The Shadow Of The Bat/Day Men artist tells Stephen Jewell about collaborating with Atlantic writer and Between The World And Me author Ta-Nehisi Coates on Marvel’s new Black Panther monthly
Black Panther’s artist extraordinaire on T’Challa’s new adventures.
Comic Heroes: What are your earliest memories of the Black Panther?
Brian Stelfreeze: It would have been reading Jack Kirby
Fantastic Four issues. But I really wasn’t a fan of Jack’s work when I was a kid, so it didn’t leave much of an impression, so it would have been Neal Adams and John Buscema (on Avengers and Black Panther’s 1970s solo title Jungle
Action respectively) who really started to make me pay attention to the character.
CH: How did you first come to team up with Ta-Nehisi Coates on the new Black Panther
BS: For me, it was all about Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and editor Wilson Moss. Wil and I worked together a few years ago on an issue of Jonah Hex at DC and we’ve had
relationship ever since. He was very cagey about getting me to agree to the project before revealing the writer’s name. I agreed on the blind because I trusted him, but I did mention we should consider Ta-Nehisi for a fill-in issue! Wil got suspiciously quiet when I mentioned that request…
CH: What’s it like working with Ta-Nehisi? Has he taken quickly to the comic book medium?
BS: I was considerably nervous at first. Comics requires a strange set of disciplines from both writers and artists, so both new writers and other people coming in from other media tend to miss the mark and make it all about the dialogue. The most difficult thing to understand is that the storytelling takes precedence over both the writing and the art. But Ta-Nehisi entered the process of collaboration with no ego and magnificent ideas. He is such an easy guy to work with and we’ve quickly got to the hive mind stage, so now we both just do our best to surprise each other.
CH: Black Panther is being released under the “All-New, All-Different” Marvel banner, which is attempting to present a more diverse range of characters, done by a more diverse range of
creators. Is that something that is important to you?
BS: Absolutely. It’s funny, but I think all creators have the ability to pull from their personal experiences, and then project and expand those experiences to fit any character. We can use our personal sense of social isolation for a Spider-Man story, or our own sense of injustice writ large to tell a Batman story. I think personal experiences are universal to a certain extent and if you’re creative you can tell the story. But I also believe something unique comes from putting diverse people on diverse characters. We can put less energy into being creative and more into just telling the truth.
CH: Wakanda is a big part of the new series. Have you taken a particular approach to illustrating its distinctive geography, clothing and advanced technology?
BS: I went to Japan a while back and I was struck by the fact of within this high-tech city you still had some people walking around in kimonos and traditional clothing. I wanted Wakanda to feel something like that, but at the same time I didn’t think the tech should be too obtrusive. Wakanda’s technology is a little more organic in the series and I thought it would be a good
This page: The superhero is at the forefront of Marvel’s exciting All-New, AllDifferent banner.