Hail to the King: Hudlin talks "Black Panther"

Thu, November 9th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

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When "Civil War" began, Reed Richards attempted to recruit one of the Marvel Universe's most influential and resourceful heroes. That hero, The Black Panther, chose not to take a side in the conflict, but with the war potentially threatening his country, the King of Wakanda must get involved. CBR News spoke with "Black Panther" writer Reginald Hudlin about upcoming issues of the series.

As readers of "Black Panther" #21 saw, King T'Challa met with Prince Namor of Atlantis. The two monarchs discussed their concerns about the Civil War and how it could lead to an army of American super soldiers invading their countries. Namor believes a coalition of nations is needed to speak out against and stand in opposition to the U.S. government's forced recruitment of superheroes and he believes the Black Panther is the right man to lead it. "Martin Luther King did not want to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott," Hudlin told CBR News. "He was drafted into the role by others who saw he was 'the one.'   I look at T'Challa in this situation the same way.   Does he want to interrupt his time with his newlywed bride for a fight on foreign soil against friends and comrades?   Hell no.   But he is not a person to shirk responsibility."

Readers of Issue #21 also saw that the alliance between Wakanda and Atlantis might be an uneasy one because Namor showed some hesitation in agreeing to follow any instructions that the King of Wakanda gives him. "In the world of international politics, it's best to go by Ronald Reagan's motto of 'trust, but verify,'" Hudlin said. "T'Challa knows that Namor is a good man, but also sees him as a cautionary tale of how not to conduct your self as a king.   So taking his advice is a little scary."

As of the end of issue #21, the Panther's alliance consists of just Wakanda and Atlantis, but readers can expect the coalition of nations to grow. "Coalitions are fragile things," Hudlin explained. "Hard to build, hard to maintain. But you will see why the Panther is the man for the job."

T'Challa's work building and leading the coalition of countries in opposition to the "Civil War" is going to take him into some very dangerous and complicated territory. "The Panther knows he's opening a Pandora's Box by getting so directly involved in U.S. politics," Hudlin stated. "One of the reasons why his country has been able to thrive is because of their strict non-interventionist policy. By violating that cornerstone of Wakandan policy, even for a good cause, he will pay a heavy price. T'Challa's goal is to stop the fighting, stop the injustice. He's not making a stance on the law itself, only that the result is a more dangerous world where good people like Goliath die for the wrong reasons."

Issue #22 of "Black Panther" (which hits stores November 22 nd ) finds the Black Panther on a diplomatic mission in the U.S., where he runs smack dab into one of the key figures in "Civil War," Iron Man. "T'Challa is not in the United States to meet with Iron Man," Hudlin explained.   "He's there to meet with the President of The United States.   After all, The Black Panther is a head of state, and Iron Man is, when it comes down to it, just a government employee. However, there's a lot of political maneuvering on both sides to score points with the public, which comes out in droves to see the Panther and

Storm during their first visit to the United States as husband and wife- they're like Prince Charles and Princess Di, but way cooler.   Does it all turn to fisticuffs?   Oh yes.   I'll just put it this way - you shouldn't threaten a man's wife and not expect consequences."

Hudlin revealed that an established Marvel character with connections to Iron Man plays a major role in "Black Panther" #22. "Actually, the whole issue doesn't turn on Iron Man or The Black Panther, but Jim Rhodes," Hudlin said. "He's the real heart of the story.   And that's all I'll say about that."

After his confrontation with Iron Man in issue #22, T'Challa's life isn't going to get any easier. "The results of issue #22 propel the Black Panther and Storm directly into Civil War," Hudlin stated.   "The confrontations get nastier every issue, climaxing in a thunderous clash in issue #25."

With the Black Panther's growing role in "Civil War," readers can expect upcoming issues to feature guest star appearances by a host of Marvel heroes. "The guest star thing is funny," Hudlin explained. "On one hand, 'Civil War' involves everybody so it's easy to get an awesome cover like the one we have for the first issue of the arc, which features everyone from Cap to the Falcon to Sue Storm.   On the other hand, all these characters are 'busy' in their respective books so you have to make sure what happens works in the overall tapestry of the 'Civil War' story.   But that actually forces you do be more creative, dig deep and find that obscure character and use them in some insidious way. All that to say, yeah, lotsa guest stars in the whole 'Civil War' story arc, both big names and 'Whatever happened to . . .' types."

"Civil War" broke out right around the time of The Black Panther and Storm's wedding. Since then, the newlyweds have been kept busy and have tried to find as many moments of quiet bliss as they can. "The first year of a marriage is about finding a rhythm," Hudlin said. "Here are two people, madly in love, each natural leaders and born warriors.   There's going to be an adjustment period.   They've seen successful and unsuccessful super-couples, from Reed and Sue to Hank and Janet, and they've learned from both.   Their relationship is going to be tested from the battlefield to the throne room as the epic scope of their destiny unfolds in front of them.   The Watcher attended their wedding for a reason."

Since their wedding, business like a diplomatic tour and now "Civil War" have kept T'Challa and his new bride busy, sent them across the globe and kept them away from Wakanda. "The Panther wants to go home," Hudlin said. "The Panther needs to go home.   But there will be some obligations and obstacles that will impede his return.   By the time he gets home, he'll have real problems.   Fortunately, he and Storm won't stand alone."

When he finally returns to Wakanda, the pair will face their problems at home and will also encounter a variety of troubles on the African continent. "There are some questions about Ororo's family and what happened after the death of her parents that have to be addressed," Hudlin stated. "And there are some unique threats on the continent that see The Black Panther and Storm as a threat to their goals."

Readers familiar with the Black Panther know that T'Challa is   the most recent inheritor of a heroic legacy that stretches a long way back into Wakandan history; past issues of "Black Panther" have featured flashbacks and tales of Black Panthers from different eras. "I love stories about the Panther legacy," Hudlin explained. "Sometimes I think about doing back up stories like the old 'Tales of Asgard' yarns in old 'Thor' comics. Yes, there will be more stories with T'Chaka, Azzuri the Wise and going further back than that."

Readers of Black Panther have also seen a number of real life historical figures interacting with previous Black Panthers and they can expect appearances by more historical personages in future issues. "It will be hard to beat Malcolm X meeting T'Challa's dad," Hudlin said. "But writing that makes me work extra hard to top it."

Hudlin has greatly enjoyed working on "Black Panther" and continues to strive to come up with tales that will top his previous ones. "When I re-launched the book two years ago, I promised that the Black Panther would become a major player in the Marvel Universe," Hudlin stated. "In that time, you've seen him beat up the WW2 Captain America, partner with Luke Cage and Blade as the only heroes addressing the aftermath of Katrina, marry the woman who many would consider the most amazing woman in the Marvel Universe, and now get in the mix with 'Civil War.'   But all that was a set up for the next series of story arcs, which will truly be epic."

And now you can discuss this story right here in CBR's Marvel Universe Forum.

 
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