What drew Ta-Nehisi Coates to the thought of writing a new Captain America comic book series was the character’s idealism.
The Ideal of America
“He’s somebody who believes in the ideal of America. He’s like Barack Obama,” Coates told a full house during a Saturday afternoon keynote at the SXSW festival in Texas. “I want to clarify that. I don’t mean that as praise or criticism. He’s somebody who believes in the ideal of America, really, really believes in it.”
The author let the world know about his new comic series on February 28 through a column he wrote in The Atlantic. He wrote, “what is exciting here is not some didactic act of putting my words in Captain America’s head, but attempting to put Captain America’s words in my head.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates has long been a critic of American politics, especially during this latest administration. He went on to say at SXSW that he was looking to explore American idealism because “When you’re writing comic books, you can’t live in your place. You can’t live in your world.”
He added, “I wrote Black Panther and I don’t want to be king of Wakanda.”
The Impact of the Black Panther Film
The moderator of the discussion at SXSW, Jeffrey Goldberg, who is also editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, asked Ta-Nehisi Coates if he gets approached by people saying “Wakanda Forever!” Coates said, yes, a flight attendant recently did that. “It was great. I loved it,” he said. “Anybody can do that anytime.”
He started writing the Black Panther comics for Marvel in 2016 and he went on to write a spinoff called Black Panther and the Crew. That series ran for six years.
Coates was asked about the politics of writing for Marvel and he said he likes the process of reading past the comics to fully research a character. “You start with a story already in motion,” he stated. “I try to base it on what happened before. … I love being part of some sort of bigger arc and bigger story. It’s a lot of fun.”