OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF CHRISTOPHER J. PRIEST |
black & white: a crime novel
My essential premise for the new direction in Panther became, in essence, a dark satire of Spider-Man, structured around the nuclear family concept of The Hero Who Could Be You. Kasper's motive is to wear the costume so he wont be recognized by the good guys or the bad guys as he goes about cleaning up his precinct so he can get a promotion to Detective so he can make enough money to marry his pregnant girlfriend and move them all out of Harlem.
Things were changing. Terrorists had destroyed the World Trade Center, only a few miles south of Marvel's offices, while I struggled with a deadline in Colorado. Peter David's public spat with Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas yielded new and exciting projects from both Peter and Bill, and Captain Marvel was re-tooled to maximize the book's market position in light of the publicity stir surrounding Captain Marvel, Spider-Girl and Black Panther. Somewhere along the way, Joe and Bill convinced the bean counters to not raise the prices on the three titles, and we were all given a window to spin gold out of straw. Black Panther was to be re-tooled, addressing concerns of the book's over-complexity and the weight of 35 years of continuity.
Editors Michael Marts, Mike Raicht and I commenced marathon sessions trying to re-create the wheel, looking at a variety of directions (including a really cool one where T'Challa became a villain and another, Raicht's idea, where Queen Divine Justice became The Black Panther). Much as we liked some of these ideas, even the best of them relied too heavily on established continuity. We were all reluctant to put someone else in the Panther costume because for us, that diminished the weight of the work we have all (including JoeQ, the series' original editor and co-creator) worked so hard to establish. But we had to lighten up: lose a lot of the weight of the continuity that, while serving the series, was not efficient for storytelling.
I'm not sure which of us came up with the notion of having some guy literally steal T'Challa's identity. I'd love to say it was me, but by now, we had Joe Quesada, Tom Brevoort, Jemas, the Mikes and whomever else we could get to stand still and listen contributing ideas and notions. As we left our continuity, T'Challa, fearful of becoming a villain (as Magneto prophesied) and dying of an incurable disease, abdicated his throne and vanished. Of course, he reappeared almost immediately in the pages of The Avengers, and our great irritation about that is that we would no longer be in a position to benefit from Geoff Johns' brilliant work on that title. Geoff and I had had extensive discussions about Panther and his role in the AV's, and we were in wonderful sync. We all were anxious to see what impact T'Challa's reemergence in The Avengers might have on his own book.
However, the conflicting imperatives of our limited window afforded by the David-Jemas "bet" and other considerations meant we either had to take a chance on something new, or just keep doing what we were doing and, likely, be out of business within a few months. Nobody held a gun to my head, nobody said you must do this. But we all felt Panther needed a shake up, and that the time was now.
Once we decided that someone would be impersonating the Black Panther without Panther's permission, I thought this could be a kind of cultural awakening for this new character: some guy who starts this gig, essentially, as a scam, but who evolves over the curse of time to embrace and appreciate the rich heritage and culture of the Lord of the Wakandas.
We all felt, if we're going this new
direction, then let's hammer down. My essential premise for the new direction in
Panther became, in essence, a dark satire of Spider-Man, structured around the nuclear family concept of The Hero Who Could Be You.
Panther would not have quite the whimsical satirical tone of Steel, but rather will be a very dark and very violent urban drama along the lines of Denzel Washington's Academy Award-nominated performance in the film
We banged around on this idea for awhile before recruiting my old pal Oscar Jimenez to handle the art chores. Oscar dove into the project, coming up with our model for Kasper Cole: Vin Diesel. Once we had the Vin idea and the right color palette and such, Oscar just ran with it, researching and designing hardware, clothes, locations and all manner of other things. The energy level was off the chart and The Mikes and Oscar and I were totally jazzed about the new Panther. Then, something odd happened: Oscar disappeared. I'm not sure if it was scheduling conflicts, personal issues, government takeovers or something else, but Oscar's loss was an enormous blow, taking the wind out of our very full sails as we turned around trying to decide what to do.
Dan Fraga stepped in as our white knight, bringing incredible energy and verve along with him as he took the ball and ran with it, evolving the new concept even further as he refined Oscar's concepts. Back on track and on schedule, we moved forward and, while I can't swear to it, I do believe there was dancing. Then we lost Dan. I was about to jump out of my office window (it's on the first floor) when Jorge Lucas, the brilliant artist of our Blazing Saddles parody, stepped in. Fresh off of his stint on Wolverine, Lucas brought his own unique energy and edge to the project, and finally we were on our way.
Regrettably, there were some language and cultural barriers between Jorge and I, and some of our pop culture concepts (Kasper as Vin Diesel, for instance) got lost somewhere along the way. None of which in any way diminishes Jorge as the hero of the day, as someone who performed heroically and turned in terrific and exciting work. Nonetheless, despite everyone's best and most heroic efforts, somewhere along the way some things went missing. More than a few fans have asked me to post the scripts here to help them fill in the blanks (and, perhaps, introduce Kasper Panther to new fans who may be nervous about jumping into the deep end of the pool at Chapter 5 of a 6-chapter arc).
At this writing, Black Panther #55 is on sale, with #56 going on sale any day now. I've posted the prologue and first four chapters (SPOILER WARNING) to help our current fans fill in the blanks, and invite new fans to jump in as the brilliant Jim Calafiore takes the artistic reins with the tail end of BLACK & WHITE and we go onto ASCENSION, Kasper's rite of passage.
Christopher J. Priest
Please do not link to
images or music here for your site.
This site is for promotional purposes only, and in no way challenges the exclusive copyright ownership of the sample materials represented here. All Marvel Comics content Copyright © 2003 Marvel Characters. All Rights Reserved. All DC Comics content Copyright © 2003 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. All other stories, art, photos and other intellectual properties as may be represented here are copyright © and are trademarks and/or registered trademarks ™ of their respective copyright and trademark owners. All rights reserved.