Since his ’60s debut, the King of Wakanda has enjoyed much praise from readers of color, a love passed down through generations. A young black child falling in love with comics for the first time — basking in the amazement of Batman and Spider-Man — would often receive the “Panther chat.”
It’s a conversation I heard too often when around my mother’s family (who is black) and friends. I was told that the Black Panther had no superpowers, yet his nation had never been invaded. With comics in my hand, I grabbed sheets of paper and pens, eager to duplicate what I saw on the page. Even my Puerto Rican father (an avid reader of Marvel in his day) would tell me that the Black Panther was not to be messed with.
Today, in publishing, that holds true. Despite having a man of color at the top (Axel Alonso) and a great young group of new diverse heroes (Miles Morales, Miss Marvel, Nova), things don’t look too diverse on the creative side of things at Marvel (Awesome Hulk to the rescue?). But don’t forget about T’Challa.
Despite the character not having his own series for a while now, a new Black Panther comic-book series was all but inevitable. Marvel always has a new series timed as a companion to go with their latest movies (Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man being the most recent). Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther movie is coming in 2018, but Boseman will make his first onscreen appearance next spring in “Captain America: Civil War.” That’s likely why Marvel has decided to bring the Black Panther back to his own title.
The Black Panther has been managed extremely well in the hands of writer Jonathan Hickman the past few years, with appearances in such titles as New Avengers and Secret Wars. But given recent criticisms of Marvel, many thought the Black Panther would gain a writer of color when he returned to his own series. The question was: Would the Panther be in good hands?
We’ll know this spring.
Ta-Nehisi Coates was announced yesterday as the new writer of a Black Panther comic coming in 2016. A black man, and a highly respected writer who especially excels in illuminating matters pertaining to people of color, he will now be the voice of the black superhero.
He’s never written a comic book before, but he’s an avid lover of comic-book culture. Is that enough? Well, what he lacks in experience writing comics, Coates more than makes up for with his impressive authorial gifts. And if Marvel is going to be singled out for a lack of diversity from a creator perspective, they also have to be applauded for not looking internally in a pool of candidates that some fans say isn’t diverse enough.
It should have been obvious that the next writer of Black Panther wasn’t going to come from the inside.
Reggie Hudlin taught us about Wakanda’s rich history and the Black Panther’s place in the Marvel Universe.
Coates it appears, will take a look at conflict from within the fictional African paradise.
In a statement released from Marvel, Coates said:
Wakanda is really the light of the world, in the Marvel Universe. And yet it’s a system of governance that has not advanced beyond the idea of blood-rule. It’s always seemed to me that T’Challa was aware of this discrepancy. Among the monarchs of Marvel — Namor and Doctor Doom, for instance — T’Challa has always been distinguished to me by his discomfort on the throne, and with the problems of one-man rule. I am very much looking forward to exploring that tension.
Trouble in paradise. A king’s internal conflict with his own rule. Given Coates’s insights already, we could be in store for a run on the character that will be talked about for generations.
As always: Don’t forget about T’Challa.