We don’t normally cover comics news here on Collider—the medium is vast and ever-changing, and there’s quite enough of that with film and television news alone—but a pretty monumental Marvel Comics announcement was made today that warrants highlighting. Per the New York Times, National Book Award nominee Ta-Nehisi Coates has been tapped to pen a new Black Panther series for Marvel Comics to debut in Spring 2016. Coates is a critically lauded author and National Correspondent for The Atlantic who made waves this year with the release of Between the World and Me, a book written as a letter to his teenaged son that addresses the realities of what it’s like to be black in the United States by recounting his youth in Baltimore.
The book has been singled out for the National Book Award’s nonfiction prize and offers a candid, stark chronicle of racial tensions in the U.S.—which makes him an incredibly exciting choice to creatively steer the comics character Black Panther. Panther, or “T’Challa”, was the first black superhero, created in 1966 as a character hailing from the fictional African country of Wakanda. Coates is apparently a longtime Marvel Comics fan, so the opportunity to write for Black Panther was a perfect union.
The ramp up of a new Black Panther comic series comes as Marvel Studios is about to unveil its onscreen iteration of the superhero in next spring’s Captain America: Civil War, with Chadwick Boseman (42) filling the role. He’s set to lead his own Black Panther film for release in 2018, and Marvel Studios nearly nabbed an equally exciting choice to direct that movie: Selma helmer Ava DuVernay. The filmmaker ultimately passed on the job, citing concerns that the movie wouldn’t end up being a 100% Ava DuVernay film, but I do have to wonder if Marvel in some small way hopes this Coates news makes DuVernay reconsider. Were potential creative tensions a result of the Creative Committee’s input, which has now been dissolved, or was DuVernay simply made aware of the fact that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige would be intimately involved in the film’s post-production?
Whatever the case, Marvel Studios continues its search for a filmmaker to bring the Black Panther film to fruition, but Marvel Comics has certainly made one of the biggest coups in its long history by enlisting someone of Coates’ stature to write the new series. Check out the first cover below, by Brian Stelfreeze.