Ta-Nehisi Coates Leaving Marvel's 'Black Panther'
Ta-Nehisi Coates will be leaving Marvel’s Black Panther this summer with the 25th issue of the title’s current run. The news, announced Saturday at Chicago’s C2E2 comic book convention, will leave the titular character — and his position inside Marvel in both fictional and real-world incarnations — significantly different.
Black Panther No. 25, to be released in June and illustrated by Daniel Acuna, will wrap up the storylines Coates has been telling since he started writing the character with the first issue of a series that ran from 2016-2018. The author's stories have have seen T’Challa come to terms with being the ruler of the nation of Wakanda, only to be torn away from it and forced into slavery in the far reaches of outer space. It’s been an ambitious run that has won critical praise and significantly elevated the status of the character outside of the comic book faithful.
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That’s something that goes further than simply getting people who haven’t been reading Black Panther since the days of writer Don MacGregor to check out the comic; in Bob Iger’s 2019 memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime, the then-Disney CEO revealed that it was Iger’s reading Coates’ Black Panther that made him place a movie for the character as a “must-do” in the near future. The film went on to be trailblazing, receiving a best picture Oscar nomination and earning $1.34 billion globally. Few other Marvel writers can claim to have had such impact — or, for that matter, even claim to know that Iger was reading their books in the first place.
In total, Coates will have written or co-written 68 Black Panther-related comic books by the end of his four-year tenure with the character, thanks to the addition of a number of spinoff titles to the main series during his run, each overseen by Coates himself. Two volumes of Black Panther running 26 and 25 issues, respectively, were accompanied by Black Panther & The Crew, Black Panther: World of Wakanda and Rise of the Black Panther, each of which bore Coates’ credit as co-writer.
While Marvel has officially shied away from the creator-led “pop-up imprint” approach of competitors DC — where horror novelist Joe Hill, comics writer Brian Michael Bendis and musician and writer Gerard Way have all curated their own lines — Coates’ stewardship of Black Panther was the closest Marvel came to the idea. The series Coates co-wrote brought in a number of writers of color new to Marvel — many new to comics, as Coates himself was when he started — including Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey and Evan Narcisse, creating a shared sensibility that built on the sparse framework already present to create a Wakanda, and a Black Panther, that properly spoke to something beyond the white fantasy of the black experience after decades.
Where the Black Panther goes from here in comics isn’t something that Marvel is commenting on just yet, although with another movie in the works, it’s a guarantee that he’ll stay front and center as long as possible. As for Coates, he already has a number of irons in the fire and continues to write Marvel’s Captain America. Nonetheless, his departure from Black Panther is the end of an era at Marvel, and one that will leave the company a little lesser as a result.
by Eriq Gardner
by Etan Vlessing