Here's the English translation of my final draft of the intro (which became a post-face) for the second collection of the Panini "Marvel Monster Edition: Black Panther"
reprinting issues 26-37. This was my 5th draft so a lot of material wound up on the cutting room floor in order that it fit on the two pages I was generously allowed like
all of the names we tried to conjure up as a new identity for Queen Divine Justice once she became T'Challa's 'side-kick'.  Or my summary of our first year's highlights.
Cape or no cape? Or mentioning BP's various pre-Priest creators. And more.  Not choices I made easily since I wanted to fit as many anecdotes in there as possible
but trim I did.  They also wanted me to share info to the French audience that they wouldn't have known and would find interesting but this meant covering familiar
ground on many topics already previously mentioned & explained on-line at various forums and interviews. But while some BP fans will know much of what is written
here already I did try to elaborate and expand on that data.  It is all from my perspective and, speaking for myself & Sal, an artistic one at that for the most part.  I tried
to be respectful of the various parties involved and I did hours of research by reading a pile of printed email correspondance that I'd kept from our three year period
especially since I don't always have the best recollection of info but, even so, I hope I got everything right and haven't dissed anyone.  This material may never be trans-
lated into english officially unless the edition is printed in english one day but, even if someone chooses to use my material I hope that they check with the original
source material first. Panini did a wonderful job  translating my words very faithfully only altering a few items that didn't convert properly to the french language. But if
someone tries to translate the french material back to english without the original source draft I can only imagine how different it would turn out. But odds are that if
this is ever printed in the states they'll go with a 'real' writer or skip it altogether. But I am still honored as heck to have been allowed the opportunity to share my
thoughts & memories in this fashion.                 Bob Almond  7/16/03
            So how does a creative team follow up on a year-long epic like ³The Return of Killmonger²?  By producing material for the following year that would eclipse the former one
and, debatably, be considered by fandom at -large as the pinnacle of the overall three-year run by storytellers Priest, Velluto and Almond. But I make it sound so simple. Trust me,
it wasnıt. That magical freshman year of our mutual collaboration was one filled with many birth pains. 
            Marvel had decided that Black Panther  would continue publication after its Marvel Knights year by graduating from the MK imprint to one that would rejoin the general
Marvel universe of characters.  Following a line-up of brilliant yet ever-rotating artists new editor Ruben Diaz attempted to gain some stability by calling Sal Velluto and myself
to join with regular writer Christopher Priest in carrying on with his unconventional but ingenious take on the character and his world. Sal had built himself a reputation as a 
respected master draftsman & storyteller since 1989 and his attention to detail is just insane! Weıd been originally paired up on Acclaim Comicıs Bloodshot  in Œ97 and have 
remained partners and friends ever since. Sal had been earlier partnered with Priest briefly in Œ95 on DCıs Justice League Task Force. I came to the Panther table as the resident
inker but with a lot of impassioned ideas to boot. Labeled Œthe glueı of the team by Sal at one time, I was the one in the group with the over-zeolous enthusiasm, having grown
up since grammar school as a ŒMarvel zombieı,  I never lost my passion for this stable of characters even after breaking into the industry as a professional inker in Œ92. So the
highlight assignments for me were those with the mainstream Marvel characters. As was the case with Black Panther.  I would use that knowledge to swiftly advance myself
to the teamıs unofficial researcher and continuity cop, forwarding Sal comics or scanned images when he or the color artist was in need of some specific, often obscure,
reference and alerting the gang whenever something in a new script was contradicting established history.  I took on this position with pride and my teammates respected my
assistance and input.  They indulged and utilized just about every silly request I made that it marked this period in my career as one filled with the fondest of memories.
            But we didnıt reach this stage for several months. In fact, Sal & I had little to no active correspondance with Priest for the first few issues.  During these inaugural stories
Sal & I developed an unconventional style to execute for the series.  But this proved to be counterproductive to the recently made change in paper and color separation quality
and we subsequently reverted to our more traditonal approach.  We labored to get the book back on schedule, something that incoming editor Tom Brevoort handily resolved with
us. Along with Tom came veteran color artist Steve Oliff which ultimately improved our palette even though the limited color separations would tie his hands for some time to come.
Communication further developed between us, the office and Priest and the ideas and inspiration now really began to flow leading to several highlights in our opening year. But our
second year was approaching. Although still brimming with ideas Priestı  grand Killmonger saga was winding down and, with it, the challenge arose regarding what to present next.
The health of the book had been in question since Sal & I arrived and would remain a question with several false starts regardling cancellation thoughout the series. Issue 25 was
one of those false starts yet we ultimately got the approval from Marvel to proceed but with a preferance now for smaller story arcs for the near future to limit the risk of the Œplug
being pulledı before concluding any given story and to make the arcs more palatable by the general audience. This precarious status was a factor on a creative level since the actual
length of these arcs was often not set in stone until after we were well within the arc which often left Priest the challenge of abbreviating the heavy content of his initial story blue-
print and, from a visual perspective, it also left Sal with the challenge of trying to balance all of these elements in a reasonable fashion. It was often a tightrope act and sometimes
this resulted in some details and the endings to be abridged.  But all things considered, I think they performed this recurring endeavor quite masterfully.
