Marvel Comics: The Villains of Black Panther
By Steffi Feldman
Discover the history of Ulysses Klaue!
Before Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” hits the big screen this weekend, we decided to dive into the Marvel library to look at the comic book history of a few of T’Challa’s greatest nemeses. First up: Ulysses Klaue!
During World War II, German Colonel Fritz Klaue was sent into Wakanda to steal government and military secrets. His secret visit to Wakanda left a major impression on the man, and after the war, he raised his son, Ulysses, with tales of the African nation’s majesty. When Ulysses grew up, he earned his Doctorate in physics before making his full debut in the pages of 1966’s FANTASTIC FOUR #53.
In search of a power source for his greatest experiment—a sound transducer capable of converting sound waves into physical mass—Klaue stole precious vibranium metal, only found in Wakanda, from the kingdom. In the process of this theft, Klaue murdered the Wakandan ruler and Black Panther, T’Chaka. T’Chaka’s son, T’Challa, was devastated by the loss, took up his father’s former mantles as both the king and the sacred warrior, and vowed to get revenge on Klaue. During T’Challa and Klaue’s first encounter, the villain escaped, but the Panther managed to to chop off his hand during the fight.
Ulysses Klaue retreated, consolidated his new powers, and became a master of sound energy. He invented a molybdenum steel sound generator and affixed it to his right wrist as a prosthetic, and named it the “force glove.” This weapon enabled him to transform ambient sound into concussive blasts as well as mobile sound projections that can carry out actions on his behalf. The “force glove” eventually gave way to a different vibranium-powered sonic converter that allowed Klaue to convert his physical body into a creature of psionically “solidified” sound energy. This sonic state made him more dangerous than ever before—rendering him nearly immortal as his body could be torn apart and then fuse back together. This sound energy state, however, had its drawbacks: it left him more susceptible to vibranium attacks, which caused his solid form to collapse into loose energy.
Klaue went on to evade the Black Panther as well as various other heroes (most notably the Fantastic Four) for several years. Though, in 1979’s MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #57, Klaue battled the hero Dazzler, and saw his humanoid sonic form dissolve. His non-corporeal form blasted into outer space, where he remained for some time. As the vaccuum of space is not conducive to sound waves, the villain was unable to reform his sonic self.
He remained unable to take solid form again until he was collected by Galactus and restored to his humanoid state by Doctor Doom during the events of Secret Wars. Having been without his physical form for so long, the man had gone insane and was speaking only in rhyme. After returning to Earth, Klaue began to heal, and the agency known as A.I.M. eventually assured that his vacuum episode would never happen again when they enabled him to exist in outer space. A.I.M. also installed the powers of the “force glove” into Klaue’s body itself.
After joining various villainous groups including A.I.M., the Frightful Four, the Pacific Overlords, and the Masters of Evil, Ulysses Klaue most recently met up again with T’Challa in the pages of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ BLACK PANTHER. The reappearance of Ulysses Klaue revealed the character’s unexpectedly humanizing backstory and motivations; he took up his research and sought after vibranium as a means to heal his sister, who had been in a coma for years. Despite the legitimate sources of his machinations, Klaue still worked to bring an uprising against T’Challa, recruiting an army from nearby nations to bring war to the land of Wakanda.
Come back tomorrow for a look at another Black Panther villain: Erik Killmonger! Then meet the cinematic villains this weekend in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther”!