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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Christopher Priest preps the Royals for the fight of their lives!

The time has come for the teenage royals to return home to Attilan.

In an attempt to clear their names of treason and retake their rightful places as Inhuman leaders, the team has made some unlikely alliances and built up their forces to prepare for a battle with the King himself!

On December 6, writer Christopher Priest and artist Phil Noto conclude INHUMANS: ONCE AND FUTURE KINGS with the climactic issue #5!

We caught up with Priest to get some hints about this electrifying finale!

Marvel.com: Can you give a brief summary of the series ahead of the last issue?

Christopher Priest: This will be part five of five parts, so a lot has gone on. I recommend everyone pick up the entire series (obviously) and enjoy the ride! Long story short: due to a series of misunderstandings, the teenage royals Black Bolt, Maximus the Not-So-Mad, and Medusa become convinced the Inhumans King (who now goes by the name Unspoken) wants to kill them.

Led by a mysterious new character, an enlightened Alpha Primitive who calls himself “Elisha,” the teenhumans flee the ancient city of Attilan and take refuge in New York City where they come under the tutelage of Benjamin Wittman, the brilliant inventor who later becomes known as the malevolent Wizard. At the start of this, our finale, the royals—now reunited with their cousins Triton and Karnak—have come to question much of the information they’ve been given, and have determined to return to Attilan and engage the King…who has the power to destroy them all.

Marvel.com: How have the team dynamics shifted over the course of the story?

Christopher Priest: Well, they’re not much of a team, actually. They’re family, to be sure, but they are kids; teenagers on a first big adventure away from home, guided by grown-ups with questionable motives.

All of this leads, of course, toward Black Bolt’s inevitable ascension to the throne—but is that the path the young monarch-in-waiting really wants to take? There’s an interesting dynamic between the impulsive and self-absorbed Maximus, who craves the throne, and Black Bolt, who’s had major responsibility thrust upon him since birth.

Marvel.com: How do each of the Royals feel about the prospect of returning to Attilan?

Christopher Priest: Well, they have conflicting emotions about returning home, considering no one knows for certain whether they will be welcomed home as family or fired upon as traitors and enemies. Stay tuned!

Marvel.com: Tell us a little more about Elisha.

Christopher Priest: Elisha the Alpha Primitive could be described as your typical liberal post-grad student—the kind that waits on line in the rain for the newest iPhone. He is mostly a product of his experience—the oppression suffered by the Alpha Primitives, a servant caste of the Inhumans. An Inhuman taught Elisha to read and got imprisoned for it. Now enlightened, and with postgrad degrees from M.I.T., Elisha remains a second or even third-class citizen due to his genetic disposition—which casts a pall upon the more “enlightened” Inhuman society.

His character theme is, therefore, about discrimination—especially among liberal free thinkers such as the Inhumans.

Marvel.com: How does Black Bolt differ at this stage of his life from the present day?

Christopher Priest: This Black Bolt has only been out of his isolation chamber for a few months, if that long. He is, literally, the boy in the plastic bubble who is only within these pages learning how to relate to and socialize with others. Thus, Black Bolt feels very sensitive to the plight of the Alpha Primitives and, in fact, challenges the King on that subject in our first issue. He tends to break a lot of social rules because he doesn’t really know about them.

Marvel.com: What proved to be the most challenging part of writing this series?

Christopher Priest: Reimagining characters I’ve grown up reading and finding something new to say about them. We all know these characters, but these are new voices and very different themes.

Marvel.com: Who became your favorite character to write?

Christopher Priest: Crystal, whom I just went my own way with and gave her a fairly precocious voice. She, above all of the Inhumans, has had a historically generic voice. But my editor, Will Moss, has allowed me to bend convention a little and give her an irascible personality…we presume she’ll grow out of it.

Christopher Priest and artist Phil Noto’s INHUMANS: ONCE AND FUTURE KINGS #5 concludes the story on December 6!

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Christopher Priest discusses the Inhumans' trip to NYC!