            Priest felt that the arc following 25 had to be big to draw the readers in; we had to swing for the bleachers.  And this is where Klaw, Namor the Sub-mariner and Dr. Doom
came onto the scene. Priest had some intentions early on in the Marvel Knights run to use Klaw, TıChallaıs prime nemesis, but held back because a pattern had developed where
everytime a writer decided to do a Black Panther story they would instinctively wheel in Klaw but Priest didnıt want to repeat past patterns or recycle past stories. In our first year
Klaw was coincidentally being used in another title so Priest subsequently proceeded with the retooled Killmonger. But Klaw was available and suitable for our second year and at
this point I was haunting the hell out of my favorite writer to go and finally use him.  Meanwhile Namor and Doom had been intended to appear for the debut of the Panther series
but the powers-that-be rejected the idea at that time so Priest  used Mephisto instead. But, to our surprise, they eventually relented and let us use the Œbig gunsı as we entered our
sophomore year together. And we got Magneto. But the  key ingrediant was Storm. She had been a fan request for months prompted by a mutual romance between her and 
TıChalla having been established two decades before by the X-menıs master scribe Chris Claremont. He now gave us his blessing to write a sequel to the tale. Priest now had all
the elements he needed to weave a tale of political entanglement and inrequited love called ³Sturm Und Drang², a tale of love and war. Suddenly all the cards fell into place and our
most engaging story arc came to be. Coinciding with Marvelıs promotional efforts at that time, it resulted in a flurry of critical acclaim, the coveted spike in sales and the inspiration
and opportunity to expand our story horizons by staying in print.
            Which led to our very next arc ³Seduction of the Innocent².  One idea that Priest had contemplated was to employ vintage Panther enemy Baron Macabre in a creepy story
to raise recently departed Nikki from the dead as a zombie to traumatize Ross and TıChalla. But the truncated 25th issue, with the attention-drawing, company-wide crossover
³Maximum Security²,  forced us to make short shrift of the recently introduced Malice and we felt the need to compensate after ³Sturm² by shifting gears from that global crisis to
one of a dark, erotic detective thriller.  This allowed Sal & myself the anticipated challenge of flexing different artistic muscles to create a grittier, darker stage.  Much like Klaw, the 
startling appearance of Maliceıs alley, MıBaku the Man-ape, had been one I lobbied for a year earlier.  Priest had thought that I was nuts to request this but he eventually relented
and applied him into the story and, as was the case with both Killmonger and Klaw, Sal gave him a design overhaul. And, to Priestı surprise, the fans were overjoyed. We were
now the first Panther team to use all three of the TıChallaıs top-tier rogues in one creative run.  Additionally, US bureaucrat Henry Peter Gyrich would replace Nikki as Rossı  
cantankerous OCP handler during this arc.  Although I was more than a little pumped to ink this vintage recurring character from my early, beloved Avengers  comics, due to story
content, fill-ins and the upcoming anniversary story it would be a grueling eight months before I would  finally get my creative hands on him!  But perhaps the greatest coup of this
arc was that Marvel had now hired the color studio VLM to handle all of the color & separations on our title.  After 18 months of disappointing color quality obscuring our work
weıd now reached a quality plateau that enhanced our efforts and motivated us to no end. And this would only improve once VLMıs Jennifer Schellinger would inherit the Panther
gig by issue 37 and, with all of the communication,  enthusiasm and talent that we could ever hope for, remain our color art partner to the very end of our term. 
            Following ³Seduction² we were met with an unexpected shake-up in our status but it wasnıt cancellation.  Tom Brevoort had led us through some rough waters to a calmer,
more properous lanscape but yet another editorial shift would now put the familiar face of Mike Marts, our past editor from Acclaim Comics, at the helm to our satisfaction. And to
his first performed miracle.  About 18 months prior to any of this I had lobbied for us to utilize Marvelıs Œ100-page Monsterı format, consisting of extra pages filled with new material
and reprinted classic stories relevant to the lead feature as well as bonus features. The Brevoort-created concept had been applied to other titles and I felt it would draw attention 
to our work if we recruited it. But I had resistance from some on the team and the idea languished in limbo until I thereafter realized that TıChallaıs 35th anniversary was appr-
oaching to correspond to his introduction in Fantastic Four.  Priest and I sought to celebrate the event with a special cover dress but to no avail. And then later, to my surprise,
shortly after Mike had come aboard,  he and Priest had agreed that the ŒMonsterı treatment would be the best way of celebrating the characterıs anniversary event.  Yes!   As for
the lead two-part story ³The Once and Future King², Priest utilized unused material from an earlier Panther annual proposal, co-plotted by Ruben Diaz, which was influenced a bit
by Frank Millerıs Dark Knight Returns.  The dark tale featured a now aged cast with guest appearances by TıChallaıs allies in an alternate future confronted with the return of Kill-
monger and his villianous cohorts from the Jungle Action  epic serial ³Pantherıs Rage² almost 25 years earlier. Considering that Batman has been both Salıs and Priestı dream
character/project they went all out with this, planting Batman-esque story and art elements throughout the tale(such as Ross being a dead ringer for Commissioner Gorden). For
long-time readers this 2-part celebration was a self-contained gem well worth the wait which honored the past yet craftily also handled the present and future.
            Our sophomore year together proved that the sum was greater than its parts. We were able to weave a creative synergy rarely manifested in this business where we were
able to conceive the intricate, perhaps definitive and all too human man beneath the ceremonial garb of Wakandaıs king.  Even in the recurring face of cancellation and the extran-
eous opportunities Sal and I never faltered in our efforts to make every pencil and ink stroke count.  Itıs in this very work that we gained the publicsı  and mediaıs attention, stabilized
sales, collected praise and awards and, most rewarding, gained a devoted following. All of this would lead to Black Panther  setting the record as the longest-running black comic
book lead character in print.  It  is quite possibly the crowning achievement and proudest moment of our careers to date.  In wake of all of these endeavors and accomplishments
what was to follow next in our junior year together would be just gravy.  This is but the story thus far...