It's a big year for the Black Panther. From the arrival of a new female lead in the pages of the "Black Panther" title to the animated series set to hit primetime on BET this summer, Marvel Comics had a lot to say about the king of Wakanda at last weekend's New York Comic Con.
"There may be bigger panels, but there's no panel with more brainpower," said "Black Panther" writer Reginald Hudlin as he introduced Marvel's Jim McCann; Denys Cowan, Sr. VP of Animation for BET; John Romita Jr., former Panther artist; Axel Alonso, Executive Editor; and Eric Pollman and Cort Lane of Marvel Entertainment.
Hudlin opened the panel by celebrating the success of the new "Black Panther" #1, which sold out in its first week of release. The first issue sees T'Challa seriously incapacitated, forcing a mysterious new female character to don the mantle of Wakanda's protector.
Marvel's offered several possible Panther identities for the new heroine, including Storm, Echo, The Invisible Woman and even... Wolverine? "He's in every other book, why not this one," joked Hudlin, who also teased that the new BP could be the United States' new first lady, Michelle Obama.
The panel's also included the first public showing of rough animation from the upcoming "Black Panther" animated series, which begins this summer on BET. Attendees were asked not to film or photograph the two-minute clip because it wasn't finished, but encouraged feedback. The clip, based on the story and artwork from Hudlin and Romita Jr.'s first issue, sees an invading European force easily thwarted from entering Wakanda in the early nineteenth century.
"That was rough?" asked one fan as the audience showed their approval.
T'Challa is voiced by Djimon Hounsou, and the panel announced that Kerry Washington, Alfree Woodard and Panther co-creator Stan Lee would also be providing voice talent for the show. "We had a great time doing our first recording session," said Cowan, who commended Hounsou's powerful presence and Lee's reputed exuberance.
The panel then turned to the audience for questions.
How true to the comic will the BP TV series be? "It's exactly the comic book," said Hudlin, who noted the upcoming eight episodes will cover the comic series' first six issues and be enhanced by bonus scenes which will include other super-powered guest stars.
Would Hudlin be interested in working on a live-action BP movie? "There's only one guy [we'd choose] - he's standing right here," said Cowan.
"He's placed himself at the top of the list for consideration," said Alonso, "There is no Black Panther without Reggie Hudlin."
Would BET like to produce more comic book series, such as Milestone Comics characters? "Yes," said Cowan.
Have any of Hudlin's story ideas ever been rejected for being too controversial? "There was a scene where [the Black Panther] beat up a Mexican," joked Alonso, who pointed out how much Marvel encouraged Hudlin to go with his impulses.
The panel ended with Hudlin thanking fans for their support with attendees receiving a free NYCC-exclusive copy of "Black Panther" #1, featuring a variant cover.