Black Panther's Ta-Nehisi Coates on the challenge of making Wakanda relevant again

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Sep 16, 2016, 11:57 AM EDT (Updated)

If you haven’t been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther comic run, you should be. It’s complicated, political, smart and ambitious. But it also has some heavy lifting to do when it comes to Wakanda.

In a chat with io9, Coates opened up about the challenge involved with making Wakanda a powerful locale in the Marvel Comics universe once again — after the African nation has been decimated by everything from Skrull attacks to a tidal wave orchestrated by Namor. Wakanda was once an unbeatable nation, and now it’s a place that’s taken its fair share of lumps the past few years.

Coates said he came into the project acutely aware of that recent history, and noted it’s one of the most challenging aspects of his series. Coates actually framed much of his opening arc around the unrest of Wakandas due to those recent attacks, and the blame they believe T’Challa holds in those events.

Here’s an excerpt from his comments:

“But between Hudlin and me, a lot of other things happened. I can’t answer for other writers... but other writers made decisions. Between doing Avengers vs. X-Men and Time Runs Out, there’s a lot of fu**ed-up sh*t that happens to Wakanda. Then I come in as a writer. I understand the need, particularly among black fans, to see T’Challa be a certain type of way, even to see him restored to a certain place. This is like in my bones. I feel a deep responsibility to history. I can’t act like that stuff didn’t happen. I guess I could.

Let me rephrase that: I could. What I could have done was said, “Okay, T’Challa used the Time Gem. He went back to x, y, and z.” This [kind of thing] is always open to interpretation to some extent. But for me, it couldn’t have been the Time Gem. Because if there was a Time Gem and he restored everything to perfection, why does the Squadron Supreme have to kill Namor, if the events leading up to Secret Wars actually happened?

If you read other books, if you’re paying attention to the Marvel Universe, it’s clear that this shit actually happened. Okay, so that rules out the Time Gem. Maybe it’s a reality check. Maybe it was the Reality Gem. Maybe he changed as much as he could. He can’t take every little thing. But you can’t pretend it just didn’t happen, because it’s clear that it did happen if you’re reading the other books.”

The sixth issue of Black Panther hit shelves this week.

What do you think of the series so far?

(Via io9)