Writer Evan Narcisse uncovers T’Challa’s first days as king!

We’ve all come to know and love T’Challa as the King of Wakanda, but few Black Panther stories have shown us how he came to the throne—and how he evolved into a leader—in the first place.

On January 8, RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #1 kicks off a limited series that dives into the early days of T’Challa’s life and reign. Writers Evan Narcisse and Ta-Nehisi Coates join artist Paul Renaud to explore how the death of King T’Chaka changed both his son and the nation of Wakanda forever.

We spoke with Narcisse about his process, his collaborators, and writing an icon like Black Panther.

Marvel.com: You’re jumping from comic book journalism to writing comics themselves. How does it feel to make that transition?

Evan Narcisse: This is my first creative writing—my first published creative writing, I should say—and my first time writing comic scripts. Doing this job, I had researched what comic scripts looked like before. One of the things that was so daunting and encouraging ended up being that there’s no set format—everybody does it a little differently. Some people have really rich, florid descriptions in terms of art direction and what the characters think and feel. Some people have very lean pages. Mine probably tended more towards the former than the latter. It’s a lot harder than it looks from the outside looking in. It’s a hybrid beast that looks like a movie script but also has to do some actual storytelling in the document. You have to guide the artist but not restrict them. It’s a lot more surprising and eye opening than I thought.

Marvel.com: BLACK PANTHER writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has been working with you on this book. What’s that relationship like?

Evan Narcisse: He’s mostly consulting; the vast majority of the plot and the script come from me. I’ll run stuff by him and we’ll make sure we’re in sync in terms of whether T’Challa would do something this way or that. But, yeah, most of it comes from me. I’m a huge T’Challa fan and I have been for years, so I feel like I have a good internal sense of where I want him to be and how I want him to come across in this work.

Marvel.com: How does it feel to work with artist Paul Renaud on your first Marvel book?

Evan Narcisse: We met for the first time in New York City. I’ve seen his work around on CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON stuff and loved it. I saw what he did on GENERATIONS: THE AMERICAS and thought it looked really great and felt super excited to find out he was going to be the guy on this book.

Marvel.com: Describe your process of creating RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER alongside Ta-Nehisi and Paul.

Evan Narcisse: The process of honing your skills happens in installments. What I’m thinking of now is, like, wanting to do things a little bit differently in an issue means you have to work ahead to iterate to see if you actually accomplished the ambitions you set for yourself or if it’ll going to put you behind schedule. It can be a really intense learning process.

I have the advantage of talking to Ta-Nehisi every day. We’re friends so we talk about comic book stuff anyway. He told me, “In a year’s time, when you’re still doing this, you’ll look back on these scripts and see how much better they could have been.” It’s been really fun just figuring out the tools and what tools work best for me and what tools I feel like I want to try out.

Also, it can be weird. I’ve realized that your fandom comes out not just textually but mechanically. So, the kind of comic book writing I’ve enjoyed since childhood has been coming out of me organically. Which isn’t to say my stuff will read like Denny O’Neil or my favorite writers, but there are certain rhythms I feel like I’m doing my own spin on.

Marvel.com: Which writers have influenced your work? Do you count any prior BLACK PANTHER scribes among them?

Evan Narcisse:  You can’t talk about BLACK PANTHER in 2017 without talking about Christopher Priest. He gave T’Challa a really intense refocusing and reimagining that is impossible to ignore. It’s masterful. As a comic book critic, I’ve written about Priest’s work many times over the years and, even though he’s been resurgent in 2017, he’s still underappreciated. I tweeted out earlier that I reread the “Storm und Drang” storyline from BLACK PANTHER #26#29, where T’Challa brings the world to the brink of war. Magneto, Dr. Doom, Deviant Lemuria, and Namor, all heads of state, powerful heads of state, jostle around each other with all these different agendas. I think it’s one of the best examples of geopolitical storytelling and the idea of statecraft in super hero comics. So, Priest for sure.

Someone who seems unsung, not in general, but in terms of shepherding a certain vision of T’Challa, is Jonathan Hickman. He wrote T’Challa in his FANTASTIC FOUR run, setting up the King of the Dead aspect of the character. That fed into NEW AVENGERS—one of the best Avengers comics ever, but a low-key T’Challa book. That version of the Illuminati met in Wakanda. Again, his wants and needs clashed with the duty he had to do as a super hero in his rivalry with Namor.

One other thing that’s important to me about Black Panther and his creative legacy is his importance as a character that black creators could touch and leave an imprint on. I feel like every time a black writer or artist or editor has worked on a Black Panther book, the sensibilities of the characters got strengthened. You can go back to Billy Graham as the artist on that amazing Don McGregor run in JUNGLE ACTION. He was a superlative artist for his time; his draftsmanship and the tools in his storytelling are all super ambitious and genius level compared to some of the other work from the 1970s. From him, to Priest, to Reginald Hudlin and now to Ta-Nehisi…it’s important. Black Panther has always been symbolically important and I think black creators feel opportunity, responsibility, and a sense of kindred energy when working on the character. I certainly do.

Marvel.com: Do writers from outside the world of comics influence you? What other writers—or even just books or films—inform your comic writing?

Evan Narcisse: Probably my favorite movie of all time is Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” this really dark, satirical fable about living in a dystopian society. Unfortunately, it feels pretty relevant, in terms of the control of information and the constant battle for political narrative supremacy, to where we find ourselves nowadays.