Whenever the Inhumans find themselves in The City That Never Sleeps, they just can’t seem to keep themselves out of trouble.

And on November 1, writer Christopher Priest and artist Phil Noto unleash the gang on NYC once again in INHUMANS: ONCE AND FUTURE KINGS #4!

The Royals hit the streets—and battle Spider-Man—in a wild tale that weaves in The Wizard, The Seeker, and all the local dangers of the city. With the wrath of Attilan on their tail, how will the Inhumans respond?

We caught up with Priest to find out.

Marvel.com: Tell us a little bit about the events leading up to this story…

Christopher Priest: This storyline has been based on a series of misunderstandings and misinterpretations of observed actions. The young Royals believe the King (whose name is now Unspoken) intends to kill them. He does not. Medusa believes the King wants to force her into marrying him. He does not. Some of these misunderstandings relate to their biases—for example, an Alpha Primitive develops his inaccurate assumptions as a result of the Inhumans’ caste system and how his people have been oppressed for generations.

But with all of that going on, it comes as no surprise when, at the climax of issue #3, a young Black Bolt mistakes a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man for one of the King’s agents and presumes the Alpha Primitive’s incorrect assumption—that the King wants to kill them—to be correct.

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings (2017) #1

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings (2017) #1

Marvel.com: How did it feel to write Spider-Man again? You two have a bit of history!

Christopher Priest: I began my career way back in the 1900s as the Spider-Man Editor at Marvel—and later went on to write the character in a couple of series. My bigger struggle here became keeping him from sounding too much like Deadpool, whom I have also written! (Of course, Deadpool’s speech pattern is largely derivative of Spider-Man’s, so it could be a little tough.)

Marvel.com: Did it prove difficult to imagine these characters so far back in their own personal histories? How do the Royals differ here from how we see them as adults?

Christopher Priest: Well, I want to be careful because I have so much admiration and respect for the writers handling the current series. I personally have always thought the Inhumans have been handled with just a bit too much reverence—a bit stiff, taken too seriously—and that the characters became too far removed from what Stan Lee called “The World Outside My Window.” I’ve had similar problems with Asgard and Wakanda! These can be great places to explore, but in terms of my personal interest, I prefer my super heroes grounded in as much reality as we can muster—so that the fantastic elements “pop” from the world we actually know.

I thought, and Marvel agreed, that their adolescent selves might be a lot more flexible and knowable, with universal conflicts and coming-of-age stories present. That’s the big difference between Teenhumans and the current-day version: we allow ourselves to treat the characters a little less like glass and drop much of the formality. They’re kids. They look like kids, they act like kids, they make mistakes the way kids do. We have copious amounts of humor and warmth, which can be much harder to do with the, at times, way-too-serious adult versions of these characters.

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings (2017) #2

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings (2017) #2

Marvel.com: How does this origin story stand as unique from others that have been told?

Christopher Priest: We’re just kind of filling in the blanks and, at times, walking in-between known events of the early Marvel Universe. Some outright changes needed to be made only because of the inevitable knots in Marvel continuity over the years. I also believe that a lot of the origin stuff—specifically as presented in back-up stories or one-off features—emerged without a lot of consideration for “canon,” or the big picture.

In those days, Stan, Roy Thomas, and others just winged it. Now we have to be accountable to decisions made on the fly 40 years ago and somehow make it all fit! We tried hard to respect that work, but, inevitably, some choices had to be made.

Marvel.com: Tell us about Bentley Wittman, A.K.A. The Wizard. What has his presence done to the dynamic of the group?

Christopher Priest: Well, as most every fan knows, Medusa ultimately joins Wittman’s Frightful Four villains group—which could be the subject of a sequel if this series finds an audience… I thought engaging The Wizard without ever actually calling him that felt consistent with Marvel’s cinematic and Netflix universe approaches—and I think it works really well here; playing off of things the audience already knows about that character and history. The fact that one of the first humans the young Royals encounter turns out to be a menace adds to the Inhumans versus humans paranoia we see later on.

