In recent days, news has floated around of a new series set in Wakanda that is in development for Disney +. Black Panther writer and director, Ryan Coogler and his company Proximity Media have signed a multi-year deal that will allow Coogler to develop several projects for the Walt Disney Company. Currently, Coogler is working on the sequel to the 2018 blockbuster hit Black Panther, with increasing attention since the untimely death of its star, Chadwick Boseman. This news comes after the announcement from Marvel that long-time writer of the Black Panther comic book series, Ta-Nehisi Coates is leaving after a 5-year run. I’m going to talk about his run on Black Panther and how he brought the Wankandan king from orphan to sovereignty. His reign may be coming to an end, but Wakanda is Forever!
Ta-Nehisi Coates & Black Panther
As the latest issue of Comic Shop News put it, “it’s an end of an era for the Black Panther.” Ta-Nehisi Coates will wrap up 5 years as the writer of the Wakandan epic with Black Panther #25 (illustrated by David Acuńa and Brian Stelfreeze), which arrives on spinner racks this spring. Coates brings T’Challa back to the land he left behind, and to the crown he never wanted. It’s a story of a king who yearned to be a hero, became a slave, and ultimately a legend. All the while struggling to hold up an empire.
In its history, Black Panther has never been a huge seller. For a single character comic series to have continued success, it needs a big-name character like Spider-Man, Thor, or Captain America (Coates’ Black Panther run may be ending, but he is still writing Captain America). “Team” oriented series, like Avengers or X-Men, also draw more significant sales numbers because there are potential side-character spin-offs.
Before writing Black Panther, Coates, whose first name is derived from the Ancient Egyptian for Nubia, was already a well-established writer/journalist for The Atlantic. He also contributed to the New York Times Magazine and The Washington Post, among several other reputable publications. Coates’ run of Black Panther began in April 2016; his first issue sold over 250,000 copies, the most of any comic book that month.
Black Panther a tough sell?
When I recently visited my local comic book shop, I asked if they had any recent issues of Black Panther. The owner replied that not only has he not seen an issue of Black Panther in a long time, but he also doesn’t even have a dedicated space for the series. The owner, Jay said Black Panther is not the only single character series that falls victim to declining sales after its premiere. Nova, She-Hulk, and Spider-Woman all see high sales numbers initially, but once the honeymoon is over, things tend to flatline until the series gets canceled and a new first issue releases.
Coates’ prolific writing career effectively caused his run to be sporadic. In his 5-year run, Coates wrote two volumes worth of comics (volumes 6 and 7), but it was never a continuous run between 2016 to 2021. Nevertheless, Coates built an epic series that brought the Black Panther to new heights. Below is a list of his Black Panther titles.
Black Panther Volume 6
- A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1: Black Panther Vol. 6 #1–4, Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #52
- A Nation Under Our Feet Book 2: Black Panther Vol. 6 #5–8
- A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3: Black Panther Vol. 6 #9–12
- Book 4: Avengers of the New World Part 1: Black Panther Vol. 6 #13–18
- Book 5: Avengers of the New World Part 2: Black Panther #166-172
Black Panther Volume 7
- Black Panther Book 6: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Part 1
- Black Panther Book 7: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Part 2
- Black Panther Book 8: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Part 3
- Black Panther Book 9: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Part 4
Shuri or T’Challa?
Coates arguably took Black Panther further than any previous writer. He fleshed out Shuri (played by Letitia Wright in the film) far more than the movie ever did, that’s for sure. She is equal to T’Challa in terms of stature in Wakanda. I would argue that Shuri is the more assertive of the two, while T’Challa is more pensive. In Coates’ run, Princess Shuri convinced Ayo and the rest of the Dora Milaje to align with T’Challa to protect him. As a refresher, Ayo (played by Florence Kasumba) in the MCU is the second in command behind Okoye (played by Danai Gurira). The Dora Milaje are the all-female warrior tribe.
Black Panther’s Crew
Part of T’Challa’s charm and Coates’ understanding of the humble hero, T’Challa knows he can’t revive Wakanda alone, so he recruits help from Storm, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and former Avenger, Manifold, who is now part of S.W.O.R.D. Misty Knight can be seen in Marvel’s Luke Cage Netflix series, played by Simone Missick. Not familiar with Misty Knight? That’s okay because T’Challa isn’t either. Tony Stark also makes a quick cameo early in the series. This team-up lead to the second iteration of The Crew, also written by Coates, which debuted later in 2017 for six issues until its cancellation.
Coates has such a firm grasp of the subject matter, he makes you believe Wakanda is a real place and T’Challa is royalty. As a seeker of knowledge, T’Challa requested guidance and spirituality from his mentor and tutor, Changamire. What makes a king or any leader successful is not the leader, but those he, in this case, surround themselves with. However, one doesn’t become wise without first learning from their past. T’Challa believed himself to be superior to his ancestors. Coates creates a parallel between Black Panther and Thor. Thor’s ego leads him to think he knew what it took to be King of Asgard until his father cast him out, just as T’Challa was cast out. T’Challa never wanted to be a king. He wanted to be a hero. No worthy king deems himself worthy, nor does he seek the crown. A reluctant king is a good king.
Wakanda is not invincible
As advanced and as fierce as the people are, Wakanda has been defeated by Namor, Morlun (a supervillain from the Spiderverse), and The Black Order, a supervillain team consisting of Thanos and others. Regardless of their defeat, T’Challa always rose from the ashes to restore Wakanda to its rightful place.
One of the reasons T’Challa was cast out is because he was orphaned. In fact, he is given the name Haramu-Fal, which means “The Orphan-King.” Orphans in Wakanda are looked down upon. They are a marginalized part of the Wakandan society. Although it is recognized that Wakanda is a nation of orphans. Much like the United States is a nation of foreigners who have done their part in building a nation.
I’ll be honest, the first two volumes took a little extra effort absorbing the material; it’s pretty heavy. But by volume three, it starts to hit its stride. I included so many images because the art is breathtaking. Brian Stellfreeze, who collaborated with Coates on Black Panther, said Coates was still learning visual storytelling on the first volume but created new ways of accomplishing it. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ version of Black Panther laid a solid foundation from which to build for whoever takes up the pen for the next series. If you want to take a deep dive in Wakandan lore, I definitely recommend Coates’ Black Panther run. As Shuri so eloquently said, “For, in the end, it is the story that really matters.”
A Little About Me
My name is Eric Onkenhout, I live in Massachusetts, and Star Wars is my jam and has been since I was 6 or 7. Besides Star Wars, I also enjoy Marvel and Game of Thrones. I love to write, whether it’s fiction, reviews, or journalistic articles. I also enjoy long walks on the beach!
As far as movies, books, comic books, or tv shows, I tend to gravitate towards good writing regardless of the genre. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English-Creative Writing; I like sports like hockey, football, and soccer. And I have one cat named Zeke who is doing his best at laying on my arm as I type this right now.