If you read any Marvel comics in the singles format, you've probably seen ads like this:
There's at least one other one as well, asking, "Is Echo The New Black Panther?" and featuring the head of the minor Daredevil character who was in a few issues of New Avengers cut and pasted on top of the female BP figure there.
See, when Black Panther gets relaunched next month—during Black History month, naturally—he will be a she. At least for a while. There's nothing really all that unusual, or even noteworthy, about a superhero being temporarily replaced by another secret identity.
In fact, it happens to just about every hero at one point or another. In some cases, like Batman or Captain America, it seems to happen on some sort of cycle. Heck, this isn't even the first time someone other than T'Challa took up the Black Panther mantle.
What I find interesting about this particular ad campaign, however, is just how random it is.
"Is Echo the new Black Panther?"
Who? Oh, the woman who wore a padded man-suit to be Ronin for a while. No, of course not. Why would she be.
"Is Sue Storm the new Black Panther?"
Sue? No, of course not. Why would she be? She's not even in Marvel continuity until Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch finish their Fantastic Four run, is she?
"Is Monica Rambeau the new Black Panther?"
No. Jesus; are you pulling these names out of a hat?
It's probably unfair of me to say that no one cares simply because I don't care, but I honestly haven't heard anyone outside of these ads discussing who the new lady Black Panther could possibly be. Perhaps I just don't know anyone who reads Black Panther anymore, or read any bloggers who are excited about the next volume of the title, or don't hang around the right message boards anymore (although I do spend significant amounts of each day at Newsarama).
I haven't read Black Panther in a while, although I thought writer Reginald Hudlin turned out some really great scripts during the time I was reading it—the first story arc with John Romita Jr. art, the surprisingly readable "House of M" tie-in, the whole "Black Avengers" arc—but lost interest somewhere around the FF tie-ins, thanks to a combination of ever changing artists and the casual approach to continuity (i.e. the refusal to acknowledge its existence).
But as far back as then—last summer, according to the Grand Comic Book Database—Hudlin was writing scenes in which T'Challa's little sister was questioning her big brother's leadership ability, and her friends were urging her to usurp his throne/position. So every time I see one of these ads, after my first confusion as to why they exist at all or why they're choosing the names and heads they're choosing, I think of T'Challa's sister.
I suppose Marvel could throw a real curve ball and have it be B.P.'s wife Storm, but it strikes me as a really odd and ineffective campaign to drum up interest for a title and a storyline where that no one's much interested.
But of course I don't actually know anything about marketing. For all I know, each of these ads will end up being a different variant cover for Black Panther #1 and it will sell 115,000 units in the direct market.