It appears that a new contender has entered the Black Panther 2 speculation ring. Another big cat… the White Tiger.
The original White Tiger (aka Hector Ayala) made his first appearance in the Marvel Comics martial arts magazine line The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #19. Technically published by Marvel Comics parent company at the time, Magazine Management. In the magazine’s 2nd story, we are told the White Tiger’s origin story which is ironically rooted in the demise of the superhero trio Sons of the Tiger.
It wasn’t a single villain that destroyed the Sons of the Tiger. Rather, it was a contentious romantic triangle over Lotus Shinchuko. Unable to reconcile, the Sons of the Tiger disbanded and threw away their individual Amulets of Power. Along comes college student Hector Ayala, who finds the amulets in the trash. Unlike the Sons of the Tiger who each wore a piece, Hector donned all three himself and transformed into the White Tiger.
Quick note, the Amulets of Power are also known as the Jade Tiger Amulets This is namely because it consists of three jade pieces in the shape of a tiger’s head and two claws. Going a bit deeper, the pieces themselves are from a larger jade tiger statue that has its own power when reassembled.
Despite fighting against crime, the White Tiger was often wrongly accused of committing various murders. This might be a mechanism for which the White Tiger could be initially presented as an antagonist in the Black Panther sequel. Which if that’s the case, does still leave room for the ultimate villain.
An alternative: Spectacular Spider-Man #9
In the current market for The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #19, CGC 9.8 slabs hold an FMV of $1,300 and drop down considerably to an FMV of $475 for CGC 9.6. The overall sales volume for CGC slabs is at the moment relatively low; which fits, as there are less than a hundred blue label CGC slabs of any grade in the census. For a more affordable alternative, you might want to check out Spectacular Spider-Man #9, which contains the first color comic appearance of the White Tiger. CGC 9.8s of this one currently sit at $150; having only recently broken the $100 level in the last year.
Final random thought: In the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, the White Tiger dies at the hands of Kraven the Hunter. With all the Kraven/Spider-Man 3 speculation, perhaps we are missing a Kraven/White Tiger/Black Panther scenario. Or perhaps both could occur.
Of the various White Tiger iterations, one that stands out is the Kevin Cole (aka Kasper Cole) version. This is mainly because this White Tiger has his origin more closely tied to the Black Panther. As a police officer, Kasper wore a damaged Black Panther costume in place of a bulletproof vest. Although this was against regulations, it ultimately saved him when the rest of his squad was killed in an ambush. When Kasper gets suspended, he takes up the Black Panther costume full time.
Fast forward to the “Ascension” story arc. Tasked with finding a kidnapped child, Kasper found himself in need of more power than just wearing the Black Panther costume provided. To this end, Kasper makes a deal with Killmonger for a synthetic heart-shaped herb. Kasper returns to his search for the child but ultimately finds that T’Challa had already saved him. T’Challa is impressed with Kasper and presents him with the White Tiger costume. While Kasper made his first appearance in Black Panther #50, Kasper in the White Tiger costume appears in Black Panther #62 (Vol. 3, 2003). Raw copies of #50 currently appear to be selling in the $25-35 range; and raws of #62 just under $10.