There’s a novel from 1981 called “The Chaneysville Incident” by an author named David Bradley. A good friend in college gave it to me to read and it blew my mind. It’s this story about a black historian who goes back to his hometown in the rural South to dig into his old family history. He finds out about the way that his forbearers grew up under Jim Crow and the kind of stuff they had to endure and rebel against and the personal cost of all of that on his family. It’s a very dark book, beautifully written. It has stayed in my mind while writing RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER because the story I’m writing is, in part, a generational one. It’s about T’Challa grappling with his own history.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote a book called “Half of a Yellow Sun.” She’s an amazing Nigerian writer. One of the things I have to think about when writing BLACK PANTHER is the idea of diaspora. It may seem a little counterintuitive, because Wakanda has kept to itself and not a lot of Wakandans live outside of Wakanda, but I want to explore what it’s like when that does happen. What does it mean to come from an isolationist country? It can be exceptional and aspirational, but it’s xenophobic to a certain extent, by virtue of necessity. They’re on a continent where every other country got colonized and invaded. So there ends up being a certain warrior sociopolitical mindset that they’ve had to adopt and iterate on in order to maintain their status. But also, how long can you maintain yourself as an “island”?

That’s one of the things T’Challa has to grapple with. It’s not a spoiler to say that T’Challa’s big decision in the series will be to open up the country and declare their existence to the Western world and simultaneously deal with all the repercussions that happen internally and externally as a result.

Marvel.com: How did you land on telling the story of this liminal time in T’Challa’s life? It seems to have certain parallels with the upcoming “Black Panther” film.

Evan Narcisse: My conversations with Wil Moss, my editor, early on, were about an “early years” T’Challa story and the place I landed ended up being his first year as king. The first conversations we had were about T’Chaka and I came on the idea that T’Chaka’s assassination, his death, had to be a major political event in Wakanda’s history. It’d be like JFK’s assassination—the kind of thing that changes an entire country’s mindset. It’s the kind of event where you mark off time between everything that came before it and what comes after it. In the first issue, we explore some of what came before it, with T’Chaka in his prime—something we haven’t seen much. We’ve seen flashbacks and we’ve seen him a little older and we’ve seen him as a ghost. The “after” stuff will obviously be T’Challa’s reign. It’s an established part of the character that his father being this amazing king wears heavy on him. At the same time, he deals with threats his father never dealt with. So, that informs his decision to open up Wakanda.

And I’m super excited for the “Black Panther” movie. I can’t wait—I know this sounds corny—but I can’t wait for fans everywhere to explore this character and learn about him, because I think T’Challa is one of the best super heroes ever created. I think he’s thematically rich and an exciting character to watch evolve throughout his history. And I’m so honored to be a part of that evolution.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #1, by Evan Narcisse, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and artist Paul Renaud, kicks off on January 3!

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Chronicle the history of Jean Grey ahead of Phoenix Resurrection!

From smoke and ashes, a phoenix rises.

On December 27, Jean Grey’s enigmatic connection with the Phoenix Force rears its ugly head once again in PHOENIX RESURRECTION: THE RETURN OF JEAN GREY #1, by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Leinil Yu.

Having covered Jean’s introduction and backstory in Part One of this two-part retrospective, we now burst into flame as she finally comes face to face with…

The Phoenix Force

One of the oldest cosmic entities in existence, The Phoenix Force represents life not yet born. Acting as the nexus of all psionic energy that does, has, and could exist in all realities of the Omniverse, the Force is known as the Guardian of Creation and a guardian of the M’Kraan Crystal—which houses a gateway to another plane of existence known as the White Hot Room.

The Phoenix Force destroys all that does not work or has become stagnant in the universe—and regrows a better, healthier version as a replacement. To intervene in worlds that voluntarily become stagnant and ease them to the way of progress, The Phoenix Force can utilize host bodies…with its most famous—and powerful—connection being to Jean Grey.

When the Force felt her mind transcend the physical realm when her powers first awoke, the cosmic entity felt a kindred bond with Jean, and used its power to save her from the brink of death. Years later, as the young mutant sacrificed herself to save her X-Men teammates by piloting a radioactive space shuttle back to Earth, the Phoenix appeared to her in a form and consciousness that resembled Jean herself. The Phoenix Force absorbed a piece of her consciousness and cast the mutant into a healing cocoon. The cocoon, with the real hero inside, sat at the bottom of Jamaica Bay for years while the Phoenix manifestation of Grey took her place on the X-Men. This version possessed all of her original memories and beliefs…though in the back of her mind rested the power and fury of the Force.

When Mastermind and the Hellfire Club attacked this Jean in an attempt to alter her psionic personality, the dormant Phoenix’s sanity broke. In UNCANNY X-MEN #134, driven mad by Mastermind’s psionic tampering, the Dark Phoenix was born. This new being devoured a star in issue #135, killing five billion people on one of its planets in the process. In a moment of lucidity, during which Grey’s consciousness realizes the destruction she’s caused, she chooses to kill herself—and the Dark Phoenix—to save her loved ones from what unspeakable horrors she might do in such a state. Scott Summers, having believed this to be the real Jean Grey, was devastated.

The Phoenix Force, now untethered from its Earthly host, recalled its nature as an ancient power, but still retained Jean’s personality and memories. Utilizing its shared consciousness with Grey, the Force used this connection in a bid to try and rouse her from her cocoon. Jean refused to awaken, however, repelled by the memories of the Dark Phoenix. Though she resisted the Phoenix’s urges, FANTASTIC FOUR #286 saw the Avengers and the FF discover her healing pod in the storyline “Like a Phoenix!”

Pulling Herselves Together

After Jean finally rose from her quasi-hibernation, her friends react with shock and confusion at the reemergence of a teammate they thought to be dead. The mutant hero chose to then keep the name “Phoenix,” even though she no longer had the powers of the fiery being.

