No One Man Should Have All That Power
April 7, 2016 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze is brilliant, political, and human
Ultimately, Stelfreeze and Coates have woven a story that Black Panther deserves, and one that pushes his and Wakanda's preestablished narrative into brave new territory. This is a story about a man of his people, and unlike many Black Panther stories of the past, it does justice to and makes us care about those he's pledged to serve and protect. It's a brilliant start to one of Marvel's most promising new series, and like the hero whose story it tells, it's poised to defy its already grand expectations.

Some background : A reader's guide to Black Panther comics and The Politics of Marvel's Black Panther.

Some things you might have missed in issue #1 : Ta-Nehisi Coates Annotates His Black Panther Debut

Ta-Nehisi Coates Is Trying To Do Right By Marvel Comics’ First Black Superhero : full transcript
It’s 2 A.M. on March 20 in France and Ta-Nehisi Coates is not sleeping. “I’m up learning to make maps so I can make one of Wakanda, believe it or not.”

Black Panther #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Politics, War, Identity, and Love
In Black Panther's first issue, Coates examines the title character through the eyes of his people. He becomes a secondary, reactive character of sorts — there are more panels featuring characters other than Black Panther than panels that feature the title character himself. And Coates makes clear that the Wakandans' strife and distrust isn't unwarranted or illogical — Wakanda is supposedly exceptional, but under its current regime, the country is far from it.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on ‘Black Panther’ and Creating a Comic That Reflects the Black Experience
Maybe I had too much confidence about this, but I wasn't too worried about the bodies of the black dudes. I felt like I was on pretty good terrain with that. Instead, we talked a lot—between me, Brian, and our editor Will Moss—about the things that we have to do being three dudes working on this. Four, including our associate editor, Chris Robinson. (We have one woman on our creative team, colorist Laura Martin.) There's an angle dealing with, for lack of better words, feminist issues in the book. I wanted to take great, great care with the depiction of the bodies of women because of where the storyline is going. I didn't want to have women at the center of the story, to have them partially leading it, and then have the depiction be, how shall we say, problematic.

The Return of the Black Panther
Despite the difference in style and practice of storytelling, my approach to comic books ultimately differs little from my approach to journalism. In both forms, I am trying to answer a question. In my work for The Atlantic I have, for some time, been asking a particular question: Can a society part with, and triumph over, the very plunder that made it possible? In Black Panther there is a simpler question: Can a good man be a king, and would an advanced society tolerate a monarch?

A Conflicted Man: An Interview With Ta-Nehisi Coates About Black Panther
Others have portrayed T’Challa as arrogant, which distances the reader from the character, but re-reading those earlier issues I was struck by the idea that T’Challa doesn’t actually like being a king. I mean, who is a king and just leaves his nation for long periods of time to fight with the Avengers? Who does that? At one point he was working as a teacher in Harlem! I thought it would be interesting to explore a character who had to be King but perhaps didn’t want to be King. That’s T’Challa. I see him as a man in conflict.

Brian Stelfreeze Breathes Life Into the 'Black Panther'
We caught up with Stelfreeze to talk about the new series, diving into the collaboration with Coates, how he identifies with the Black Panther, and the current social issues that the series touches on.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther is a human drama about power
Coates’ project, then, is to elevate the hero to a higher place in the pantheon. To do it, he and Stelfreeze are delving deep into who the Black Panther is and what he means. The resulting story promises to be less about superhero squabbles, and more about people — particularly African people — navigating something far more universal: power.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new Black Panther comic provides a debut fit for a king
Instead, Coates — aided by the beautiful African vibes of Stelfreeze’s artistry — gives us a hero in deep conflict. Wakanda — the fictional technological haven that the Black Panther calls home — is in turmoil. And not everyone there believes that the Black Panther is worthy of his throne.

Ta-Nehisi Coates Hopes 'Black Panther' Will Be Some Kid's 'Spider-Man'
"When I was a young person, my introduction frankly into the world of literature and the beauty of words and the beauty of language, occurred through three things," Coates says. "It occurred through the magic of hip-hop, it occurred through the magic of Dungeons and Dragons, and it occurred through the magic of Marvel comic books, so I feel back at home."

Why Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘Black Panther’ is the biggest comic book this year
By March 18th, over 300,000 copies of this book were spoken for and sold to retailers. I’m not sure what the exact odds of going platinum are, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Due to the perfect storm that this book is a part of the product is flying off the shelf, and there is an excitement that doesn’t often permeate the mainstream from the comic book world. In layman’s terms, it’s lit.
posted by nadawi (39 comments total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
 
oh i somehow left this off : previously
posted by nadawi at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh wow. The annotations link. Thanks for that find.
posted by zarq at 10:56 AM on April 7, 2016


This is the first single issue of a comic (rather than waiting for a trade) that I've ever purchased. It was a good choice.
posted by thecaddy at 11:02 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, looking forward to this!
posted by P.o.B. at 11:11 AM on April 7, 2016


I'm still making my way through Jonathan Hickman's T'Challa-heavy run on Avengers and New Avengers, and when I asked him on Twitter Coates said I should finish that before reading his series. It's going to be tough to wait...
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:12 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


So how long does it take before a trade paperback of the series gets published? I can't deal with individual comic books but I'd love to read this.
posted by octothorpe at 11:24 AM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


You're probably looking at nine to twelve months. Collections tend to run around six issues, so six months for the regular release schedule, then some time to let that simmer in the public.

