Sunday, July 24, 2016

Coverage of Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates & Black Panther

image by Afua Richardson

On July 22, Marvel announced a new expansion, Black Panther: World of Wakanda. The project will include Roxane Gay co-writing with Ta-Nehisi Coates on a series that focuses on various people in Wakanda, the homeland of T'Challa/Black Panther. The project will include contributions from poet Yona Harvey and visual artists Alitha Martinez and Afua Richardson.

So far, several media outlets have highlighted that Gay will become the first black woman writer for Marvel. Gay noted on Twitter that " It doesn't make sense that I am the first, in 2016. But I won't be the last."  

In an interview in the Times, Coates addressed the need to make more opportunities available to women to contribute to comic books:
"We have to open the door. It’s not, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if there are more women writers, more women creators in comics?’ That would be nice, but in many ways, it is kind of an imperative.” 
Several black women commentators offered critiques of Coates's Between the World and Me (2015) when it was published, saying that he did not make black women experiences more central to his work. Coates was aware of some of those critiques, but, as this recent Marvel announcement suggests, he has moved in a different, possibly more progressive direction. Rather than speak for black women figures in his work, Coates effectively facilitated an unusual and important opportunity for 4 black women -- Gay, Harvey, Martinez, and Richardson -- to become creators and contributors to a major comic book project.

• July 23: Roxane Gay Becomes First Black Woman To Write Marvel Comic Book - The Root
• July 23: Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates to Cowrite History-Making Marvel Comic - Scott Russell - Paste
• July 23: Roxane Gay Is Writing a New Black Panther Comic For Marvel - Joshua Rivera - GQ
• July 22: Who Is Roxane Gay? - Elle Collins - Comics Alliance
• July 22: Roxane Gay will write a Black Panther companion series for Marvel - Kaitlyn Tiffany - The Verge
• July 22: Roxane Gay will write a Black Panther spin-off comic for Marvel - Christian Holub - EW
• July 22: World of Wakanda coming from Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates - Catrina Dennis - Inverse
July 22: Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates Team Up for New Marvel ‘Black Panther’ Series - Shawn Setaro - Complex
• July 22: Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates Are Co-writing a Marvel Comic - Abraham Riesman - Vulture
• July 22: Marvel’s World of Wakanda Will Spotlight Women - George Gene Gustines - New York Times

A Notebook on Black Panther

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Black Books and the Black Book

Last spring semester in one of my classes, I did a project on Black Book History. Mainly, I wanted to give students a glimpse of notable African American titles published across the 20th century. The key word was "glimpse." But even a glimpse was overwhelming.

We only had a limited amount of time, and we were looking at dozens of books. What's an effective way to assist students in absorbing large bodies of material concerning African American artistic culture and black books?  What kinds of books should take priority?

Lately, I've been thinking about questions like those as I consider The Black Book (1974) compiled by Middleton Harris with assistance from Toni Morrison, who was an editor at Random House at the time. Among other things, the book makes a wonderful effort of charting expansive African American histories while utilizing a scrapbook-like approach. 

I thought of the many fragments that make the whole of black histories or The Black Book as I approached the task of exposing students to a large body of texts.  

Middleton A. Harris, Toni Morrison, and The Black Book
The Black Book Exhibit 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

KABAM Game/Disney Infinity variant cover

Black Panther toy figure (on left) Black Panther #1 variant cover (on right)

Most of the Black Panther #1 cover art variants are produced by comic book artists. They compose the images based on their imaginings of T'Challa/Black Panther in multiple contexts. The  KABAM Game/Disney Infinity variant cover, however, places the Black Panther toy figure and video game character at the center of the action.

The costume design of the toy and video game character, not coincidentally, resemble the suit worn by Chadwick Boseman, who played Black Panther, in the recent Captain America: Civil War film.

The cover shows Black Panther leaping in the air with a city backdrop. The scene situates T'Challa in a New York City-like metropolis. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the writer for Black Panther, however, presents T'Challa in his homeland, Wakanda.

List of Black Panther variants and artists  
A Notebook on Black Panther   

Black Panther #1 variant cover by Alex Ross

Comic book artist Alex Ross is well known for his cover art, which spans from the 1990s to the present. He's produced remarkable work on a large number of figures, including Superman, Joker and Harley QuinnDarth Vader, and even President Barack Obama. So why not Black Panther?

Ross's Black Panther #1 variant displays T'Challa/Black Panther in a mid-air leap. At his back are a group of police officers training their guns on the protagonist.

Prior to taking on duties as the writer for Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates became well known for his commentary on African Americans and strained race relations in the United States. As Ross constructed his cover, he perhaps assumed that Coates might take up issues such as police brutality in his run on Black Panther. That probably explains the apparent conflict between T'Challa and the police officers in the image.

Ross's variant cover began appearing as early as December 15, 2015, in the pre-release coverage of Black Panther. The dramatic image served as an important promotional item that assisted in building anticipation among audiences for the April 6, 2016 release.


In one release at Marvel, Will Moss, the editor for Black Panther asked, "what better way to celebrate the launch than with a variant cover by the legendary Alex Ross?" The release included Ross's cover image. Comic Book Resources ran a version of the release and presented Brian Stelfreeze's regular cover alongside Ross's variant. Ta-Nehisi Coates also tweeted Ross's image, and added the caption "Panther power on the hour from the rebel to you...," which is a line from Public Enemy's "Rebel Without a Pause" (1987).