Later, when Wolverine chose to kill Grey in a story arc crossing NEW X-MEN #146#150, The Phoenix Force sensed her death and revived her again. After this encounter, Jean experimented with the Phoenix, trusting its powers despite her better judgment. She finally allowed the Force to possess her fully, assuming control of its cosmic might. Though, in retribution, she was soon killed by a Xorn-induced aneurism.

The next resurrection of Jean Grey took place in X-MEN: PHOENIX – ENDSONG, when The Phoenix Force made its way back to reanimate the hero from her grave, despite her protests. As the Phoenix began to take on its dark energy, Jean—now an unwilling host—asked that Wolverine kill her as a measure to stop the cosmic entity. The Force, however, made her temporarily immortal, halting the potential death. At her wit’s end, Grey dove into the icy depths of the Arctic Ocean to prevent Force from getting to her, killing herself again in the process.

Enraged by the rejection, the despondent Phoenix Force turned itself into another manifestation of Jean Grey in a vengeful attempt to win Cyclops’ love. When Scott rebuffed the Phoenix Jean, the Force merged with Emma Frost instead. The real Grey, having been raised from the dead once more, drove the flaming essence out of Emma and made peace with her permanent Phoenix union—now able to harness the power of the Phoenix even as it inhabited another host. The act of the two uniting once again nearly pushed the hero’s mind into insanity, but Frost returned to psychically link Jean (and the Force inside her) to all the people who love them, lending the strength necessary to regain her sanity. This storyline proved to be the final time that readers saw the adult Jean Grey, aside from her recent time-displaced appearance in GENERATIONS: PHOENIX AND JEAN GREY #1.

Finally, later this month, Jean Grey will face the latest twist in her long and difficult history as PHOENIX RESURRECTION: THE RETURN OF JEAN GREY begins.

Open the next chapter in PHOENIX RESURRECTION: THE RETURN OF JEAN GREY #1, by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Leinil Yu, on December 27!

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Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. meet up with the menace of A.I.M.!

1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.

Join us to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.

With 1966’s STRANGE TALES #148, the formula for Nick Fury’s segment of the book got a bit of shake up when Jack Kirby not only drew layouts for Don Heck to finish, but also scripted the story with regular writer Stan Lee reportedly on vacation! The resulting story, called “Death Before Dishonor,” began with a bang as Marvel’s top spy waded through fire while S.H.I.E.L.D. agents—wearing protective gear—fought the blaze with a series of chemicals.

Though the others wrote Fury off as dead from exposure to the elements, Dum Dum Dugan plowed through, tossed his Howling Commandos leader over his shoulder and made way for the Vita-Fluid-filled Restora-Tank. Distraught over the potential loss of his friend, Dugan responded with appropriate shock when Fury appeared behind him and revealed that a Life Model Decoy floated before them.

Fury and Jasper Sitwell then recounted how the fire started in the prisoner holding area. The head honcho wanted to question the captured members of A.I.M. in person, but instead used an L.M.D. as his eyes, ears, and mouth. This proved a good call as Advanced Idea Mechanics somehow used a remote detonator to blow their own people up!

The action then shifted to the public face of A.I.M., Count Bornag Royale, watching his enemies deal with the fire from a secret base. While he left to manipulate the Free Nations’ Justice Department to bring Fury in front of their Board of Inquiry, an A.I.M. contingent promised to grab an L.M.D. for research purposes. After checking out an x-ray projecting gun and hearing from Sitwell how easy breaking into his office proved, Nick sat down for another nail in the coffin: the official summons to appear before the Board on Inquiry.

Nick agreed to appear, and on the day of the supposedly secret meeting, A.I.M. took advantage of the timing to raid the S.H.I.E.L.D. L.M.D. facility. After listening to many bad-mouth him, Fury got fed up, smashed through a window of the Helicarrier, and used a belt parachute to land on the ground where Dugan awaited his arrival.

In the next issue—which featured a script by Denny O’Neil along with Kirby layouts and Ogden Whitney finishes—Fury and his soldiers make an epic move to save their facility while also putting a huge dent in A.I.M.’s operation!

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

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Marc Guggenheim leads the mutants in the fine art of fighting a god!

Some days feel harder than others. You know the ones. You miss your bus. You forgot your lunch. You lose your credit card. You have to fight a god. The usual garden variety bad day.

What? Oh…the last one seems unusual to you? While that stands to reason. Not everyone lives the kind of lives the X-Men do. For them, that situation becomes very real on January 3 in X-MEN: GOLD #19 as the team must battle a deity in the Negative Zone.

We found writer Marc Guggenheim researching alien theology and he kindly gave us some of his time to talk the X-Men’s very bad, no good, horrible deity-battling day.

Marvel.com: By X-MEN: GOLD #19, the team has now been in the Negative Zone for three issues. How, simply put, are they doing? How are they handling the environment, being away from home, and the grind of ongoing conflict?

Marc Guggenheim: Some are faring better than others. Everyone gets kicked around pretty badly in this issue, but I’d say Kurt and Logan are definitely taking the brunt of it. Kurt is in dire straits after the end of #17 and Logan, well, he’s not as young as he used to be. Oh, and the X-Men are fighting a god—so nothing is easy.

Marvel.com: Yes, right. About that god…what can you tell us, without getting too deep into spoilers, about this antagonist?

Marc Guggenheim: The guy’s name is Scythian. He is an “old god of the ancient texts” of the planet the X-Men find themselves on, which is called Dartayus. For the moment, he’s a figure shrouded in mystery. He doesn’t have any dialogue in this issue—and that’s by design. I wanted to keep him as inscrutable and mysterious a figure as possible because, well, that’s generally how deities roll.

Marvel.com: We discussed previously, when we talked about issue #16, how various artists helped craft aspects of the story. How did the look of this god figure come together and how does Lan Medina realize it on the page?

