“Black Panther’s Artist and Editor on Diversity in Comics and Relaunching the Iconic Superhero”

“Marvel Comics just launched a new Black Panther series, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates (that’s right, the well-known journalist and author of New York Times bestseller Between The World and Me) and drawn by Brian Stelfreeze.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the character, he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s — as a black superhero, he stood out at a time when comics were a lot whiter.

White characters still dominate the superhero world, but that’s beginning to change, thanks in part to Marvel characters like the Kamala Khan incarnation of Ms. Marvel and the Miles Morales incarnation of Spider-Man. Which is great, but how does the Black Panther stand out now, when he’s no longer theblack superhero?

Well, Stelfreeze said he’s still “definitely the OG of black superhero characters.” He also pointed out that from his debut, the character was noteworthy as the king of a (fictional) African nation, Wakanda: “He wasn’t a prisoner, he wasn’t someone’s sidekick or something like that, he was introduced as a character of majesty.”

Series editor Wil Moss suggested that since Black Panther no longer has to “carry that burden of being the only black character in the line,” the story can deal more with Wakanda, its politics and how the character reacts to a rebellion that threatens his rule.

“What Ta-Nehisi is doing, he’s charging me with making Wakanda a city that you recognize, that you can go to,” Stelfreeze added. “You not only get the feeling of the country, you get the feeling of the people.”

For a nonwhite superhero fan like me, it’s also exciting to see a Black Panther comic that’s written and drawn by black creators. When I asked whether hiring a diverse lineup of writers and artists is important to Marvel, Moss said that it’s more about finding the right talent who can tell the best stories…”




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