Oeming Heads to Hell's Kitchen in "Black Panther"

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following interview was conducted prior to news of the final issue of "Black Panther: Worlds Most Dangerous Man" shipping in February.

New York City is one of the most interesting places on Earth, so imagine what it must be like in the Marvel Universe, where the teeming metropolis is home to numerous heroes and villains. Many of these characters protect or plot to take over specific territories or neighborhoods like the Hell's Kitchen area. In "Black Panther: Most Dangerous Man Alive" #525, by writer David Liss and artist Shawn Martinbrough, the latest war for Hell's Kitchen heated up as its new champion T'Challa, the former king of Wakanda, went to war with a man who's long desired to control the neighborhood, Wilson Fisk, better known as the Kingpin of Crime.

T'Challa and the Kingpin's war will escalate over the series next several issues as Liss continues to weave a story that incorporates elements from both crime fiction and super hero action stories, a combination the artist tasked with bringing the middle chapters of the story to life knows very well. Michael Avon Oeming, the artist and co-creator of the acclaimed "Powers" with writer Brian Michael Bendis, is no stranger to telling stories which interweave down to Earth locales with otherworldly abilities.

CBR News spoke with Oeming about his work on Black Panther #527-528 and got an exclusive first look at the artist's first stab at illustrating Wakandan royalty.

CBR News: So Mike, According to our research you haven't drawn the Black Panther before. Is that correct? How does it feel to be given a crack at the character?

Mike Oeming: Indeed! This is my first time, and I'm quite excited about it. I love the Kirby history, and the current art teams are amazing, something to really live up to.

Who is T'Challa to you as an artist? Which qualities of the character do you really want to capture and bring forward in your art?

I love the fact that he's a bit of a detective here, using costumes and cunning as well as his general ability to kick butt.

The current status quo of "Black Panther: Most Dangerous Man Alive" has the title character living in a world that combines super heroes with elements of noir and crime fiction. That's something you've been doing for 11 years, now, on "Powers." I would guess capturing the mood and tone of this series would be pretty easy and fun for you. Was it? Or was it challenging as well?

The noir street crime elements are very appealing to me -- however, the simple fact that I am used to indulging in my own creations did make this a bit more of a challenge. On "Powers," or "Mice Templar," I never have to guess about my audience, whereas in drawing "Black Panther," I'm very aware that people are not reading because they are my fans, but because they are Black Panther fans. I want to please them just as much as myself. I try not to get too self-indulgent, because my main goal here is to make the fans happy.

What's it like working with writer David Liss? Which elements of his scripts do you enjoy most as an artist?

Man, he likes action! He's visual, too, so that helps. I love the fact that something visual, usually violent, is happening on every page. Liss can bring it! I get the feeling I'd want him on my team if there was a zombie break out.

Is there a chance we might see more "Black Panther" work from you after these two issues?

I'm doing issues #527-528, and then Shawn Martinbrough is back with issue #529. So I'm just doing two issues of the title right now.

I'll be happy to do more in the future, or draw other Marvel characters. That's why I got in touch with Marvel a few months ago; I realized I've written for them lots, but have not done as much drawing for them as I'd like. However, Bendis and I are about to return to some hardcore creator-owned stuff on "Powers," "Takio" and a third, unannounced project, so I better get those gigs in now.

Any final thoughts you would like to share about your work on "Black Panther: Most Dangerous Man Alive?"

I'm loving drawing Kingpin, Lady Bullseye and Typhoid Mary, and it's an honor to be associated with Liss, Shawn Martinbrough and Francesco Francavilla.

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