A Nation Under Our Feet: ‘The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther’ Podcast

ON TA-NEHISI COATES PICKING UP THE REIGN:

TA-NEHISI COATES: I read a ton of Priest. I read a ton of Reginald Hudlin. Probably my biggest influence was [Jonathan] Hickman. Because he was writing an Avengers book, where T’Challa was almost the protagonist. So I spent a lot of time dealing with his T’Challa and thinking about that.

NICK STONE: Still though, learning how to write for a visual medium like comics can be a massive learning curve.

TA-NEHISI COATES: It was tough. It was tough to learn to tell stories through images. And that was one of the big, big challenges. There’s no guarantee that just because you’ve had success elsewhere, you were going to have success in comics.

NICK STONE: That’s where the artist comes in. Wil Moss, Ta-Nehisi’s editor, knew there’d be a bit of an uphill climb, so he wanted to pair Ta-Nehisi with a comic veteran. Combinations breed success after all!

WIL MOSS: Brian Stelfreeze is a master. An artist who happens to draw comic books. So when it came time to cast BLACK PANTHER, I just thought the dream artist for this would be Brian. Somebody who can come in and do something that just totally reinvigorates Black Panther and Wakanda. And so that was one thing that we had in mind when we had Ta-Nehisi come on, who hadn’t written comics before. We knew that it would be a benefit to have somebody like Brian, who was such a skilled storyteller on his own.

ON WAKANDA’S POLITICAL SHIFT IN THE 2016 RUN:

TA-NEHISI COATES: You know, when you think about monarchy, it’s a nation of people who are underfoot. A nation of people who don’t necessarily decide what direction their government takes. And when I read about [T’Challa], he was always leaving Wakanda. He was always going somewhere else. Like that was a constant, constant thing. He went away for college. He was going away to be an adventurer. All of this. And part of the rebellion, and even before that, part of his beef with Shuri was the fact that he hadn’t really been around, you know?

NICK STONE: Basically, Wakanda’s mess is on blast for everyone to see. Starting with the Dora Milaje.

TA-NEHISI COATES: I always thought the place of the Dora Milaje were very interesting in Wakanda. And I thought it was interesting that in this advanced society, you had this model of women as bodyguards, and just how they had been attired and everything. And I was just very interested in their own lives. I was interested in how they felt.

NICK STONE: In Coates’ run, two Dora, Ayo and Aneka, question their loyalty to the throne after Aneka is taken into custody for killing a village chief. This is a guy whose violence against women went unchecked in T’Challa’s absence. Incidents like these cause Ayo, Aneka, and several other Dora to leave the order, become Midnight Angels, and start the “No One” faction. No One is short for No One Man, which refers to their influenza with the monarchy having all deciding power in Wakanda.

WIL MOSS: I love how [Ta-Nehisi] introduced Ayo and Aneka. Them deciding on their own what it meant to serve Wakanda. And what the obligation was to T’Challa, and to the throne, and to themselves, and to their community. “A Nation Under Our Feet” is just a great story that has a lot of meat on the bones in terms of stuff to think about. In terms of how societies run, in terms of what monarchies are. But it managed to also be this really exciting action story.

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