Why the New Writer for ‘Black Panther’ Comic Signals a Promising New Direction for Marvel!

By September 23, 2015

The folks over at Marvel Comics have, lately, been making a lot of news; and not necessarily in the most positive of ways. Sure, their movie division run by producer extraordinaire Kevin Feige (in cahoots with Disney) is one of the most successful of studios as of late; what with another billion dollar entry from their Avengers franchises, a successful launch of Ant-Man and the near fever pitch of hype coming from the granddaddy Superhero vs. Superhero movie in the form of Captain America: Civil War; but that’s from their movie studio. On the other side of the coin comes rumors about their comics division. Which seems odd because without their comics, we wouldn’t be in this golden age of Superhero movies…. But that is neither here nor there (at the moment). More on that in a bit.

Have you heard the rumblings that Marvel Comics is now trying to kill all their X-Men titles in order to remove awareness from the 2oth Century Fox franchise of the same name? You see, they did the same thing with Fantastic Four as an answer to the mistreatment the superhero team was getting for the film franchise. (You know how THAT turned out).  Now that FF is off the shelves indefinitely, X-Men might be following suit very soon… But it’s not all doom and gloom over there…

Not when it comes to Black Panther!

Black Panther

Thanks to a fantastic news article from The New York Times, it’s been revealed that The Atlantic correspondent and critically acclaimed novelist of Between the World and Me,  Ta-Nehisi Coates, will be doing a comics run of Black Panther next spring. The news comes during a time when, studio politics and rights issues aside, diversity is one of the main concerns now in story-telling and for Marvel. With their Black Panther line, it’s no different.

I love this news for so many reason, and it has nothing to do with the idea of getting more issues of Black Panther on the shelves.

I love that Marvel is truly embracing the diversity out there and tapping a talented voice to bring their Black Panther in to a new level of notoriety.

Coates is pretty much destined for this gig after declaring himself a “comics nerd” while also advocating himself as a champion of extra added diversity among IP’s and their creators. A classic example comes when, back in May, Coates interviewed Marvel Editor Sana Amanat about her efforts to diversify more of Marvel’s characters, which led to her successfully creating a female Muslim superhero in the form of Ms. Marvel. Soon after the interview, Marvel reached out to Coates about writing for Black Panther.

Black Panther or T’Challa as he’s known, is the leader of the fictional African land known as Wakanda, which is home to the element Vibranium (featured heavily in Avengers Age of Ultron as a set up to their upcoming Black Panther movie) and is the source of Cap’s indestructible shield. T’Challa has a Ph.D. in physics and has been portrayed in various incarnations in the comics as a member of the Avengers.

For Coates’ run, it’s described under the name “A Nation Under Our Feet” and

…A year-long storyline that will follow Black Panther as he confronts the superhuman terrorist group that set off a violent uprising in Wakanda. 

It’s nice to see such a powerful voice coming to the comics and, especially, to the Black Panther Universe. Even though Marvel is burying their comics from Fantastic Four and X-Men, that is all because of their strained relationship with Fox Studios. With Marvel and their movies with Disney, they are definitely looking to expand in the diversity department by reaching out to serious filmmakers, not just of color but also in gender; as witnessed by Ava DuVernay, director of Selma, passing on the directing duties for Black Panther. Though that was a bummer, and DuVernay gave her reasons, the act of offering the movie alone spoke louder than words.

And for fans of Black Panther, you will be happy to know that Coates is especially thrilled for the opportunity and is in no way treating this any differently than his other projects, saying:

‘I don’t experience the stuff I write about as weighty. I feel a strong need to express something. The writing usually lifts the weight. I expect to be doing the same thing for Marvel.’

Now all we have to do is wait till next spring to see the fruits from his labors. I for one applaud Marvel’s stance and look forward to even more diverse writers taking up the Marvel banner very soon.

Because the comics now are mirroring the movies they make; all of these moves go hand in hand.  As mentioned, X-Men and FF are owned by Fox, Marvel doesn’t enjoy dealing with them and so, they are taking away a major part of their relevance in pop culture: the comic. But since they own the rest of their titles (here and there of course with Sony ‘leasing’ Spider-Man and Universal still owning a solo Hulk movie) they can nurture the comic arcs in preparation for their movies.

We know the upcoming slate: Cap and Civil War, another Thor, Dr. Strange, Guardians vol. 2 all culminating to a two part Avengers movie. What’s most exciting, however, for me is the addition of a Captain Marvel and a Black Panther movie. Finally, a female driven superhero movie (form Marvel) doing her thing in the movies with the first black superhero as well. This wasn’t just a smart move by the filmmakers to keep expanding their universe; it was well planned and well timed.

Now that the comics are following, I’m sure we’ll see even more writers entering the comics that, no doubt, will help each grow in fandom. Soon, the movies will follow. And that is good news for the fans. More diverse voices, more risks taken; more beloved superheroes getting their moments.

It’s an exciting time to be a superhero lover.

Make sure you keep checking back here for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

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Mark Reilly
Born a geek a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away - Tustin, CA - Reilly is a seasoned writer and producer with over twenty years experience in the film industry. He is the co-host of 'Far, Far Away' here on GeekNation as well as 'Meet the Movie Press' on the Popcorn Talk Network; which airs live every Friday morning at 9am pst. Tweet him at @Reillyaround