Marvel went to the New York Times this morning to announce the heavily teased brand new Black Panther series. The series will be written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Correspondent for The Atlantic and writer of the recently released book Between the World and Me, a series of letters written to his son about being black in America that Toni Morrison called “required reading.” The series will be illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze, an industry veteran and prominent black artist at the old DC Wildstorm imprint. The first storyline will be a sweeping yearlong arc entitled “A Nation Under Our Feet,” where T’Challa will do battle with a group of superhuman terrorists. The new title is set to debut next Spring.
He has the baddest costume in comics and is a dude who is smarter and better than everyone,” said Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso to The New York Times.
In the New York Times article, Coates cited his love of superhero comics work stemming all the way back to 1980s Marvel comics– hopefully the writer stuck around long enough to read Christopher Priests’ seminal work on T’Challa and friends.
Interestingly enough, Coates recalled Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars as an inspiration for his upcoming comics work.
Marvel was “an intimate part of my childhood and, at this point, part of my adulthood,” he said. “It was mostly through pop culture, through hip-hop, through Dungeons & Dragons and comic books that I acquired much of my vocabulary.”
Marvel had previously been teasing the character as part of the publisher’s All-New, All-Different campaign. The relaunch had previously received a large amount of criticism for a perceived dearth in creator diversity that was only exacerbated when the company announced a series of “Hip-Hop” variant covers that were denounced as cultural appropriation from a racially monolithic company. It looks like Marvel has taken the criticism into account while selecting its Black Panther creative team, and hopefully this announcement heralds the beginning of an expansion in industry diversity.
Marvel’s signing of Coates is also notable because of his cultural relevance outside of comics. Between the World and Me has been shortlisted for the non-fiction category in the 2015 National Book Awards and Coates has previously taught writing at MIT and currently serves as a resident journalist at City University of New York. Few other writers in comics today have such a pedigree, and hopefully Coates’ work on Black Panther can expose and bring new readers into an industry that all too often seems stagnant.
Keep an eye on Comics Beat, as we expect more information about the storyline and new artwork when the series debuts next year.