It’s no secret that I’m a huge Black Panther fan! While some wander in and out of T’challas life Ive been a cash tossing middle ground holder for over 20 years, I buy everything that has the black Panther in it! Love it or hate it! Now granted T’challa has moved on from Wakanda and taken up shop, no pun intended, in Hell’s Kitchen I was wary. But potential is rich in the soil of this premise and the seeds scattered by David Liss are bound to bear interesting fruit with a shade of everyone’s favorite “Priest action”. The opening arc is through and now I get to but heads with the new man at the helm of T’challa‘s tales David Liss. Enjoy!
I’m a writer living in San Antonio. My 7th novel will be out in August, and, oddly enough, my 8th will be out in October. That is unusually prolific for me. I’m also writing comics full time. I have a wife, two kids and two cats.
Who was your favorite superhero growing up?
Probably Daredevil, though I was always big on Spider-Man, Punisher, Batman, Superman and Martian Manhunter.
It’s been a lot of fun. Writing novels is a fairly solitary business, and I’ve enjoyed the collaborative nature of comics. It’s a blast to write a script and then have someone else get to work bringing it to life.
How did you land the job of being the writer for Black Panther: Man without fear?
The project’s editor was Bill Rosemann, with whom I’d already worked with on Daring Mystery Comics and Mystery Men. I was lucky enough to be asked to submit a pitch for how I would handle bringing T’Challa to Hell’s Kitchen, and they accepted it.
Coming into the Black Panther how much of T’challa’s back story do you know?
I knew a fair amount — but I also had to read a lot of comics before I felt I was really up to speed. I started picking up Black Panther regularly when Jonathan Maberry took over, since he’s a friend of mine, but I knew the character best from his time in the Avengers. I missed the Priest run (though I’ve now read a great deal of it) since it came out when I was in grad school, which is basically the period of my life in which I did not read comics. No money and no time.
Priest, like just about everyone else.
Tell us about Black Panther Man without fear, what’s it about?
Reduced to its most basic premise, T’Challa — who is no longer king of Wakanda, or even technically the Black Panther, comes to Hell’s Kitchen ostensibly to fill in for Daredevil when Matt Murdock leaves town. More personally and importantly, now that he has lots his powers, his tech and his vibranium, he wants to find out just what he is made of. The first arc was mainly about him coming to terms with who he is now, and figuring out how, now that he lacks the resources he once had, he can still be the most dangerous man alive. Some readers complained that he wasn’t as powerful and confident as Black Panther should be, but the way I see it, that’s kind of the point. But he has been tested by fire, and you are going to see a more confident T’Challa in the issues ahead.
Who is T’challa/Black Panther to you?
He is the guy who will go to any lengths to do what he thinks is right. Maybe that sounds like a lot of guys in the Marvel U, but I’ve always seen T’Challa as someone who is a little more determined, a little less bound by other people’s rules, a little more willing to take risks. You could also say that Captain America will also always do what he thinks is right, but I’d much rather be on the wrong side of Cap than Black Panther.
I originally intended the secret identity to be a big deal in the story, but things evolved in the scripting, and it felt right for it to be one of the things that gets away from T’Challa. You’ll see it even more endangered in the issues ahead, but that provides some interesting context for the stories we are going to tell.
How much does T’challa’s past factor into Black Panther man without fear?
We’re not wiping the slate clean by any stretch. This is a new chapter in Black Panther’s life, but the old life still happened. He is who he is because of his past.
Without giving too much away, I think it’s safe for you to be on the lookout for characters from T’Challa‘s past. We want to bring some of them in when it makes sense and when it tells a good story — not just to bring them in because we want to cross certain characters off our list.
Historically Black Panther has “sales issues” how much does “looming cancellation” factor into working on a Black Panther comic book?
Of course. I know I want people to read this book, and Marvel needs a certain number of people to buy it. Ideally, we’d like to have more people reading Black Panther than ever before.
The impending clash between Kraven the Hunter and Black
Panther, what can we look forward to?
Our first arc was a dark and brooding business, so we wanted to follow it up with something a bit less moody. This is going to be a fun, high-octane, action-packed story. I loved the idea of a Kraven/BP match-up, and I had a great time with this one. Jefte Palo has really nailed the look.
What can you tell us about the American Panther? T’challa or not?
This one is top secret. Ask me in July.
If you could change one thing from the Black Panthers long sordid history what would it be?
That’s an interesting question. I find some of his early enemies, like Klaw and Man-Ape to be a bit silly, but I suppose that’s true across the board for a lot of Silver Age villains. I’d also say I never felt quite comfortable with the rendering of Wakanda. I think Marvel deserves a lot of credit for trying to create an advanced and sophisticated African country that was advanced and sophisticated on African, rather than European, terms. At the same time, there was always an element of colonialism and minstrelsy involved that made me uneasy. So I think my ultimate answer would be an even more nuanced rendering of Wakanda.
What does the future hold for Black Panther man without fear and David Liss in comics?
I wish I knew. Hopefully a lot more stuff.
Can we expect an artist change anytime soon?
Sorry you saw it that way. The way I intended the story to go was that Vlad had all these lofty ideals about what kind of man he wanted to be, how he wanted to do things differently than the other guys, but what he failed to realized — and what he soon discovered — was that the pressures of trying to be a crime lord, or watching his empire crumble under the Panther’s assault, was more than he could handle. In effect, he snapped.
One more thing before you go David, why do you think it’s important to have Black Superheroes?
The superhero universes position themselves as alternative versions of our own world, and it only makes sense that they should be similarly populated. So one answer is that it makes no sense for there not to be black superheroes, and to leave out members of any race or ethnic group is an act of deliberate omission. But more importantly, comics — at their best — have always been an interesting place to work out social issues. Race relations are an important part of American history and American culture, and I think it would be a shame not to use the superhero genre as a platform for discussion, expression and experimentation. I strongly approve of using comics as a sounding board for all cultural issues — especially since social issues make for great stories.
In the on-going Mystery Men limited series, which is set in the 1930s, I made one of the heroes a man of color because doing so gave me an opportunity to gesture toward the role race, like economic disparity, played in the stratified culture of the period. It’s not a comic about race issues, but if I don’t mention race issues then it’s not really a comic that deals honestly with New York in the 1930s.
Thanks allot David and keep up the good work!