Ta-Nehisi and T’Challa

Black PantherI was checking Twitter one morning, looking for news and information and maybe a retweet of something clever I had written, when I noticed Ta-nehisi Coates tweeting about Daredevil, one of those Marvel Comics superheroes who is featured in a noirish series on Netflix.

Ta-nehisi Coates is a serious political journalist, he writes for the Atlantic and he recently won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for Between the World and Me, a sharply written discussion of being black in America.  It contains some of the best writing I’ve ever encountered.

And this guy loves comic books.

I wasn’t allowed to read comic books when I was a kid, because my mother didn’t believe they counted as reading, so she wouldn’t buy them. My sister sometimes blew her allowance on an Archie or two, most likely to read about Betty and Veronica, and Mom would find us pouring over those and shake her head.

“Why don’t you read something worthwhile?” she would say.

“These are worthwhile,” we would insist, and she would shake her head some more.

After a while my sister found that some of her friends’ brothers had comics they were willing to give away, and we dove into the worlds of Superman and Batman, passing them back and forth between us, studying the elaborate pictures and sorting out the plot lines.   In adult hindsight I can see that it was a love of story that got us lost in those colorful pages, simple but satisfying tales of the battle between good and evil, expressed with an economy of words and lavish illustrations.  And then there was the part where the meek had heroes who could save the day, or in some cases, the meek become heroes themselves. Mild mannered minister’s daughters, we liked that part too.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a new gig: he’s writing the reboot of Marvel’s Black Panther series. The Black Panther was the first black superhero, originally appearing on comic book pages in 1966. Out of costume he is T’challa, the Chief of Wakanda, a fictional African nation with large resources of vibranium, a valuable made-up mineral useful in things like Captain America’s shield.  According to Marvel the Black Panther is “is a brilliant tactician, strategist, scientist, tracker and a master of all forms of unarmed combat.” He’s African but, like most Marvel superheroes, he ends up in New York City, and gets involved with both the Avengers and Daredevil.  Look for him in the upcoming Captain America movie, the one where Cap takes sides against Iron Man. He gets his own movie in 2018, starring Chadwick Boseman and directed by Ryan Coogler, who pulled off the Rocky reboot last year. Black Panther will probably join up with the Avengers a few more times, too.

And Ta-Nehisi Coates is planning eleven comic books.

(Are you a comic book fan? Did anyone ever tell you that they weren’t worth reading? Do you think superhero movies will be the downfall of American filmmaking? Speak your mind in the comments!)