I've been wondering if Coates would make the jump to fiction successfully. Ive found few journalists manage it well.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 11:29 AM on April 7, 2016


oh x2! some of the variant covers (but oddly not all, missing at least this one).

according to amazon, the first trade paperback will be out september 27th
posted by nadawi at 11:29 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


So excited about this! Thanks for the excellent post, nadawi.

(And also many, many thanks for being pretty much the textbook example of an awesome ally.)
posted by lord_wolf at 11:35 AM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm definitely excited for this. Asked to have it added to my pull list shortly after it was announced Coates was taking Panther over. And Stelfreeze! His Batman covers back in the day were soooo good.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 11:40 AM on April 7, 2016


Could it possibly be better than Priest's run? Man, that was a great series.
posted by joelhunt at 11:44 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is there a comics app that lets you download e-versions of comics? I'd be interested in this but my google searches aren't pulling up such a thing and I'm not convenient to a comic book store.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:08 PM on April 7, 2016


Definitely! Pretty much everything that gets published in print nowadays, from large and small publishers alike, is also sold digitally at Comixology.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:09 PM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I use the Marvel comics app, because they have this thing called "Guided View" that gently takes you through the comic, panel by panel, making the best use of the iPad screen. For these old eyes, it's a godsend. As I understand it, Comixology has this view as well.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 12:23 PM on April 7, 2016


I called a local comics store; they have _hundreds_ of copies and expect to sell them all. This is a big deal.

(They said they don't expect to sell them all _today_, so there's still time to go pick one up.)
posted by amtho at 12:33 PM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've been wondering if Coates would make the jump to fiction successfully. Ive found few journalists manage it well

This isn't the first fiction he's written, although I think it's the first he's published. At one point, before writing BTWAM, he was working on a Civil War-era novel. I hope he'll go back to that at some point, although I don't begrudge him the time spent on comics. I heard him on NPR last night, prioritizing his comics writing over his journalism.
posted by suelac at 12:37 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


As I understand it, Comixology has this view as well.

They do.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:39 PM on April 7, 2016


theshrillist made an afrofuturism mix a while back that gives some good listening along music, if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by nadawi at 12:56 PM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm still making my way through Jonathan Hickman's T'Challa-heavy run on Avengers and New Avengers, and when I asked him on Twitter Coates said I should finish that before reading his series. It's going to be tough to wait...

If you don't want to wait, you don't actually need to read Hickman's Avengers/New Avengers (though the runs are pretty good if you want to). You just need to read up on what happened, because Wakanda goes through some pretty major changes in them.

As for the book itself...

I feel like it's hard to talk about this comic as the work itself, as opposed to all the context and meaning and history surrounding it, because it feels like one of those Important Works You're Supposed to Like and because it's Coates. I actually thought the first issue was decent but kind of bland. I hope it gets better, and I hope it doesn't fizzle out because right now it's something of a stunt that's driving the (relative) mega-sales.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:09 PM on April 7, 2016


I totally want to, though! I just finished Infinity and am in no mood to stop.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:17 PM on April 7, 2016


Even though fiction and journalism are both writing, they use really different aspects of writing. There are very few that can do both well, let alone one of them.

My hope is that the blandness can be ascribed to the really narrow confines of American superhero comics. The medium got kneecapped by the Code, so the American form is really behind the Japanese in that regard. I could do with far more experimentation in the medium, but the market doesn't look to be there in any substantial way.

If I ever strike it rich, I'd love to foster talent via my own publishing company. It might be a money pit, but I absolutely love the medium.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 1:39 PM on April 7, 2016


Strange_Robinson : "By the early 2000s, newer publishers bypassed the CCA and Marvel Comics abandoned it in 2001. By 2010, only three major publishers still adhered to it: DC Comics, Archie Comics, and Bongo Comics. Bongo broke with the CCA in 2010. DC and Archie followed in January 2011, rendering the Code defunct."

That's not an issue anymore, but perhaps tradition lingers. Either way, there are amazing comics being made that push the boundaries of what you should expect... and, to be fair, they were being made even when the CCA was being adhered to because many, many publishers never even bothered to care about it.
posted by radiosilents at 2:03 PM on April 7, 2016


A phenomenal post. I'll have to pick this up later tonight. I have the next two days off and I've been ignoring my comics and am behind on many series. This will be a good excuse to dive back in. Appreciate all the effort you put into it. Cheers.
posted by Fizz at 2:59 PM on April 7, 2016


If Marvel uses the same interface for their individually-purchased comics as for their Marvel Unlimited app, then I'd suggest using Comixology instead -- at least on Android it's a smoother, less laggy experience, with higher resolution scans. (Pro-tip: you can link it to your Amazon account and buy comics from there -- not great from the perspective of minimizing Amazon's many-tentacled grip on the consumer economy, but if you're already buying what is technically a Disney property...)

