Last post, I wrote about the scene that opens Jungle Action #20 where T’Challa, in full Black Panther costume, and Monica Lynne shop at a grocery store and get attacked but Klan members. The scene, while action packed, draws attention to T’Challa’s humanity and causes the reader to confront racial profiling and surveillance of black bodies by whites, Rebecca Winthrop, along with the rest of customers, perceives T’Challa as a threat even though he protects her from bodily harm. Today, I want to look at the latter half of “They Told Me a Myth I Wanted to Believe.” As T’Challa crashes a Klan meeting in the Devouring Swamp (another aspect that needs to be examined), Monica speaks with a white newspaper reporter Kevin Trublood at the Lynne household as her father plays solitaire outside the window. Today, I want to focus on Trublood’s speech at the end of this issue and its importance in regard to the broader discussions throughout “The Panther vs. The Klan” story arc.
Monica’s sister Angela approached Trublood before she supposedly committed suicide, telling the detective about shady land dealings that the Klan enacted in the area. Angela’s discovery of these dealings, and her conversations with Trublood, eventually led to her murder. Over the course of five pages, Trublood talks about the case and why he contemplated whether or not he should actually undertake writing an article that could cause harm to him and those he loved. These pages all have the same exact layout. We see four small panels (two top and two bottom) with a larger panel in the center. The periphery panels show Trublood, Monica, and Monica’s father, Lloyd, at the Lynne household. The center panels all show T’Challa battling the Klan in the Devouring Swamp. This layout works to underscore Trublood’s reluctance to act through writing with T’Challa’s proactive resistance at the Klan rally.
T’Challa’s action is important, and we need to keep it in mind for the next post when I will discuss Jungle Action #22. For today, though, I want to focus on Trublood’s comments and the ways that he, as a white, Southern male works through his position with the community. In some ways, Trublood reminds me of the newspaper editor Parnell James in James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie (1964). This just came to me, so I’m not sure what to make of it just yet. Initially, Trublood relays that he wanted to write the story for selfish reasons because, as he puts it, “What a fantastic story. Maybe I’ll get a Pulitzer for this!” This comment, of course, situates Trublood as someone who looks out for himself and what he can gain from the situation, much like the land manipulation that the Klan instigated. He chalks these previous thoughts up as his weakness for pride, and then he begins to tell Monica that Angela’s suspicions were just the elephant’s foot, not the whole thing.
After he talks about the fears that his loved ones expressed if he actually went through with writing the story, Trublood begins to contemplate the “myths” of America, even when he knows “much of our history” and the problems that history has wrought. Trublood continuously, three times in the span of three panels, tells Monica, and more importantly himself, “I still believe in this country.” In one panel, with his hand to his temple, he extrapolates, stating, “I believe in the fairy tales . . . the myths I was taught in school . . . the values this country was supposed to stand for.” The bold words in this bubble drive home the point that the idea of “liberty and equality for all” existed, and continues to exist, as a “myth” perpetuated throughout our education system, our historical memory, and elsewhere. “Make America Great Again” plays into this mythologically fabled past that never truly existed except on the backs of blacks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, poor whites, and others.
We must recall, too, that this issue came out in 1976, the same year as America’s bi-centennial. So, while he questions his own belief in the ideals that America “supposedly” represents, he calls upon the reader to question those same ideals within the context of a celebration commemorating the Deceleration of Independence which espouses that “All men are created equal,” a phrase that we need to continue to strive for and challenge when it does not ring true.
When Trublood claims that we need to fight to make America match the ideals we have set for it, Lloyd looks up from his solitaire game and starts to pay attention. He appears in a couple of panels before this, but always focused on his cards, not paying attention to what anyone else says. In the next panel with Trublood, we see the man’s face and Trublood’s back as the reporter continues to hope that we will one day live up to our ideals as a nation. Lloyd intently listens as Trublood, speaking to himself, as speaks to the man playing cards on the porch. Trublood concludes by stating he’s afraid to act but he must because he is a moral man. The issue concludes with Trublood looking at the audience as he says, “I just hope I don’t have to die. . . because I believed—-in America!” Again, this framing addresses the audience head on. Even though Trublood is talking with Monica, he faces outwards towards the reader, essentially asking, “What will you do now? Will you let America continue to espouse equality while it subjects people to oppression? Will you stand up and fight for what is right, no matter the consequences?” These questions come not from T’Challa but from Trublood, a white, Southern man.
What about Lloyd? He listens to Trublood for the latter half of the speech, but we don’t see him again in any of the panels. During a fight with the Klan at the rally in the town in issue #21, Lloyd appears out of nowhere and acts upon the words that Trublood speaks. He saves T’Challa when he throws his cards at a Klan member who has his gun aimed at the Black Panther. In the panel, Lloyd tells the man, “This here’s Lloyd Lynne speaking. You got my name right? Lloyd Lynne! You remember it. . . and you remember my little girl’s name, too.” These are perhaps the most words Lloyd says up to this point in the story arc. Based off of Trublood’s ruminations, Lloyd decides to act and to not live in fear anymore. He confronts the people who had a hand in killing his daughter, and he does not hide from them, telling them his name and making sure they remember it.
Lloyd’s actions lead into issue #22, “Death Riders on the Horizon” where Monica’s mother, Jessica, relates the story of Cousin Caleb immediately after the Civil War and we also get Monica’s interpretation of the story which differs from her mother’s. Next Tuesday, I will focus on this issue and discuss the importance of the two similar, yet different, version’s of Caleb’s story.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter: @silaslapham.