Marvel’s recent issues with diversity at the helm of their superhero books has become a recent meme in criticizing the comic giant, which was a criticism well deserved. The Marvel Universe has tended towards a sea of white faces, and even while they are adding diversity with stunning characters like Ms. Marvel, those behind the panels have again been monochrome.
This is why the new announcement that notable non-fiction author of Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, will be writing the new Black Panther comic relaunch.
Coates, who is often known for his contributions to The Atlantic and his incredibly sharp narratives about the contemporary African American experience, is not known for his fiction work, and certainly not for his graphic fiction background. Instead, he is helming the book as a new attempt to not only bring in writers of color, but also to bring in fresh creative voices that could do something unique. Coates has portrayed himself as a “comic nerd,” and this new shape on the Black Panther will likely be done to highlight the character’s racial background as relevant both to his characterization and to the social issues in which he interacts.
All of this is critically important as they ramp up to the first appearance of the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War next year, and then the solo Black Panther film in 2018. This means that raising the profile of the Black Panther character, who is relatively unknown to non-comic readers, is going to be part of Coates’ job.
The first storyline that he will be running with will be called “A Nation Under Our Feet,” a year-long arc that shares the name of the 2003 one that drew attention. Drawn by Brian Stelfreeze, it will look at the political revolutions in his home nation of Wakanda and the response to an insurrectionary organization called The People. Drawing together the issues of racial violence and international conflict, it will hopefully draw on the experience that Coates has created an incredible career as a “true life” storyteller.