Ta-Nehisi Coates Playing Long Game With Marvel's Black Panther

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates is hoping for a long run on Marvel’s "Black Panther."

The National Book Award winner, and recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant," initially signed up for a 12-issue run on the title. However, he tells The Wall Street Journal that Marvel has approved an additional 12 issues -- first hinted last December by Editor-in-Chief Axel Alsonso -- and he hopes to extend his tenure well beyond that.

“I hope to keep going,” he said. “I have a story that goes probably about 60 issues. I hope to get to tell that story.”

Signing Coates in 2015 for the new "Black Panther" series was widely viewed as a coup for Marvel, which has made a commitment to diversity. The author's clout has also given the title a dose of literary credibility. The author even penned an extensive essay previewing his first issue for Atlantic magazine, offering readers an insider’s perspective on the way that writing comics differs from journalism.


In a conversation with Ryan Coogler, who's directing Marvel's “Black Panther” movie, Coates elaborated on his highly political story that has T’Challa reigning over a Wakanda that's on the verge of collapse.

Talking with The Wall Street Journal, Coates cited the political nature of Marvel titles, such as "X-Men" and "Captain America," and described “Civil War II” as “all about profiling.” He explained that his story “is much more focused on governance, which is a dry, boring word” because Black Panther is a monarch, “a really huge difference between him and other superheroes.”


A lifelong comic book fan, Coates compared the process of writing "Black Panther" to building a sandcastle. “It’s like a dream job for me, to describe it as tough is hard,” he said. “It’s still essentially playing. It comes across as playing to me.”

The author went on to describe his love of Marvel as being rooted in the outsider status of “Spider-Man” and the “X-Men,” characters he’d already heard about before he started reading the comics. “I remember being amazed that people hated Spider-Man, would throw things at him and curse at him,” he said. “I think that real-world aspect of it hooked me pretty early on.”


Coates also had kind words for Coogler, saying he would “go so far to call him a friend” and that he “expects what he does to be spectacular.” He added that the two “came together to talk about something else, and it just so happened that we really liked each other."

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