Ta-Nehisi Coates Will Write Black Panther Comic for Marvel

Posted by at 10:15 am on September 23, 2015

Black PantherMarvel has asked Ta-Nehisi Coates to take on a new Black Panther series set to begin next spring. Writing for that comics publisher is a childhood dream that, despite the seeming incongruity, came about thanks to his day job. “The Atlantic is a pretty diverse place in terms of interest, but there are no comics nerds,” besides himself, Mr. Coates said in an interview.

His passions intersected in May, during the magazine’s New York Ideas seminar, when he interviewed Sana Amanat, a Marvel editor, about diversity and inclusion in comic books. Ms. Amanat led the creation of the new Ms. Marvel, a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City, based on some of her own childhood experiences.

“It was a fruitful discussion,” he recalled.

After that event, Marvel reached out, paired Mr. Coates with an editor, and discussions about the comic began. The renewed focus on Black Panther is no surprise. Created in 1966, he is the first black superhero and hails from Wakanda, a fictional African country.

“He has the baddest costume in comics and is a dude who is smarter and better than everyone,” said Axel Alonso, the editor in chief of Marvel. The character not only adds to the diversity of Marvel’s comics; he will do it for their films too: Black Panther is set to make his big-screen debut next year in “Captain America: Civil War,” followed by a solo feature in 2018.

At first glance, it may seem odd for Mr. Coates to write a mainstream superhero comic. He has been lauded for his book “Between the World and Me,” a passionate letter to his son on being black in America. But he does not see anything odd about it. “I don’t experience the stuff I write about as weighty,” he said. “I feel a strong need to express something. The writing usually lifts the weight. I expect to be doing the same thing for Marvel.”

Books of The Times: Review: In ‘Between the World and Me,’ Ta-Nehisi Coates Delivers a Searing Dispatch to His SonJULY 9, 2015
“I wanted to make racism tactile, visceral. Because it is.” Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “Between the World and Me”Ta-Nehisi Coates’s ‘Visceral’ Take on Being Black in AmericaJULY 17, 2015
“A Nation Under Our Feet,” the yearlong story line written by Mr. Coates and drawn by Brian Stelfreeze, is inspired by the 2003 book of the same title by Steven Hahn. It will find the hero dealing with a violent uprising in his country set off by a superhuman terrorist group called the People. “It’s going to be a story that repositions the Black Panther in the minds of readers,” Mr. Alonso said. “It really moves him forward.”

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