Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Jonathan Maberry

The renowned novelist talks about heading into the jungles of Wakanda as the new writer of BLACK PANTHER

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By Kevin Mahadeo Black Panther forever changed the life of writer Jonathan Maberry. Come August, the award-winning author returns the favor when he pounces onto the BLACK PANTHER title beginning with issue #7. "I grew up in an incredibly racist neighborhood in Philadelphia," recounts Maberry. "It was a very vicious, white, racist environment, so I didn't have any exposure to any positive black role models until I met the Black Panther character in FANTASTIC FOUR, specifically issue #119. It was a story about racism where Black Panther was put in jail in another country and it completely blew my mind. My interest in Black Panther goes back to the point where it changed my life; it changed my view from the propaganda that I had been exposed to as a kid to the truth about fairness and racial equality and racial diversity. So, when [editor] Axel [Alonso] mentioned BLACK PANTHER, I jumped at the opportunity because that character did so much good for me as a young man." Maberry joins current BLACK PANTHER scribe Reggie Hudlin as co-writer for issue #7, however with September's issue #8, Hudlin moves onto consultant status and Maberry slips into the costume full-time as the sole writer. Marvel.com procured the passionate penman for his first solo interview as he discusses sinking his claws into BLACK PANTHER.
 

Preview art by
Will Conrad

Marvel.com: You're a very accomplished author. How'd you get involved in comic writing and BLACK PANTHER? Jonathan Maberry: My editor at St. Martin's Press sent my current novel, "Patient Zero," to Marvel editor Axel Alonso as something he might enjoy just as a book. It turns out Axel liked it enough to ask if I'd be willing to take a swing at writing comics. I've been a lifelong comic fan, so I was very much interested in writing comics—especially for Marvel. He approached me with the idea of me maybe getting involved in the BLACK PANTHER, and I said, "Yes. Absolutely." Marvel.com: I didn't know you were so into comics. What comics did you read growing up? Jonathan Maberry: The first comic I ever bought was FANTASTIC FOUR #68. I read Marvel continuously from that point until about the early 90's. At that point, I was travelling a lot and got married, so I stopped reading for a while. But I had read continuously from the 60's until the 90's, so I have a long, long history with Marvel. I've always been a big fan. Marvel.com: Currently in BLACK PANTHER, we have T'Challa out of commission and a female Black Panther in his place. What can you say about what readers can expect to see in regards to the characters' futures? Jonathan Maberry: Well, I'm currently working on issue #10, and T'Challa is still in the story. It's not like he's been kicked to the curb. He's still a major player. It's just that things have changed in the nation of Wakanda, and I think readers are going to be really excited about where things go. As far as the new Black Panther, I can't really give out a name because there are several characters in contestation to be the Black Panther. Marvel.com: You mention that T'Challa still plays a role, and previously the book focused on both him and his wife Storm. Will Storm still be playing a role or will we see more of a focus on the new Black Panther?

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preview art by
Will Conrad

Jonathan Maberry:
There's going to be a bunch of different storylines all woven in. It's a very complex story with a lot of players. It'll have a kind of ensemble feel that a show like "Lost" has, with different storylines within the characters. Storm is definitely in the story, but the new Black Panther is the central figure within the book. There are new characters that will be introduced that are her support team. The major players are definitely still in the book, and they'll all get important things to do as the series unfolds. Marvel.com: BLACK PANTHER has featured quite a few guest stars from the Marvel Universe over the course of the current and previous series. Do you plan on continuing this trend? Jonathan Maberry: Absolutely. I just wrote a scene where the Black Panther is consulting with Reed Richards. There are a lot of characters that we plan to have in it, but some of them—unfortunately—are spoilers, so I can't tell you. But there will be some very familiar faces. Marvel.com: As a FANTASTIC FOUR fan, it must have been exciting for you to write that scene with Reed Richards. Jonathan Maberry: I've wanted to do that since I started doing stuff at Marvel. FANTASTIC FOUR was always my favorite book growing up. I have every issue of it. I absolutely loved all the Jack Kirby and Stan Lee stuff, the John Byrne stuff. Everyone that's been on that book has brought something new. To be able to write a scene with characters like that is absolutely surreal in the best possible way. It's just fun to be able to put dialogue in the mouths of characters that are so incredibly iconic and that have been a part of my life since I was a little kid. Marvel.com: A lot of your novels deal with martial arts, and you are actually an 8th degree black belt. Do you find your familiarity with that helps choreograph a fight scene, especially for a character like Black Panther who is more melee based?