Marc Guggenheim: Scythian was designed by Ken Lashley, but I really think that Lan did a remarkable job of bringing him to life, so to speak. There are some huge panels in this issue depicting Scythian in all his horrific glory and Lan just knocked them out of the park.

X-Men: Gold #19 cover by Ken Lashley

Marvel.com: Widening the focus on the artist, how does he handle the alien world of the Negative Zone and the X-Men’s new temporary appearances via their specialized suits?

Marc Guggenheim: Everything looks great. Lan’s pulled together the artistic visions of a multitude of artists into—what is, to my eye—a seamless whole. I’m really looking forward to when these issues are collected in a single trade. I don’t think you’ll feel all the artist changes—we’re telling one cohesive story.

Marvel.com: With what we discussed in the first question above and this new incredibly powerful antagonist, where do the X-Men find the reserves of strength—physical, emotional, psychological—to not only press on, but to take their efforts to the next level? Where do they find the ability to challenge a god?

Marc Guggenheim: I wanted to place the X-Men in a situation that they couldn’t just punch their way out of. Scythian is far too powerful for the X-Men to just take down by force. They have to use their wits and Kitty comes up with a plan that, I think, is not only unexpected—un-X-pected?—but that also requires the X-Men to work in concert with each other, utilizing their specific skills.

Marvel.com: Once again, when we discussed this arc a month or so ago, one of the things that you were excited about was taking the X-Men to a place they haven’t really been before. Now looking at them in this space for the past three issues, how does it feel to realize that goal? How much has the storyline met or exceeded your expectations?

Marc Guggenheim: Every project I write has elements that exceed my expectations, but also many which fall well short of them. Every project. That’s just the nature of the beast. I don’t think there’s anything I’ve ever written, in any medium, that didn’t have a few things—sometimes, many things—I wish I could go back and change.

That said, I’ve been very pleased with the work done by Ken and Lan and the rest of the art team and I’m very excited about how the end of #19 sets us up for #20, which is not only something of a “departure” issue, but also ends with a real game-changer moment that sets up things for at least the next 10 issues of GOLD.

Cheer on the team in X-MEN: GOLD #19 on January 3 from Marc Guggenheim and Lan Medina!

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Ed Brisson discusses the villain seeking to destroy the Living Weapon!

Choshin has proven himself to be a man not easily denied—not even by the IRON FIST creative team, writer Ed Brisson and artist Mike Perkins. Originally conceived to play a smaller part in the duo’s run on the series, the antagonist asserted himself until Brisson knew that he deserved to be one of Danny Rand’s central antagonists.

And on January 3, the villain’s influence expands even further in IRON FIST #76! With K’un-Lun under siege, even the combined might of Danny and Sabretooth may not be enough to stop Choshin and his invaders.

We caught up with Brisson to get the full background on the Iron Fist’s newest adversary.

Marvel.com: When you first began to imagine Choshin as the big bad for this run on IRON FIST, what qualities did you want to make sure he brought to the table?

Ed Brisson: Choshin’s not the most pleasant man, but I always wanted to ensure that he does what he legitimately believes to be right and good for the people of Liu-Shi. He’s stubborn, he’s pig-headed, and he’s more than a little too confident.

He brings Iron Fist to Liu-Shi initially, confident that the Seven Masters would easily best Danny. He felt it would be good for the people of Liu-Shi to see that, but of course, his plans go awry.

Choshin has tried to pivot after this. With Liu-Shi now exposed, they can no longer operate in shadows.

Marvel.com: How has the character evolved since you initially conceived of him?

Ed Brisson: Well, initially Choshin had a smaller role and wasn’t going to be one of the council members of Liu-Shi, but as we developed the story, we switched up the council members quite a bit.  We decided to give Choshin a more prominent role on the council and, thus, a larger role in the book. He’s someone who may not be the head honcho, but he certainly pulls more strings than readers may initially realize.

Marvel.com: When it came to Choshin, what role did series artist Mike Perkins’ art and design play in the realization of that character?

Ed Brisson: Everything. As mentioned above, Choshin started as a minor character and grew into something much more. I think that’s partially because of how Mike portrayed him in the book, but honestly, the writing and the art are so intertwined that it’s sometimes hard to remember what came first.

Marvel.com: How would you summarize Choshin’s general modus operandi and code of ethics?

Ed Brisson: Choshin doesn’t see himself as a villain. He’s a man who’s trying to help bring K’un-Lun back to what he sees as its past greatness. To him, Iron Fist—an outworlder who, to Choshin’s mind, has no real claim to the title—Sparrow, etc. all act as symptoms that will lead to K’un-Lun’s downfall.

And, while he works for Liu-Shi’s interests, he’s not working with Liu-Shi’s interests, if that makes sense. Not everyone in Liu-Shi sees things the same way he does, which is why he’s gone off with his own militia and not kept all of Liu-Shi involved. He knows that his actions are flying in the face of the rest of the council, but since he believes so strongly in what he’s doing, he feels that the ends will justify the means.

Marvel.com: For fans late to the book, how would you summarize Choshin’s overall goals?

Ed Brisson: Simply: Choshin wants Iron Fist dead and wants to assume control of K’un-Lun—to bring it back under Liu-Shi rule. Liu-Shi, of course, being comprised of K’un-Lun ex-pats.

Marvel.com: As the book has gone on, the path to Choshin’s endgame has grown increasingly complicated. What keeps him moving forward rather than retreating or reconsidering?

Ed Brisson: Choshin still has the element of surprise on his side. K’un-Lun doesn’t know he’s coming. But, if he waits too long, that’ll change. The time for him to act must be now.

Marvel.com: What can you tease about issue #76?

