under a new name, well, I’m sure there are other big cats he can take a name from.

The trenchcoat is kinda cool.