Thanks for the great post! I'll come back to this tomorrow after I've read the issue.
posted by bettafish at 3:19 PM on April 7, 2016


Five dollars. This comic book costs five dollars.

It is a good comic book. It is almost certainly the start of a great run on an iconic character. It is written by a MacArthur grant and National Book Award winner.

But still. This comic book costs FIVE DOLLARS.

Is this the way to get this comic book into the hands of every twelve-year-old comics reader? I know Marvel is in the business of printing money these days, and I know I am old and need to get over the fact that comics don't cost a quarter any more, but jeez.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:42 PM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I know Marvel is in the business of printing money these days,

Marvel doesn't, Disney does. Marvel the comic company makes almost nothing compared to the grand Disney empire. Print comics make almost no money and are read by a very tiny population.

Which makes their pricing even more baffling. You'd think Disney could just take a tiny slice of their movie profits and give it to Marvel so it could charge like $.50 a book and try out all sorts of new stories and just be the IP farm it is.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:58 PM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Could it possibly be better than Priest's run? Man, that was a great series.

Yeah, and it really grinds my gears to have the above the fold link gush about how this new series is the first to look at T'challa this way and feature the hidden political history of Wakanda. NO. Priest did it first.

But then Priest has never gotten any respect for his writing, so it's not surprising his role in recreating the Panther has been forgotten. His run was the first time the Panther had ever been cool, rather than at best a vehicle for white men to explore racial issues, awkwardly. (The Panther versus the Klan! The Panther in South Africa!)
posted by MartinWisse at 10:53 PM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just got the first issue and added it to my pull list. I really like it-- I mean, I'll buy pretty much anything Stelfreeze draws, and I admire Coates vastly, so I was always going to love this. The only criticism I have is that I find it a little heavy-handed in places, but I think the writing is poetic enough to make up for it. I'll be interested to see where it goes.

Stelfreeze has been posting some of his designs and commentary to his Facebook page, which I've been enjoying.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:18 AM on April 8, 2016


I love the Afrofuturism of Stelfreeze's art. It's a great combination of Kirbyesque future with African themes. It'd be disappointing if it just looked like New York, and it doesn't.

With the story, I like the themes Coates has taken on here and I'm eager to see how it proceeds. Only thing is, I find I really don't like reading graphic novels in one-chapter chunks. It's a little confusing as is, but it'll be fine when you can turn the page and keep going.
posted by zompist at 3:40 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


But then Priest has never gotten any respect for his writing, so it's not surprising his role in recreating the Panther has been forgotten

there are a lot of links here so i'll forgive anyone for not pouring over all of them, but coates is clear that priest's black panther is the one that got him into black panther and that without priest, his black panther probably wouldn't exist - both for himself and the audience.
posted by nadawi at 6:29 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I totally want to, though! I just finished Infinity and am in no mood to stop.

You're through to the best part, now. With the Infinity crossover handcuffs off, the rest of the run is Hickman getting to be Hickman.
posted by Uncle Ira at 8:56 AM on April 8, 2016


coates is clear that priest's black panther is the one that got him into black panther and that without priest, his black panther probably wouldn't exist

This article of the ones linked has Coates talking about his debt to and differences from Priest's take on the character. I like what he says about how Priest started with an outsider's POV to create a Batman-like mystique for Black Panther, but that Coates wants to write from Panther's own POV who of course knows himself to be more human and fallible. And he wants to take into account the past several years of Marvel history and what it means for T'Challa that Wakanda has gone from a rich nation proud to have never been conquered by outsiders to a broken, humbled, hurting, fractured society.
posted by straight at 2:29 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


TIL that Ta-Nehisi Coates is a Marxist. According to Andrew Sullivan anyway.
posted by homunculus at 4:05 PM on April 8, 2016


Great post and great title!
posted by TwoStride at 6:38 AM on April 9, 2016


Hi I'm a comic book noob! I bought this and really liked it but was surprised by how many tacky advertisements there were throughout. At the end of this run, will the series be bound together in a book and sold as a larger piece? Dressed up a bit, without all of the ads for cereal in between? Just curious, as I may wait and buy that instead of each individual edition.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:13 AM on April 9, 2016


Yes, although you may have to wait a while for the single-volume collection that includes the whole thing. First they're going to release smaller books that each include a portion of the run. One of those is available for pre-order so far, and will include the first four issues.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:15 AM on April 9, 2016


Perfect, thank you.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:18 AM on April 9, 2016


Relevant to "waiting for the trade": It’s Time To Rethink How Graphic Novels Are Read
posted by Artw at 9:57 AM on April 9, 2016


I've only ever bought trade editions of comic books, there's no way that I would ever want to figure out how to buy individual editions. I don't want to have to wait to finish the story and don't want the stress of having to collect everything in a series. Also I have no infrastructure to store individual comic books; I don't want to have to invest in plastic sleeves and storage boxes and such. Just sell me the damn collection in a nice easy to hold book.
posted by octothorpe at 5:45 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


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