Ed Brisson: Choshin unleashes hell upon K’un-Lun. It’ll be a battle that neither side will soon forget.

Return to the snowy heights of K’un-Lun in IRON FIST #76, by Ed Brisson and artist Mike Perkins, on January 3!

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Spidey goes to space with the Avengers, gets his fourth solo book, and more.

For over 50 years, Spider-Man has been a sensational standout in the Marvel Universe, and this year, the web-slinger swings onto the silver screen once more in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”! In celebration of his memorable history, we present Spidey’s spectacular step-by-step story!

Still cosmically powered, the webby wonder toppled Goliath in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #60, broke the Mr. Fixit Hulk in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #328, destroyed Doctor Doom’s robot in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #160, extinguished Dragon Man’s flame in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #61, and trashed the Tri-Sentinel in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #329, all before finally losing his star-spanning new abilities.

Avengers (1963) #316

Avengers (1963) #316

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes paid a call on Spidey in AVENGERS #314 to enlist his aid against the galactic despot Nebula. The webslinger’s sojourn into space lasted through AVENGERS #315, #316, #317, and #318, at which point he returned to his bailiwick to partner with the Punisher against drug runners in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #330 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #331.

Robbie Robertson received a pardon for his past crimes in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #161, while the wallcrawler and the Puma pummeled Hobgoblin. Later, the flying fury freed Carrion from incarceration in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #162 and together the two ne’er-do-wells took Spidey prisoner for a big brouhaha beneath the streets where they appeared to perish in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #163. The Molten Man sought out his step-sister Liz Allan Osborn after being paroled in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #62, and our masked hero mastered Mr. Fear in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #63.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #162

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #162

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Mary Jane Parker’s old tormentor Caesar sent Styx and Stone to subdue Spidey in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #332, but the webslinger vied with Venom first in Central Park and then in the leech’s lair in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #333 before Venom seemed to succumb to Styx’s lethal touch. Spidey saved, of all people, the Arranger from being killed by the Beetle in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #164, but the British-born Knight and Fogg managed to accomplish the awful act in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #165.

Spidey swore to bring his English enemies to justice in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #166, and while attempting this action acquired amnesia from a bump on the noggin. He got better in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #167 just in time to witness Fogg’s betrayal of Knight. The crafty Chameleon channeled several criminals’ consternation with the wallcrawler into all-out attack in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #64, but when the face-changer faked them out in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #65, they joined with their webby target to put a crimp in the Chameleon’s cranium. Somewhat afterward, Spidey joined with the Green Goblin and the Molten Man to carve away at Tombstone in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #66.

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #337

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #337

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Doctor Octopus opted to organize a new Sinister Six in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #334, and recruited the Shocker in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #335, the Vulture in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #336, and then finalized the full line-up in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #337. The new Six might’ve soared save for the Sandman’s betrayal in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #338, which led to their deafening defeat in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #339.

The webslinger leapt in to confront the Lizard in the debut of his fourth solo book, SPIDER-MAN #1, and then Calypso in SPIDER-MAN #2, but when the deceased Kraven seemed to resurrect in SPIDER-MAN #3 and SPIDER-MAN #4, our hero nearly tossed in the towel in SPIDER-MAN #5. The Avengers returned in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #168 to aid their arachnid ally versus the Space Phantom, but Spidey tightened up a team of former foes as the Outlaws to take care of business in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #169 and SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #170.

Spider-Man (1990) #1

Spider-Man (1990) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

The wallcrawler warned his friend Harry Osborn to cut back on playing Green Goblin in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #67, and Robbie Robertson reclaimed his dignity when he helped the hero topple Tombstone in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #68. The Puma sold the Daily Bugle back to J. Jonah Jameson for one dollar in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #171, Spidey hovered over the Hulk in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #69 and hulked-out himself in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #70. With a clear conscience, he later supported Silver Sable and Dominic Fortune in their campaign against Nazi Simon Steele in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #71.

The terrible Dr. Turner posed the possibility of no powers to Spidey in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #340, then pushed the Tarantula into a position to punctuate the powerless paragon in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #341, and the Scorpion to slice-and-dice him in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #342.

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Captain America stands in the way of a massive jailbreak!

1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.

Join us to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.

Upon thawing out in the modern era, Captain America found himself duped a few times by people who took advantage of his optimistic nature. In TALES OF SUSPENSE #62, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby set our hero up to give a demonstration of breakout prevention maneuvers in 1965. However, instead of performing his fantastic physical feats for the warden, the Sentinel of Liberty unwittingly did so for an escaped con named Deacon who led an outbreak!

Deacon ordered the prisoners to jump Captain America, overpower him, and throw him into a cell with acting Superintendent Carlson. While both behind bars, Carlson explained that Deacon sparked the revolt, but they had no way of actually getting beyond the main gate. Having swiped Cap’s mighty shield, the criminal and company figured they could use the marvelous weapon to open up the door to the prison, but found themselves stymied. See, the mastermind knew that Iron Man had built magnetic capabilities in the shield and that the gate worked with magnetism, but could not figure out how.

Tales of Suspense (1959) #62

Tales of Suspense (1959) #62

  • Published: February 10, 1965
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

And he didn’t have enough time, either, as an escaped Star-Spangled Avenger leapt into battle, taking on an army of armed prisoners desperate for a way out. Deacon tried making a break for it with Cap’s weapon in hand, though that also proved short lived as our hero slung a gun to trip the villain up so he could regain his rightful property. Before tossing his shield at the assembled bad guys, Steve Rogers revealed that they’d been wrong from the get-go! Though Iron Man had built magnetic implements for both the shield and Cap’s glove, he ditched the add-ons because “They ruined my shield’s delicate balance!”