Black and white
preview art by
Will Conrad

Jonathan Maberry:
Actually, we are developing a fighting style that is unique to the new Black Panther, and also tweaking the fighting style that T'Challa has as he is involved in adventures without being the Black Panther. So, my martial arts background is playing heavily into it. And aside from the fact that I've been doing martial arts for over 45 years, I also teach workshops on how to write fight scenes or create a fight scene that is logical to the types of characters in the situation. It's fun because you have a female character that has certain human abilities and certain enhanced abilities, as the Black Panther package comes with benefits from the Panther god, and the availability of new technology. It gives you a lot of tools to work with, and you take those tools and build something that is logical to that character. Marvel.com: Wow. Creating a whole new fighting style for the character sounds incredibly fascinating and just awesome. Jonathan Maberry: And it's fun, too. [Laughs] Marvel.com: Going back to your novels, they deal with all sorts of genres, from mysteries to thrillers to horror. Will we see a similar variety of genres in BLACK PANTHER? Jonathan Maberry: Yeah. There's so many things you can do with the Black Panther if you take a look at what that world is. This is a character that has the advantage of great technology, science fiction technology, unlimited financial resources, specific training and abilities that most people don't really understand—as the Panther can always be a little surprising. You have all that stuff to play with, to build up a really great character with a lot of shocks and surprises to the audience. At the same time, [previous writers] Christopher Priest and Reggie Hudlin have built up the supporting cast of the story. We see the world of Wakanda. We see the layers of society, the political structure. All these things present

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preview art by
Will Conrad

different storylines. Then Marvel has a massive amount of villains and these cross-continuity storylines whose echoes have been felt in Wakanda—the Marvel Zombies, the Secret Invasion and now Dark Reign. All these things have impacted the book, and that opens up opportunities for other storylines. So some will be history oriented, some will be more of the clash of national agendas, some will be superhero slugfests. Marvel.com: As a final question, you talked about exploring the world of BLACK PANTHER and Wakanda as a whole and all the various characters, but is there a mission statement or goal for the book? Jonathan Maberry: There is a little bit of a parallel between Wakanda and America right now. There's a new leader in Wakanda, as whoever is the Black Panther is automatically the leader of the country. America has a new leader [who] is illustrating integrity, has a strong ideology, [and] is all about positive change. There's going to be a bit of an echo of the type of changes happening in America and globally in Wakanda as seen from someone else that is emerging as a young, untried leader of a country now given that responsibility and surprising people with what they bring to the table. I don't want to say this book is a political comic because it's not. It's still an action comic, but it has a lot of intrigue to it. One thing I can hint at a little bit is that up until now Wakanda has been a unified country. We're going to shake the foundations of it a little bit. I'm looking forward to exploring the dynamics of how this noble country that's never declared war and has always been invulnerable now has to look to its own inner world to see if it's as safe as it thought it was. It's definitely going to be a fun ride. For more Black Panther, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited! Check out the official Marvel Shop for your favorite Marvel Heroes! Download episodes of "X-Men: Evolution" and "Wolverine and the X-Men" now on iTunes!

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Comments

5 comments
grgoyl1
grgoyl1

I think he'll do well. The writing on The Black Panther has been consistantly spot-on since the Mark Texiera series years ago. My only concern is the art. From the samples... it's ok. I would love to see the artist who drew the Secret Invasion issues take over the book. That art was AMAZING! Marvel, have that guy draw a few more issues!

JCPENNY58
JCPENNY58

Nice interview and it sounds like he is putting a lot of passion into this. I am really excited to see where this is headed once he starts.

bronzetiger
bronzetiger

I like the art too, am saddened though by Marvel's democratic leanings, his comments on our "new" president bother me, they are promotiong him as a hero though on a daily basis he is eroding and destroying this country.Sorry I didn't want to make this a political thing, but it screamed at me. The current ideas he has for black panther are impressive, I like it when a team on a book delves deep into the character and tries to see it at every angle.Panther has been a favorite for a long time, his "formula" was right from the get go, so he has had little change over the years. But that does not mean he can't get more exciting. Which from the looks of things it will! :thor:

bookboy2323
bookboy2323

Just finished reading Maberry's most recent book "Patient Zero." Nothing short of amazing. Zombies, terrorists, kick-a** fighting, and enough science to make it sound plausible. I cannot wait for another Joe Ledger novel, so while I am excited about the contribution Jonathan could make to the Black Panther "pantheon," I'd encourage you to put down your comic book and check out "Patient Zero." You will NOT be disappointed. What a terrific read! Five stars *****