After being announced back in September, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze’s “Black Panther” run is now a month away from beginning. Now, Coates — a National Correspondent for The Atlantic — has written about his experience shifting from journalism to writing a comic book.
In an essay at The Atlantic, Coates recounts his childhood in ’80s West Baltimore, losing himself in the adventures of the X-Men and Spider-Man. “As a child of the crack-riddled West Baltimore of the 1980s, I found the tales of comic books to be an escape, another reality where, very often, the weak and mocked could transform their fallibility into fantastic power,” writes Coats. “That is the premise behind the wimpy Steve Rogers mutating into Captain America, behind the nerdy Bruce Banner needing only to grow angry to make his enemies take flight, behind the bespectacled Peter Parker being transfigured by a banal spider bite into something more.” Coates adds that he counts “Claremont, DeFalco, and Simonson” among his biggest influences as a writer.
Coates also writes about his shift from journalist and author, a career that recently won him the prestigious MacArthur “Genius Grant,” to comic book writer, which is a medium he notes focuses on the economy of words and prioritizing “show” over “tell.”
“In both forms, I am trying to answer a question,” writes Coates. “In my work for The Atlantic I have, for some time, been asking a particular question: Can a society part with, and triumph over, the very plunder that made it possible? In Black Panther there is a simpler question: Can a good man be a king, and would an advanced society tolerate a monarch? Research is crucial in both cases. The Black Panther I offer pulls from the archives of Marvel and the character’s own long history. But it also pulls from the very real history of society — from the pre-colonial era of Africa, the peasant rebellions that wracked Europe toward the end of the Middle Ages, the American Civil War, the Arab Spring, and the rise of ISIS.”
While Coates starts off the piece by saying he’s writing an “11-issue series” of “Black Panther,” Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso has stated that both Marvel and Coates expect to go well past that initial stretch of issues.
The piece is accompanied by a video where Coates himself verbalizes his history with the medium, what draws him to the “tremendously radical” Black Panther, and how he hopes his run on the title is received. “I want this to be the best ‘Black Panther’ run there’s been,” said Coates in the video. “I want this to be one of the best runs that Marvel has ever done, and I want it to elevate the stature of the character.
“Black Panther” #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze is scheduled for release on April 6.