Even without his famous weapon, Cap handled himself perfectly. A thug named Thumper tried socking him, but Rogers met that attempted blow with his own fist, illicitng a “Boang!” sound from the concussion. With the main action over—at least on his end—Captain America handily dispatched with the rest of the criminals and took a sneaking Deacon out by literally backing into him. From there, the guards burst in to regain control of the punch-drunk would-be breakout artists. Carlson then revealed that the main gate would not have opened because of magnets, but instead with a kind of magic phrase: “Captain America”!

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

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Ed Piskor points to his highlights of Marvel’s merry mutants!

He’s won multiple awards and plaudits for turning the history of hip hop music into the critically acclaimed series “Hip Hop Family Tree,” but now writer/artist Ed Piskor tackles his first major project at Marvel. Starting with December 20’s X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN #1, he’ll be reframing and remixing the history of the X-Men into one, singularly crafted narrative. It’s a chance to relive the mutants’ greatest hits from the perspective of one brilliant cartoonist who grew up on these stories.

We caught up with Ed to talk about his favorite X-Men stories and what’s changed for him from reading these comics as a youth to recreating them as an accomplished professional.

Marvel.com: The structure and format of X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN is unique. Can you describe the particular restrictions and whether that form was the starting point or something that developed organically?

Ed Piskor: [When I started] I basically said that I have a way to make the first 280 issues of UNCANNY X-MEN into a lean 300 page story. After some deliberation Marvel said “do it in 240 pages, across six issues, three trade collections,” and sent me a contract. But aside from the concession of those extra 60 pages GRAND DESIGN is a completely faithful vision of what I want to do.

Comics-making is way too time intensive to allow them to be compromised in any way. I like restrictions and rules or else I have a tendency to meander. Knowing that I was going to be taking about 8,000 pages of material and whittle them into 240 pages adds a certain storytelling necessity to be brief and not linger. Each issue has to be jam-packed rather than the decompressed method to storytelling that is fashionable with most of today’s comics. Each issue basically covers about 50 issues of the series more or less.

Marvel.com: The mythology of the X-Men is about as rich, dense and diverse as the history of hip hop music. Were there any big challenges in adapting this fictional material versus the historical facts you’re used to chronicling?

Ed Piskor: The major challenge is that there is so much I love about X-Men and it’s wholly impossible to cover it all in the space provided. Also, I’m just a little past the halfway marker so there’s still plenty of room to really hit some challenges. One that is constantly on my mind is figuring out a way to keep Scott Summers a hero after leaving his wife, Madelyne Pryor with child, when Jean Grey comes back to life. That always caused me trouble as a young reader, but I think I have the way to get it to [make] sense.

Marvel.com: Were any eras of X-history easier to tackle than others?

Ed Piskor: The third issue of GRAND DESIGN, I knew, would be the easiest to tackle because it’s the gold-standard stuff that got everybody on board with the original series in such a big way. It covers GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1 through UNCANNY X-MEN #137 or so.

Marvel.com: You’re essentially one man reframing the serialized works of dozens and dozens of writers and artists. Which influences of those prior architects did you find coming out the most?

Ed Piskor: Artistically I’m building the story off of all prior artists whose work I connect to, X-Men, Marvel, or otherwise. I like how John Byrne and Paul Smith stuck to the characters proportions and kept Wolverine a shrimp. I liked the way Rob Liefeld drew hair back in the New Mutants/X-Force days. Steranko’s quirky foreshortening is a pleasure to my eyes. There are direct homages and samples using [Jack] Kirby in there. Neal Adams composition with the Sentinels flying into the sun is untouchable.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN is made on the shoulders of giants.

Marvel.com: Who were your favorite X-Men characters growing up and did you find your faves changing as you worked on this project?

Ed Piskor: I confess that I’ve never been the kind of fan who identifies with particular characters or who has favorites. From a very young age—five, maybe six years old—seeing real life names associated with the credits of those who created the actual comic books were always my motivation.

Thinking in those terms, I will answer the question another way. When I was little Jim Lee was the most captivating artist on X-MEN at the time I really decided to become a cartoonist. Then I discovered and adored Byrne and Art Adams and Steranko, and Paul Smith. Kirby and [Marc] Silvestri.

While revisiting the series I have to say that I’m embarrassed that I didn’t give [artist] Rick Leonardi as much credit as he deserves when I first read his issues. Looking at that work now, his chops rival anybody’s and I’ve been digging in the bins for any comics with his name on them.

Marvel.com: The X-Men, more so than any other corner of the Marvel Universe, tend to function as their own world, rarely needing to intersect with the other heroes. Why do you think they work so well as a self-contained soap opera?

Ed Piskor: We have [longtime UNCANNY X-MEN writer] Chris Claremont to thank for that. Having one guy write the series for almost 20 years creates an unparalleled consistency in mainstream comics that I’ve not seen matched. He fleshed those characters out in ways that made readers really care. Listen to Chris speak about the work and he acknowledges his characters as people. Not words on a page or lines on paper.

Marvel.com: Were there any moments you found yourself more excited by when you got to them than you previously expected you would be?

Ed Piskor: Every aspect of this project is a blast. There isn’t a wasted panel in the whole thing. No particular moments are more important to me over others. I have to keep the big picture in mind at all times with this story.

Marvel.com: What’s surprised you the most about this process?

Ed Piskor: X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, to date, is a completely uncompromised vision. The editors were great so far all the way up the line. The sales guys were mindful the whole time. The folks handling the book collections are amazing and very helpful. Unless you guys are lying to me there’s going to be some special considerations with the printing of the books and trade in terms of paper stock and design. In a universe of corporate properties I appreciate that I’ve been given complete trust and respect to get my vision across. It’s going to yield an amazing product. I think my enthusiasm is clearly evident on every page and the hope is that the fans absorb that energy while reading.

