It’s about to get super nerdy in here.
When someone said, ‘Hey Steph, do you want to talk about the history of Black Panther?’ I could not say yes fast enough.
The new documentary podcast, The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther, chronicles T’Challa’s origins from his introduction to the character’s most essential storylines and moments. Across six episodes, bestselling author Nic Stone (Shuri: A Black Panther Novel) leads listeners on a trip through the Wakandan king’s biggest triumphs and missteps. And in discussing this project, Stone spoke with The Root about what she learned about T’Challa and which character she wants to explore next.
If 2018's Black Panther was your first major introduction to T’Challa and the kingdom of Wakanda, you are perfectly welcome to this podcast, as Stone wants everyone to know where the groundbreaking character came from.
“As a person who was a little bit more familiar with the comics’ timeline, I’m excited for people who were introduced to Black Panther through the film to get to know where he came from. Because I think it’s very interesting,” she told The Root. “Just knowing that he was born in the 1960s during the thick of the civil rights movement. There was a time where they changed his name for a minute, because of the affiliation with the Black Panther Party. All of that stuff is really rich and delicious.”
Among the interesting revelations from the first episode is that for a long time no one actually knew Black Panther was Black. He wore a full suit, completely covering himself and his face.
“One of my favorite things that I learned was about the mask issue,” Stone said. “Initially people didn’t know he was Black, which was a surprise to me, because what do you mean, you didn’t know the Black Panther was Black? Things that would be obvious to us now, weren’t necessarily obvious to us back then. He reveals his Blackness by calling himself ‘a soul brother.’”
It is at this moment that Nic and I had to take a minute to compose ourselves. Because really T’Challa!? A soul brother!?
We tried to be professionals and get back on track, but then came the discussion of his original name: Coal Tiger. No really, that was his name. Once we got things under control, we discussed how the podcast humanizes the Wakandan warrior, putting his actions in the context of the time the character was living in.
“What was really fun about getting to do this project was getting to look at the old T’Challa through our 21st-century lens,” Stone said. “He was born during the civil rights movement, and the time during which he was born was very different to the time we’re in now.”
“It got me very curious about how people thought in those times when he was being written before,” she continued. “The 1960s, 1970s, 1990s, what was going on in the zeitgeist, where we’re seeing T’Challa behave a certain way, we’re seeing him drawn a certain way, we’re seeing his story presented in a certain way. It really gave a solid peek, not only into history, but into the way people thought about Black people during those times.”
To get the full story on T’Challa and Wakanda, Stone speaks with some of the comic book writers who’ve helped establish Black Panther’s lore: Writers Christopher Priest, Don McGregor, John Ridley, Reginald Hudlin and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“Getting to see how this idea of this African nation was built out over the course of years was really interesting,” she said. “We get to hear about the creation of Killmonger, the creation of the Dora Milaje. Chris Priest brought us the Dora Milaje, Don McGregor brought us Killmonger, Shuri is Reginald Hudlin. You have all of these characters that are so integral to the world now, and actually getting to talk to the people who created those characters was the coolest thing.”
And you know if we’re talking about T’Challa, we’ve got to talk about Storm.
“My favorite thing about Storm in the Black Panther world is we get a better grip on the fact that she has African roots,” Stone said. “She’s the Queen of Kenya at one point. Queen Ororo is who Storm is. And getting to see her as more than the brown lady in the X-Men who can control the weather is pretty dope.”
As for who’s next on Stone’s list of character explorations, she’s all about bad guys who are misunderstood.
“I would love to do a deep dive on Loki or Thanos. I really love antiheroes, and it would be really cool to get to dive into the history of one of them even if I had to go through Thor to do it, I’d be totally fine with that too,” she said. “The other one is the Hulk. I would love to do the Hulk because the Hulk is everything.”
The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther debuts Feb. 14 on the SiriusXM app and Marvel Podcasts Unlimited on Apple Podcasts. Episodes are available a week later on other major podcast apps.