A Nation Beneath Our Feet: “The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther” Podcast
ON TA-NEHISI COATES TAKING BACK THE REIGN:
COATS TA-NEHISI: I’ve read a ton of Priest. I’ve read a ton of Reginald Hudlin. My biggest influence has probably been [Jonathan] Hickman. Because he was writing an Avengers book, where T’Challa was almost the protagonist. So I spent a lot of time looking after his T’Challa and thinking about it.
Nick Stone: Still, learning to write for a visual medium like comics can be a massive learning curve.
COATS TA-NEHISI: It was hard. It was difficult to learn to tell stories through images. And that was one of the big, big challenges. There’s no guarantee that just because you had success elsewhere, you were going to have success in comics.
Nick Stone: This is where the artist comes in. Wil Moss, the editor of Ta-Nehisi, knew that the climb would be a bit difficult, so he wanted to associate Ta-Nehisi with a comic book veteran. Combinations breed success after all!
WIL MOSS: Brian Stelfreeze is a master. An artist who draws comics. So when it came time to launch BLACK PANTHER, I just thought the dream artist for it would be Brian. Someone who can come in and do something that totally invigorates Black Panther and Wakanda. And so that was something we had in mind when we brought in Ta-Nehisi, who had never written comics before. We knew it would be an advantage to have someone like Brian, who was such a gifted storyteller on his own.
ON WAKANDA’S POLITICAL CHANGE IN THE 2016 RACE:
TA-NEHISI COATS: You know, when you think of the monarchy, it’s a nation of people who are underfoot. A nation of people who don’t necessarily decide the direction their government takes. And when I read about [T’Challa], he always left Wakanda. He always went somewhere else. Like it was a constant, constant thing. He went to college. He was going to be an adventurer. All that. And part of the rebellion, and even before that, part of his falling out with Shuri was the fact that he hadn’t really been there, you know?
Nick Stone: Basically, the mess in Wakanda is explosive for everyone to see. Starting with the Dora Milaje.
COATS TA-NEHISI: I always thought the Dora Milaje Square was very interesting in Wakanda. And I thought it was interesting that in this advanced society, you have this pattern of women as bodyguards, and how they were dressed 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 Doras, Ayo and Aneka, question their loyalty to the throne after Aneka is arrested for killing a village chief. He’s 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 create the “No One” faction. No One is short for No One Man, which refers to their dissatisfaction with the monarchy having all the decision-making power in Wakanda.
WIL MOSS: i like how [Ta-Nehisi] introduced Ayo and Aneka. Them deciding for themselves what it meant to serve Wakanda. And what was the obligation 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 its bones in terms of things to think about. In terms of how societies work, in terms of what monarchies are. But it managed to be this really exciting action story as well.