"The Black-Tas-Tic Four": Hudlin Talks "Black Panther"

The villains of the Marvel Universe weren't behind "Civil War," but the conflict between the heroes almost resulted in something many of the MU's malevolent malcontents had dreamed about; the destruction of the Fantastic Four. Marvel's First Family managed to pull through but "Civil War" hadn't just turned teammates against each other; it had turned husband and wife against each other. Beginning next week in "Black Panther" #26, while Reed and Sue Richards spend some time away from the team to work on their marriage, another super powered married couple will fill in for them; the King and Queen of Wakanda, The Black Panther and Storm. CBR News spoke with "Black Panther" writer Reginald Hudlin about the series.

As Marvel editorial knew Reed and Sue would be taking a break from the FF, they asked Hudlin what he thought about T'Challa and his new bride filling in for them. "I loved it the minute I heard it," Hudlin told CBR News. "Someone even made up a mock cover done a la the Beatles' "Let It Be" album with individual shots of THE BLACK-TAS-TIC FOUR (Panther, Storm, Torch and The Thing)."

One of the reasons Hudlin loved the idea of the Black Panther and Storm joining the Fantastic Four was that it allowed him to collaborate with current "Fantastic Four" scribe Dwayne McDuffie. "I've known him for years, and he's taught me so much about the comic business," Hudlin said. "He's creating an original character for me for a primetime animated series in my 'day job' as president of entertainment of BET."

Hudlin and McDuffie's collaboration will synch up their stories in "Black Panther" and "Fantastic Four," but the two titles won't cross-over in a traditional sense. "Our stories won't zigzag between books, but more likely checkerboard," Hudlin explained. "There will be a complete arc in one book, then a complete arc in another, and back and forth from there. It will be clear how the two books mesh.

"Cross-over storylines can be hard to do, but working with Dwayne makes it easy," Hudlin continued. "Dwayne and I talk for about an hour or so every month, just to go over what's gonna happen so we don't step on toes. Since the Watcher will show up in his story, I told him the real reason why the Watcher showed up at Storm and Panther's wedding. He'll reveal that in the 'FF.'"

"Black Panther" #25 took place during the events of "Civil War" #7 and ended with Storm and the Panther in dire straits. "They risked it all and it looks like they have lost.   They broke protocol and supported Cap, and now Cap lost," Hudlin stated. "This puts them in jeopardy both overseas and at home."

In the aftermath of "Civil War," amnesty was offered to the heroes of Captain America's resistance if they signed up and became part of the Initiative. But with the Panther and Storm being heads of a foreign country, their actions were viewed differently by US powers. "Without people like Captain America vouching for him, there's not a lot of love to the Panther in the government or among the victorious side of the super hero community," Hudlin said. "T'Challa's concerns about a super powered international invasion team are not so far-fetched now. Now more than ever, the Panther and Storm have to speak on behalf of the international community to express the concerns the world has about the US and their intentions with this explosion of government controlled super powered soldiers."

With the way the fallout from "Civil War" has effected the Panther and Storm's original mission of expressing international concern about the US's new super powered army, the offer for them to join the Fantastic Four couldn't have come at a better time. "They joined because they were asked. It's both a favor to Reed and Sue, and it's good for them too," Hudlin explained.  "It gives them a base to operate from in New York, and gives them a repositioning in the eyes of the United States by having the support of one of the architects of the SHRA."

Joining the Fantastic Four will aid the Panther and Storm's activities in the USA, but it might hurt them at home. When the news gets out that their king has joined an American super team, the Wakandan general public is not happy. "They don't like that T'Challa is away from his kingdom so much, especially when the US has warships parked off the coast," Hudlin stated. "Definitely grumbling in the palace and in the streets."

The Wakandans might have a problem with the Black Panther and Storm joining the Fantastic Four, but the Thing and the Human Torch are happy to have the married couple fill in. "They've always liked T'Challa and Ororo, so there isn't personal friction," Hudlin explained. "They understand the family aspect of the FF is crucial so having another married couple head it up feels as right to them as it does to Reed and Sue. Ben even sees that the Panther won't be as long winded as Reed. But he is more--let's just say 'imperial' when it comes to giving orders."

Recently, Captain America, one of the Panther's former team mates on the Avengers, was assassinated in issue #25 of his own series. T'Challa and Steve Rogers were close friends and his death will have an impact on the Wakandan king in the pages of "Black Panther" but not immediately. "T'Challa leaves on a mission in space before Cap is shot, so he won't hear the news for a while," Hudlin said.

The Panther's mission into space will take him off planet and into other dimensions as well. "Upcoming settings will include the Baxter Building, the Negative Zone, and a Skrull planet," Hudlin stated. "But not just any Skrull planet. A Skrull planet in--the Zombieverse!!!! With this line up of the FF, I had to think of the most formidable opponents I could think of, and the Zombies are it. They ate Galactus, man, what can any version of the FF do to stop them?"

In addition to alien and extra-dimensional threats, in upcoming issues of "Black Panther" T'Challa and Ororo will also have to contend with the challenges facing a distinct group of people on Earth; mutants. "Storm will be involved in the next big mutant to do and there will be direct repercussions that will be played out in the pages of 'Black Panther.'"

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