Check out the first installment of this unprecedented undertaking in X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN #1, from Ed Piskor, on December 20, followed fast by issue #2 on January 3!

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Kieron Gillen stirs up conflict in a galaxy far, far away!

Though the Empire has already razed the sacred moon of Jedha, they’ve come back for more. In their attempts to raid the Kyber mines for the powerful crystals that fuel the Death Star’s weapons system, Imperial forces will encounter some familiar foes…but will Luke Skywalker be among them?

On January 3, Luke wavers between his allegiance to the Rebellion and his quest to become a Jedi in STAR WARS #41! Writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca present a few unexpected challenges in the fight against the Empire as the story continues.

Gillen stopped by Marvel HQ to speak about where Luke—and the Rebellion at large—find themselves in issue #41.

Marvel.com: With Luke preoccupied with his Jedi training, who might step up to lead the fight against the Empire?

Kieron Gillen: “What’s the right thing to do?” is just one of the questions that haunt this story. Hell, it haunts all fiction—or at least my own. I think you can chase that through the cast in the arc. Some of the characters go the other way—chasing the martyr journey that Jyn Erso ended up taking. Okay, that might be a bit philosophical for an answer, but to be more specific, Han would be the person I’d keep an eye on for the rest of the arc.

Each of the main three characters have their own arc in “The Ashes of Jedha,” and they rise and fall at different times. Luke’s started earliest and peaks with the training. Han starts lower and builds bigger later.

Marvel.com: How do Han and Leia react to Luke now that he’s gone off to do his own thing?

Kieron Gillen: I’d say the head-to-head between Leia and Luke says it all. It’s a fair question. What is practical in a situation? Either way, someone will have to make amends.

Marvel.com: Since the Death Star attack, what strategic value does Jedha hold for the Empire and the Rebellion respectively?

Kieron Gillen: For the Empire, it’s what it always was—a place rich in the resources they want. They’re a gauntlet squeezing the last bit of juice from the orange. The Empire needs all the orange juice it can get. Conversely, for the Rebellion, they don’t think the Empire should be allowed anything with Vitamin C in at all. They want the Empire to get scurvy. Any time the Empire try to buy some fruit juice, they’re arrive, swatting away the grasping gauntlet-y fingers.

Err…I’m not talking about actual orange juice, by the way.

Marvel.com: Right there with ya! Will we see any familiar faces in this struggle for Jedha?

Kieron Gillen: Well, Chewie has been conspicuously absent. I need to get some Bowcasting action in, surely?

Marvel.com: Oh yeah. Last question: how does it feel to have the chance to tell these stories between the action fans already know so well?

Kieron Gillen: It’s pretty magical. I’m working on the second arc at the moment, and I feel that I’ve really got the characters under my fingers. It feels like such a wonderful period of growth for the three core members and the Alliance, and getting to delineate the adventures they have along the way is so much fun.

What I’m doing is basically what I did with DARTH VADER—look at the gap in time, work out what’s been implicitly changed in that space, and then try to cook up a compelling reason for all those changes. Well, all the changes that [previous series writer] Jason Aaron hasn’t already touched on. That the book leans more towards the military side of the Rebels really brings Leia forward and Han’s conflicted response to it all. The trick ends up being about balance, so all the cast have their parts to play. For me, it’s an ensemble cast and I want to give everyone something.

Also, it never gets boring working out cool things you can do with a lightsaber.

Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca’s STAR WARS #41 hits on January 3!

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Three legendary writers book return trips to Wakanda!

With writer Ta-Nehesi Coates doing stellar work on the current BLACK PANTHER series and T’Challa making his solo film debut in February, three of the most iconic writers to ever pen stories for Wakanda return to the hero they helped make a household name; in February 18’s BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1, three distinct eras of the Panther will be revisited.

Don McGregor, the foundation-building scribe behind stories like “Panther’s Rage,” teams up with artist Daniel Acuna for a tale that takes King T’Challa out of Wakanda and onto the streets of New York for a gripping mission. Then, former BLACK PANTHER writer Christopher Priest will be joined by artist Mike Perkins for a story starring friend of Wakanda Everett K. Ross. And last but not least, the man behind “Who is The Black Panther?” and the director the recent film “Marshall”—starring the MCU’s T’Challa himself, Chadwick Boseman—will reunite with artist Ken Lashley for a sequel of sorts to their classic, “Black To The Future!”

We reached out to each of these legends to pick their brains about coming to a character they left such indelible marks on.

Marvel.com: What excited you most about returning to Black Panther?

Reginald Hudlin: When I was told that the book would feature me, Christopher Priest, and Don McGregor each doing Black Panther stories, it just felt historic. I knew I had to be a part of it.

Christopher Priest: Nothing. Seriously, nothing at all. It was terrifying.

My original run, especially the Marvel Knights installments, have finally found an audience. When we were actually doing the book, we literally couldn’t give copies away. There was enormous sales resistance and a lot of literal hate—and threats—from fans outraged that we gave Panther an iPhone. Seriously; there was this anti-tech backlash, “purists” who, from what I could tell, were confusing Black Panther with Tarzan. Panther is not Tarzan.

So, in those days, I’d spend a lot of energy engaging these fans and trying to please, please, sir, get them to go read FANTASTIC FOUR #52 and learn who Panther really is rather than who so many fans apparently believed he was—some kind of caveman or maybe Ka-Zar. He’s not Ka-Zar. He is ruler of one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world. Yes, dude, he can use an iPhone.

