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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Who is Klaw? Why is he so important to the Black Panther mythos?

Who is Klaw?

Klaw is the arch nemesis of the Marvel hero the Black Panther. He is villain known for his mastery of the metal of Vibranium and the powers of sound.

First Appearance: Fantastic Four #53

Real Name: Ulysses Klaw

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Ulysses Klaw is a Dutch physicist whose studies on applied sound lead him to exploring turning sound into physical mass.
Klaw becomes a mercenary and pursues a deposit of vibranium in the African nation of WakandaVibranium not native to the Earth is one of the rarest metals in existence and he immediately begins to mine it for his own purposes.  The Wakandan leader T'Chaka did not realize the full potential of vibranium but he is not a fool.  He tries to stop Klaw from stealing the metal.  Klaw kills T'Chaka, but his plan in the end is thwarted by the interference of T'Chaka's son, T'Challa.  Klaw escapes though loses his right hand in the process.

While, Klaw's initial plans do not work he does succeed in acquiring enough vibranium to study.  He become an expert in vibranium, its properties and uses.  He builds a device that can control sound.  This new sonic weapon is mounted where his right hand used be.  He uses this weapon in various battles and schemes against the Black Panther and other heroes.

Klaw joins various super villain groups including the Masters of Evil led by Ultron and the Pacific Overlords.  He also forms partnerships with the villains Solarr and the Molecule Man both these schemes are thwarted.

For a time Klaw is imprisoned inside his own sonic gun.  The gun is stored inside Project Pegasus.

Eventually, Klaw has his material form entirely dissolved in a battle with the X-Woman Dazzler.  he even becomes a being made and constructed of pure sound.  His sound energy is also sent out into space.  Due to his sound energy intermixing with the Beyonder and Galactus it is captured by Doctor Doom.  Doom hopes to use it to achieve god hood.  However, this bid is foiled by Klaw himself who eventually returns to his physical form.

At one point Klaw inadvertently heals Captain America's Vibranium Shield when he blasts Captain America with a sonic blast.  The blast hits Captain America's SHIELD and cures it of its Vibranium Cancer.

He continue to battle to try to overtake the small nation of Wakanda using what ever force and means necessary.  All to strip the country of its vibranium.

Transformed in physical sound Klaw has super strength and durability.  He can manipulate sound to perform an array of functions.  He can create constructs out of sound and also create sonic concussive blasts.

In his sonic form he can be weakened and destroyed by vibranium which disrupts his form.

Klaw in the MCU
Andy Serkis famous for playing CGI characters plays Ulysses Klaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Ultron seeks Klaw to get a supply of Vibranium.  Ultron agrees to pay Klaw billions for the Vibranium but not before angrily ripping Klaw's arm.

It seems likely that when Klaw returns that he has an upgrade Vibranium replacement arm.

Andy Serkis playing Klaw in Avengers Age of Ultron

Klaw meeting with Ultron in Age of Ultron

Fun Fact 

Why is Klaw an important villain to Black Panther.
I have heard some criticism of Klaw.  Why is this Dutch super villain with a somewhat generic suit so important to the Black Panther mythos?

I personally see the Klaw and Panther's story to be one of the most complex and important hero/villain relationships in comics.  It is up there with Joker and Batman.  In a good story the characters are symbols for more than two beefy guys slugging it out.  The movie the Dark Knight is unequivocally the best comic book movie of all time because it plays with the notion of not who the characters are, but what they are.  Batman is a symbol of fear, violence on the side of order, and as he cracks down upsprings this psychopathic lunatic, counter balance that desires only chaos.  The Joker and Batman are personifications of forces, actions, and decisions. In many ways the decisions of Batman are parallel  to decisions in American Foreign policy in the post 9-11 era.  Can you look at ISIS and not think about the Joker?  I can't.  In short it is not a super hero movie, but a movie of avatars that are battling across the philosophical questions that currently loom across our minds.


Why does the Klaw / Panther relationship not attract the same level of notice as the Batman/Joker one.  While Batman / Joker walk in parallel to thoughts of those affecting the modern/current American psyche, those in Black Panther's do not.  Some of it is simply timing, the themes presented in the Dark Knight are simply lock step with the post 9-11 American experience.

The fears of colonization, science without morals, westernization, and Americanization are not on the forefront of American's minds right now.   These are the themes of the Black Panther and Klaw relationship, they are not worse or less than the Batman/Joker relationship but simply not as in vogue right now.

Explaining Klaw from a thematic view:

First Klaw kills T'Challa's father so that immediately make him important.  Beyond that though Klaw represents imperialism, powerful technology, science run amok, that are important themes to the Black Panther story and history in general.

On the surface level you have an interesting martial battle between the master of sound facing off against the master of the jungle.  There is a contrast between the natural world and the scientific world that makes for dynamic and visually appealing battles.  This contrast is used in multiple Black Panther stories but this is still on the surface, so hold on as I plunge deeper.

Klaw in one sense represents the threat of imperialism.  He sees the resource of Vibranium as being in the hands of lessers, who do not understand its worth.  Rather, than buying it he decides to simply take it and use it as he pleases.  In other countries this may be possible but Wakanda has a very powerful defender in the Black Panther.

While Klaw's actions of killing and attacking the Wakanda people are vile it also serves as a warning to T'Challa T'Challa changes his own course as the Black Panther as well as that of his entire people.  The historical event with Klaw reminds me of Admiral Dewey of the United States charging into the harbor of Tokyo.  The Japanese had isolated themselves from the world.  They saw people outside of Japan as barbarians.  Seeing the steam ships of the United States in their harbor was a wake up call for the Japanese that the outside world was passing them by.  The Emperor quickly begins to invite the foreigners to teach Japan about the outside world and its technology.  The Japanese quickly absorbed the technology and teachings from around the world, integrated it into their own society and became a world power.  There are a whole slew of growing pains with these changes.  Wakanda under goes similar pains, what parts of their culture do they keep, what do they take away, these are hard questions.  The threat personified by Klaw provides a major impetus for them to change despite the hardships it presents.

The series of conflicts presented here are very complex.
How much should you change to be safe?  Should you change out of fear?  Are the changes for the good anyway?  Will we lose our own identity?

Perhaps the most important question Klaw presents the Black Panther is how far does he change before he becomes his own enemy?  As the technology of Wakanda expands what separates himself from Klaw the man he hates?

Klaw is thus a representation of the threats of the outside world/science, as well as the threat of what one can become.  If you become your enemy does he not in the end win?

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