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Marvel’s Black Panther Announcement Receives Mixed Reaction

Ta-Nehisi CoatesFor some time, Marvel has made it known that we should expect a Black Panther comic coming in the next year. With a solo movie as well as a key role in next year’s Captain America: Civil War, it only made sense we would. Rumors have swirled for some time as to who would take on creative duties, with hints from Marvel decision makers we would see a person of color in a role.

Yesterday, the comic book company announced that Ta-Nehisi Coates will take on writing duties along with Brian Stelfreeze on art. That’s two Black creators on a series featuring a Black character. That’s the third black artist, and first black writer announced as part of All-New, All-Different Marvel. It’s also the fifth Black character in a solo series. Interestingly characters are on par as a percentage of solo characters with that of African-Americans/Blacks in the United States, while they are woefully underrepresented as part of the creative team.

Marvel has said that the All-New, All-Different initiative would be made up of 55-60 series, and so far 57 of those have been announced. If every writer and artist for the possible last three series were Black, they’d still be underrepresented compared to the general US population.

For the year long story arc, the series is described as:

The indomitable will of Wakanda — the famed African nation known for its vast wealth, advanced technology and warrior traditions — has long been reflected in the will of its monarchs, the Black Panthers. But now, the current Black Panther, T’Challa, finds that will tested by a superhuman terrorist group called The People that has sparked a violent uprising among the citizens of Wakanda.  T’Challa knows the country must change to survive — the question is, will the Black Panther survive the change?

The take by Coates does sound intriguing. In the press release of the announcement, he said:

Wakanda is really the light of the world, in the Marvel Universe. And yet it’s a system of governance that has not advanced beyond the idea of blood-rule. It’s always seemed to me that T’Challa was aware of this discrepancy. Among the monarchs of Marvel –Namor and Doctor Doom for instance– T’Challa has always been distinguished to me by his discomfort on the throne, and with the problems of one-man rule. I am very much looking forward to exploring that tension.

The announcement was rather mixed online with a sentiment score of 70 for #BlackPanther according to Topsy. That’s below #Marvel’s score of 88.

Coates is a talented writer, having mostly written as a journalist for a who’s who of news outlets as well as writing two books. He hasn’t written for comics, but is a long time fan. Being unproven in the comics realm has brought criticism of the choice by Marvel, with charges of the publisher overlooking the numerous talented persons of color that have proven themselves in the medium already.

Some pointed out that this decision sends the signal that for a person of color to be hired by Marvel they need to be extraordinary in their ability and talent.

Others felt this could be seen as tokenism as he is the lone Black writer, making up just 2.33% of writers hired for the All-New, All-Different initiative. Out of the 43 writers so far announced, just two are not White (not to mention this decision adds two more men to the staff. Men are greatly over represented in the hiring).

But, the chances are, Coates will do a good job bringing a Black Panther infused with a global view and political intrigue.

And if he doesn’t and the series doesn’t perform? We’ll see how much of the year plan actually happens.