Rebecca Wanzo, associate professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and associate director, Center for the Humanities
The stakes are high for Marvel and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates to do Black Panther well. The character appears this month in the blockbuster “Captain America: Civil War,” a prelude to the film he’ll headline in 2018. And last month, Coates released the first issue of a new Black Panther comic series.
The implication was that a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and winner of the National Book Award was participating in a genre and medium beneath his talents. But they might be surprised to learn discussions of racism in superhero comics is a long – albeit often troubled – tradition. They also might not recognize the extent of Coates’ literary undertaking. He is tasked not only with appealing to comics readers but also with attracting new fans to the genre. This would be a daunting prospect, no matter the property. But the Black Panther character poses a very specific set of challenges.When it was first reported last September that Coates would script a 12-issue arc of the Black Panther, some commentators suggested that he might be an “odd” fit.
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