Last year, journalist and cultural critic Ta-Nehisi Coates was announced as the new writer for Marvel’s Black Panther comics. Now Coates’ journalistic home, The Atlantic, has offered a behind-the-scenes look at Coates’ process, along with an exciting preview of the upcoming series!
“A Nation Under Our Feet” already invokes the title of Stephen Hahn’s history of slavery and The Great Migration, but Coates promises a Black Panther for a new era, saying “The Black Panther I offer pulls from the archives of Marvel and the character’s own long history. But it also pulls from the very real history of society—from the pre-colonial era of Africa, the peasant rebellions that wracked Europe toward the end of the Middle Ages, the American Civil War, the Arab Spring, and the rise of ISIS.” Check out more on Coates’ process, along with Brian Stelfreeze’s fantastic art, below!
Coates always felt a deep affinity with comics, particularly their ability to champion the underdog:
As a child of the crack-riddled West Baltimore of the 1980s, I found the tales of comic books to be an escape, another reality where, very often, the weak and mocked could transform their fallibility into fantastic power. That is the premise behind the wimpy Steve Rogers mutating into Captain America, behind the nerdy Bruce Banner needing only to grow angry to make his enemies take flight, behind the bespectacled Peter Parker being transfigured by a banal spider bite into something more.
Coates also offers a fascinating look at the process of switching from writing long form journalism to comics scripts, and working with artists:
…for a comic book, I must get down to the brass tacks of deciding how each beat should look. Is this a narrated series of scenes, illustrated by panels of a baby being born, a father walking out of the house, a nurse leaving her children to go off to work? No, I think it would be better to dramatize everything—perhaps with a young Moynihan waving goodbye to his mother as she leaves for work and then going to his room to look longingly at a picture of his father.
Here’s some more gorgeous concept art:
You can see more of the preview over at The Atlantic, and the first issue will hit our eyeballs in April!