Creators Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Evan Narcisse, and Senior Editor Wil Moss discuss their influential comic runs with host Nic Stone in the fifth episode of the acclaimed podcast series The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther. They discuss BLACK PANTHER (2016) and 2018, as well as Narcisse’s RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER (2018), a revamped origin that expands Wakanda’s mythos.
This six-episode documentary podcast is hosted by New York Times best-selling author Stone, who delves into the origins of the Black Panther in comic books through interviews with the creators who shaped T’Challa’s journey, while also celebrating Wakanda’s innately Afro-Futuristic world and analyzing the character’s larger impact. In a definitive tell-all of how T’Challa became Black Panther and how he and Wakanda have progressed since, both new and long-time fans will get a behind-the-scenes look.
PICKING UP THE REIGN ON TA-NEHISI COATES:
COATES, TA-NEHISI: I’ve read a lot of Priest. Reginald Hudlin was one of my favorite authors. [Jonathan] Hickman was probably my biggest influence. Because he was working on an Avengers novel in which T’Challa was practically the main character. So I spent a lot of time thinking about and dealing with his T’Challa.
STONE, NIC: Learning how to write for a visual media like comics, on the other hand, can be a steep learning curve.
COATS FROM TA-NEHISI: It was difficult. Learning to tell stories using graphics was difficult. And that was one of the major obstacles. There’s no assurance that you’ll be successful in comics just because you’ve had success elsewhere.
NIC STONE: This is where the artist enters the picture. Wil Moss, Ta-editor, Nehisi’s understood it would be a difficult road ahead, so he paired him with a comic veteran. After all, success is bred from combinations!
WIL MOSS: Brian Stelfreeze is a true professional. An illustrator who also happens to be a comic book artist. So when it came time to cast BLACK PANTHER, I immediately thought of Brian as the ideal actor for the part. Someone who can come in and completely revitalize the Black Panther and Wakanda universes. So that was one of our goals when we invited Ta-Nehisi to come on, who had never written a comic before. We felt having someone like Brian, who was such a good storyteller on his own, would be beneficial.
IN THE 2016 RUN, WAKANDA’S POLITICAL SHIFT:
COATS FROM TA-NEHISI: When you think of monarchy, you think of a nation of people who are constantly on the move. A country where the people do not always have a say in how their government is run. And [T’Challa] was always leaving Wakanda when I read about him. He was constantly on the move. As though that was something that happened all the time. He enrolled in college. He was leaving to go on an adventure. Everything. And part of his gripe with Shuri before the uprising, and even before that, was the fact that he hadn’t actually been around, you know?
NIC STONE: Basically, Wakanda’s shambles are on display for all to see. The Dora Milaje is the first to be mentioned.
TA-NEHISI COATES: I’ve always found the Dora Milaje’s headquarters in Wakanda to be fascinating. And I thought it was fascinating that in this evolved civilization, you had this model of female bodyguards, complete with uniforms and everything. And I was simply fascinated by their personal lives. I was curious as to how they felt.
NIC STONE: During Coates’ tenure, two Doras, Ayo and Aneka, have doubts about their allegiance to the throne after Aneka is arrested for killing a local chief. In the absence of T’Challa, he is a man whose aggression against women goes unchecked. Ayo, Aneka, and many other Doras abandon the order, become Midnight Angels, and form the “No One” faction as a result of incidents like these. No One is short for No One Man, a reference to their dissatisfaction with the monarchy’s absolute control in Wakanda.
WIL MOSS: [Ta-Nehisi] did a fantastic job introducing Ayo and Aneka. They made their own decisions about what it meant to serve Wakanda. And what their responsibilities were to T’Challa, the king, themselves, and their community. “A Nation Under Our Feet” is a fantastic story with enough of meat on the bones in terms of things to ponder. In terms of how societies function, monarchies are monarchies. However, it also managed to be a thrilling action story.
ON WAKANDAN TECH’S OPERATIONS:
“Hey man, I don’t know tech,” Ta-Nehisi stated at one point. BRIAN STELFREEZE: “I don’t do all that stuff,” he says flatly. “This is my lane.” And, of course, I said, “Well, I adore technology.” I’m not interested in politics.” So he was basically like, “How does Wakanda’s technology work?” And I accomplished something similar with Wakanda’s technological advancement. I’ve got a bunch of friends that work at Texas A&M and MIT, and I was telling them about vibranium and how it works. And it was then that I had the idea that instead of vibranium being a substance that absorbs kinetic energy, it would be better if it was a battery that could absorb one form of energy and return another. And I told Ta-Nehisi that if he wanted to punch it, he could. However, it can be transformed to electricity after that. The energy can then be redistributed as kinetic energy. “But what if he redistributed everything at once, so the whole ‘Panther pulse’ is kind of going,” Ta-Nehisi added. So here’s this idea I came up with, which was extremely cool. Then this creative genius comes in and says, “Well, here’s something else you didn’t think of with this technology.” STONE, NIC: Vibranium is one of the most powerful resources in the Marvel Universe, but Brian wanted to give the celestial metal a deeper meaning. It’s more than simply a power source or a money magnet; it’s a method to bring Wakandans together. BRIAN STELFREEZE: It was one of the things I thought was significant, particularly in light of the African diaspora. To say that vibranium wasn’t just this rock in Wakanda was a great metaphor for me. However, there is vibranium in the air. There’s vibranium in the soil. The plants contain vibranium. And just like we all have copper and iron in our blood, Wakandans have vibranium in their blood every time they leave Wakanda. That vibranium, which is constantly present, bonds them to the mother. And I think it personifies the sense of belonging that all Africans have, as well as the sense of belonging to the mother, that no matter how far the diaspora extends, we’re still all connected in some manner.
THE SCIENTIST ON BLACK PANTHER:
EVAN NARCISSE: One of the themes that I wanted to focus on throughout Ta-run Nehisi’s was T’Challa’s desires clashing with his responsibilities as king. And while this isn’t unique to Ta-Nehisi, he made it a priority during his campaign. So it’s his love of science and desire to travel, combined with a wanderlust fuelled by those desires, that draws him out of Wakanda. I wanted to convey in RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER what it is that generates that in him. Also, his family—you know, Ramonda was a huge part of Ta-campaign, Nehisi’s but she isn’t his biological mother. He was raised by her. However, there is a character named N’Yami who is his biological mother in the universe. Isn’t it true that she died during childbirth in the old stories? And I’d like to learn more about her. And part of my reasoning was that we already knew who T’Chaka was. He’s appeared in a number of previous stories. He’s a king, a strategist, and someone who oversaw the safekeeping of Wakanda during his rule. We also know he died terribly. So we know what personality traits T’Challa gets from him, but I was thinking to myself, “Well, we’ve never seen T’Chaka as a scientist.” He’s never been the guy in the lab before. T’Challa’s proclivity comes from where? When I was thinking about it, I drew on my own experience because my daughter enjoys reading. And I’m sure it’s because of me that she enjoys reading. And I thought to myself, “What if T’Challa received his passion of science from his mother, who was a scientist herself?”
Black Panther: The History of Marvel Comics brings together authors, artists, and historians to weave a story that only Marvel can tell. Exclusive interviews with prominent artists like as John Ridley, Joe Quesada, Christopher Priest, and others are included on the podcast.
The series will be available on the SXM App and Marvel Podcasts Unlimited on Apple Podcasts exclusively at first. One week later, episodes will be widely available on Pandora, Stitcher, and all major podcast platforms in the United States. Visit siriusxm.com/blackpanther for additional information.