When Marvel Revived 'Black Panther' in 1998
Twenty years before Black Panther became a cultural phenomenon at the box office, the superhero experienced a resurgence in comic books.
Writer Christopher Priest and artist Mark Texeira revamped the property under the guidance of editors Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada, who were tasked with leading the new Marvel Knights imprint that would give a fresh, edgier approach to titles also including The Punisher, Daredevil and The Inhumans. Palmiotti had gone to school with Texeira, while Quesada had worked with Priest at DC and knew Priest'd be the perfect scribe for the project.
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"At the time, we thought, 'Here's a character a lot of kids buying comics could relate to and see themselves in,' " recalls Palmiotti of reviving Black Panther, a character who at the time did not have his own comic.
Though he and his team had faith in the property, others were skeptical.
"When we launched the book, nobody thought a Black Panther comic would not only sell, but last that long," says Palmiotti.
Priest's run would go on to be influential, with noted author and Black Panther scribe Ta-Nehisi Coates calling it "the classic run" in an excellent profile of the writer in Vulture. Palmiotti says one of his few regrets on the title was that there weren't more issues (it wrapped with No. 62 in 2003).
"Chris and Mark made it a fantastic book month after month," says Palmiotti. "If I had to say anything, I'd love to see the books reprinted in a bigger size."
A number of elements from Priest and Texeira's run — including Martin Freeman's character, Everett Ross (inspired by the Friends character Chandler) — made it into director Ryan Coogler's Black Panther movie, which is closing in on $800 million worldwide since opening Feb. 16.
"All of these books we did were a collaboration. I love to take credit for everything, as I'm sure everything would," Palmiotti jokes. "But honestly it was Chris [and the others who] all had a vision and we were happy to put it together."
Palmiotti is looking to transition more comic books to the big screen and he has his hands in a number of adaptations. One of them is Painkiller Jane, based on the character he created with Quesada; it will star Jessica Chastain as a New York City cop who develops regenerative abilities after a near-death experience.
"I'm proud every time we see something like this," he says of Black Panther's jump to movie blockbuster status.
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