Don McGregor: It was excitement I felt when [editor] Wil Moss first approached me about coming back to write the Panther after being away from T’Challa for decades. I loved writing him, and I spent years with T’Challa’s voice in my head, trying to “hear” not only him, but all the characters in Wakanda around him.

I actually wrote that I was of the mind not to do it up on my Facebook page. I did not want to disappoint the readers who held such love for these characters, and how much, over the years, these stories had meant to them. The worst fear the storyteller can have, I suppose, is that you come back with a short piece and the reaction is “Man, Don had it back then; he should have left it alone!” But, when I wrote about it in the social media so many people responded that they wanted me to do it, I began to re-appraise accepting while I was visiting my daughter in California.

Marvel.com: How do you feel about the character’s growing pop cultural profile, with his appearance in “Captain America: Civil War” and now his own upcoming film?

Don McGregor: I think it’s terrific! The Panther has always been an important super hero in opening up the comics medium to the different kinds of characters and stories that can be told. I spent years of my life with him, so there becomes an intimacy of daily contact with each other, of staying open to what you can do as you continue to write the next issue. You often spend more time with the title characters of your series than you do with many of the people you know. It becomes a part of you, facing the next page, the next panel, trying to get it as right as you can in the moment you are creating it.

I thought Chadwick Boseman [brought] the right combination of grace and momentum and solemnity and strength to The Black Panther that was always the way I saw him. I am so glad [Marvel staffer] Peter Charpentier made it possible for me to meet with Chadwick during the San Diego Comic-Con this last summer.

Christopher Priest: Well, I certainly think it’s great. Chadwick Boseman’s end-of-innocence portrayal of a young T’Challa elevated the game for African—and African American—super heroes.

Reginald Hudlin: I remember all the Black Panther scripts that had been developed over the years. Almost all of them horrible. There were drafts where he grew up in housing projects in America with no idea of his royal heritage. Just ghastly perversions of the original concept.

So, when then-Executive Editor Axel Alonso and I sat down to talk about what was originally conceived to be a [limited series], I wanted to tell the story right. I didn’t know if there would ever be a movie, but I wanted to create a document that would tell fans who he was and be a blueprint for what a movie should be. I haven’t seen the film, but looking at how Klaw is portrayed and the inclusion of characters I created like Shuri, it looks like that is the case.

Black Panther Annual #1 cover by Daniel Acuna

Marvel.com: Are there differences to how you approach the character now versus your original run on the book?

Don McGregor: Surely. You don’t have to do months of research to write a 12 page story as compared with a nearly 200 page graphic novel like “Panther’s Rage.” Back when I was first given the Panther to write there were multiple decisions that I had to make before I wrote one finished page. I not only read the comics; I had to research everything that would create the intricate details of Wakanda. Jack [Kirby] and Stan [Lee] had established it, but it was more a concept in those early stories, since they had a lot of characters with the Fantastic Four to interact with the Panther and whatever super villain they were fighting.

It was during those initial weeks that I discovered not one story had ever had anything to do with
Ramonda, the Panther’s mother, and I decided then that I would not mention her during “Panther’s Rage,” that this would be one big complete story, and then I would do a story dealing with South Africa and Apartheid. This would become “Panther’s Quest,” a story of a son, T’Challa, searching for his mother in an oppressive, racist regime, and how difficult such a place could make on the emotional turmoil of a son searching for a mother he has lost since childhood, a human theme I hoped everyone could relate to, and care about. As you can see, I was already concerned about where T’Challa’s life would go after “Panther’s Rage,” and before I wrote Book One of that series, I needed to know I had somewhere to go as a writer that would challenge me, but also make sure I was not writing the same story issue after issue.

Christopher Priest: Well, yes, I suppose. When I was writing the character 20 years ago, the mission was simpler: this is a story about a guy you think you know but you’ve, in fact, got him all wrong. Skip ahead 20 years, and now everybody is in on the joke. Reader expectation is different. Marvel Knights readers expected an overly serious homily on African culture, so we played against those expectations. Today’s audience already knows T’Challa is a capable—and deadly—adversary and technological genius, so I can’t write those “I can’t believe he took out Mephisto with one punch!” stories because, today’s audience knows he can.

Reginald Hudlin: Some fans on my web site asked me what story I would write if I ever came back to the character. There are a few I have in mind, but my favorite is a big epic story called World War Wakanda. It would be one of the big companywide crossovers. I only had six pages to tell my story, so I did an epilogue where you get glimpses of the result of the story  It also functions as a follow up to the “Black to The Future” story I wrote for the very first BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL.

Marvel.com: What do you think makes Black Panther such an iconic figure?

Don McGregor: I suspect many people love the idea of a character who can move with such power and grace and [certainty], and look absolutely terrific doing so! But, I have the feeling, also, for many people that they admire and want a leader who truly does want to represent as many of his people as he can, and doesn’t merely luxuriate in his power and abilities. I suspect we wish there were politicians that acted as honorably and with concern about all the people in their land.

Reginald Hudlin: He’s the African equivalent of Captain America. In the same way Cap embodies all that is good about America, The Panther symbolizes all that is great about Africa.

Christopher Priest: He’s the black guy. C’mon, let’s be honest. He’s the black guy. And he’s not angry, he doesn’t use slang or “Ebonics,” he pulls his pants up, he keeps his word. Black Panther shames us—all of us—by his nobility. He may well be the single most noble guy on Earth. Do your best. Keep your word. It’s all anyone can ask of you.

T’Challa’s, like, the last noble man on earth. I am by no means anywhere near that noble, but I aspire to be well, if not good, at least as good as I personally can manage. That’s the best any of us can do. Dude: be as good as you personally can manage. Eat your vegetables. Do your best. Keep your word.

Don’t miss BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1, from Don McGregor, Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin, and their artistic collaborators, on February 18!

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