The Ross image is the only image in the series of variants for Black Panther #1 that suggests black-white conflicts. Such racial conflicts are not, though, a central focus of Coates's first story arc. The cover nonetheless prompts viewers to think of Black Panther in the context of ongoing violent confrontations between black men and policemen.

List of Black Panther variants and artists  
A Notebook on Black Panther

Use of “Negro,” “Black,” “Afro” & “African American” in CLA Journal

By Kenton Rambsy and Howard Rambsy II

An examination of recurring words in articles titles in CLA Journal published from 1957- 2012, reveal a number of shifts. For now, we concentrated on the uses of “negro,” “black,” “Afro-American,” “African-American” and other related terms over the decades. The shifts reflect changes in terminology among scholars in the field, and also in the variety of concerns among those who published in the periodical.

The word “black” is not used in article titles during the 1950s, and appears 7 times during the 1960s. During that time period, “negro” was used 13 times.

In 1969, Charles H. Curl’s article “Black Studies: Form and Content” was the first article to use the phrase “black studies” in the title. The appearance of “Black Studies” in an article’s title in the late 1960s coincides with the rise of Black Studies programs across the country. The phrase “Black Studies” appeared titles of articles on only 5 more occasions, and those 5 articles were published between 1970 and 1973.

Even though the phrase “Black Studies” did not appear much in article titles in the periodical, the word “black” began appearing far more frequently, showing up in 59 article titles in the 1970s.

We also paid special attention to the term “African American,” charting its appearance in journal titles over time. The term was first used in 1969 by Therman B. O'Daniel in “Books From Collier Books' African-American Library” and has been used a total of 27 times in CLA Journal article titles. The term is only used three times prior to 1990. After 1990, the term is used a total of 24 times, often as an adjective (i.e. African-American library, African-American literature, African-American dignity, African-American culture, etc).

The term “Afro,” which is used a total of 28 times in article titles, appears in conjunction with various other terms. For instance, contributors have concentrated on “Afro-French writers,” “Afro-American poetry,” “Afro-Dominican Poetry,” “Afro-American Fiction,” “the Contemporary Afro-American Novel,” “Afro­Brazilian History,” and “AfroCaribbean Routes.”

The varied usage of “Negro,” “Black,” “Afro,” “African,” and “African American” among dozens of contributors in article titles offer a glimpse at the shifting terminology employed to describe literary texts and writers over time in CLA Journal and the larger field.

A Notebook on the CLA Journal

Monday, July 18, 2016

Black Panther #1 negative space variant cover

I first heard about this John Tyler Christopher cover at Heroic Adventures, the comic shop I frequent. When I informed the clerk that I was interested in the Black Panther #1 variants, he mentioned this cover.

Later after looking around online, I discovered that Christopher and others referred to the design as a "negative space" version, a recognition of the use of negative space to create the image. Christopher has done images of Iron Man and Witchblade, among others, using negative space-inspired images. He has perhaps become widely known though for his cover art images that replicate the look of action figures in the packaging, including his variants for Star Wars #1, Power Man and Iron Fist, and many others.   

 The Black Panther negative space variant adds to the mystique and allure of the title character. The cover is also suggestive of the technological attributes of T'Challa/Black Panther, an angle often downplayed in depictions that highlight the cat-like qualities of the hero.

List of Black Panther variants and artists  
A Notebook on Black Panther

Black Panther #1 Midtown Comics exclusive variant cover

The well-known comic bookstore Midtown Comics in New York City arranged for a special variant cover of Black Panther #1 as well. The cover was produced by artist Mark Brooks.

The cover suggests Black Panther's links to the broader family of cats by showing other panthers and a lion. The image also depicts Black Panther crouching on a large cat-like sculpture. The lion and sculpture, with the colorful accessories, signal royalty. After all, T'Challa/Black Panther, is the ruler of Wakanda.

In mid-March, Brooks shared his step-by-step process of drawing and coloring the cover on Facebook. He later shared the process on Tumblr, and the site Bleeding Cool posted the stages of the cover along with Brooks's comments.    

List of Black Panther variants and artists  
A Notebook on Black Panther

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Black Panther #1 Marvel Collector Corps variant

One of the variant covers  for Black Panther #1 displays a miniature toy-like Panther figure apparently battling a similar mini-Captain America. This cover was part of the April 2016 Marvel Collectors Corp box designed by Funko -- "a purveyor of pop culture and licensed-focused company."

The company designs products in partnership with Marvel for the Marvel Collectors Corps, a subscription box service for "the avid Marvel fan, each box delivers 100% exclusive premium collectibles, apparel, and accessories." The themes for the boxes often coincide with major events taking place in the Marvel universe or extended universe.

The theme of this most recent box was "Captain America: Civil War" to coincide with the film of the same name. T'Challa/Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, appears in the movie. The enclosed variant corresponded to the April 6 release of Black Panther #1.

The child-like Panther and Captain America are reminiscent of the Skottie Young Marvel baby covers as well as his kitten variant for Black Panther #1. Those smaller versions or pop figures circulate widely in the worlds of some collectors and fans. 

The Black Panther variant cover along with pop figure and card. Source.

List of Black Panther variants and artists  
A Notebook on Black Panther