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings (2017) #3

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings (2017) #3

Marvel.com: Phil Noto—what a wonderful artist. How does his distinct style add to the tone of the story you set out to tell? By the way, aren’t you an artist yourself?

Christopher Priest: Nah, I’m a pretty good visual storyteller but way too lazy to draw my own thumbnail layouts the way Keith Giffen does. Inker Josef Rubinstein advised me kindly to stick to writing—I believe “you suck” were the words.

Phil Noto, on the other hand, is a revolutionary artist; a kinder, gentler Moebius. His work here presents a clear break from the typical Marvel house style, which may require some small adjustment from readers expecting Jim Lee-style dynamics. Noto’s stuff looks more like fine art—which it absolutely is; it feels very grounded in reality. Every page has been unexpected but wonderful—he delivers exactly what I asked for but not what I expected. His storytelling lands on-point and he breathes an amazing humanity into his characters’ expressions, drilling right into their eyes. I could not be more thrilled by this choice of artist and eagerly look forward to another project we can tackle together.

Marvel.com: How do you manage the stakes of a prequel story? Considering readers might already know the characters’ future.

Christopher Priest: Well, there’s more to personal conflict than life and death, and even knowing the end of the story doesn’t prevent the piece from being suspenseful. In the case of ONCE AND FUTURE KINGS, it has always been all about the journey—a fresh look at these characters and their history, while unearthing new conflicts and new possibilities along the way.

It’s been great fun—way more than I ever could have expected! And I believe there remains a lot more to say with these characters set in this exciting time of their lives.

INHUMANS: ONCE AND FUTURE KINGS #4, by Christopher Priest and artist Phil Noto, heads to the Big Apple on November 1!

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Christopher Priest closes out his historic run with a different face behind the Black Panther mask!

Read through some of T’Challa’s most thrilling adventures on Marvel Unlimited to mark Black Panther’s 50th anniversary!

To close out his run on BLACK PANTHER, Christopher Priest shifted the book’s focus onto a new character by the name of Kasper Cole for most of the volume’s last issues.

BLACK PANTHER #5062 shined a light on Kevin “Kasper” Cole, a troubled New York City cop with a pregnant girlfriend who lived with his mom. Thanks to his fellow officer and Priest creation Sergeant Tork, Cole discovered a damaged Black Panther costume that he used while on suspension to keep himself safe and disguised as he battled corrupt police and the 66 Bridges Gang.

Cole’s co-opting of the ceremonial garb gained the attention of Hunter the White Wolf, T’Challa and even Erik Killmonger. They each had their own opinions of what he should do with his skills and the costume, but Cole blazed his own trail.

More than just the story of how a young man built himself up into a hero for people outside of himself, this last stretch of issues also helped heal T’Challa. He first appeared as an unkempt man looking about as far from kingly as possible, but by the end, he put the costume back on and agreed to train Cole. Instead of continuing to run around as another Black Panther, Cole agreed to train under T’Challa as the White Tiger. This made up for the fact that Kasper’s Right of Ascension came to an abrupt end thanks to the craziness brought about by Killmonger’s return.

Black Panther (1998) #50

Black Panther (1998) #50

What is Marvel Unlimited?

In the end, Cole did the right thing not just for himself, but also for humanity and his unborn son. After making the right choice, he agreed to become a Panther acolyte and continue protecting the streets of New York City.

Secrets of Wakanda

While Kasper’s time as Black Panther ended with the last issue of this series, his super hero career continued on in the pages of a team book called THE CREW first as the Panther and then as White Tiger. Written by Priest with Joe Bennett providing artwork, the series also starred War Machine, Isaiah Bradley’s son Justice and another Priest creation from BLACK PANTHER, Junta. They protected an area in Brooklyn called Little Mogadishu which had been overrun with crime thanks to the recent construction of a luxury gated community.

Next, after running around reality and time with the Fantastic Four, Storm and T’Challa return to Wakanda in the last arc of Reginald Hudlin’s BLACK PANTHER run.

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