Brian Stelfreeze is a name know to many comic fans. He’s been in the industry for over two decades and has worked for just about every publisher. His pencil and brush have graced the pages of Shadow of the Bat, Domino, The Authority, Deadpool and more. Ta-Nehisi Coates is not a name known to many comic fans, though that is sure to change next spring. The National Correspondent for The Atlantic and National Book Award nominated author is well known outside of comics for his writings covering cultural, social, and political issues, particularly those facing the black community.
The New York Times yesterday announced that the two will be teaming up to write and draw a year long Black Panther storyline, A Nation Under Our Feet next spring. Coates may be a newcomer to comics, but he’s been a Marvel fan since he was a child. “an intimate part of my childhood and, at this point, part of my adulthood,” Coates said. “It was mostly through pop culture, through hip-hop, through Dungeons & Dragons and comic books that I acquired much of my vocabulary.” He discovered Storm, at the time leading the X-Men; Monica Rambeau in her Captain Marvel guise; and Iron Man in the form of James “Rhodey” Rhodes; but to him it wasn’t a big deal, as “They were obviously black” but to him just people helping people. Coates said, “I’m sure it meant something to see people who looked like me in comic books. It was this beautiful place that I felt pop culture should look like.”
A Nation Under Our Feet will find our hero tackling a violent uprising in Wakanda set off by superhuman terrorist group, The People. “It’s going to be a story that repositions the Black Panther in the minds of readers,” Marvel E-i-C Axel Alonso said. “It really moves him forward.” The storyline’s issues make Coates the perfect writer, and he’ll be able to use his knowledge and history with the subjects to his advantage. “I feel a strong need to express something. The writing usually lifts the weight. I expect to be doing the same thing for Marvel.”
He interviewed Marvel editor and new Ms. Marvel creator Sana Amanat at the Atlantic’s New Ideas Seminar where the subject of diversity came up, after which Marvel reached out to him and discussions of the series followed. With the Black Panther attaining his highest profile ever very soon due to his appearance in Captain America: Civil War, the time is right to give the character a nudge, and Coates is definitely the right writer for the character.
The storyline is directly inspired by the 2003 book by Steven Hahn, and indirectly by the works of Jonathan Hickman, especially the recent Secret Wars storyline. “You don’t come in off the board and come in at that level,” Coates said of Hickman’s work. “But it helps to want it to be great. I want to make a great comic. I really, really do.”