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Mighty Marvel Monday: What Ta-Nehisi Coates Means for Marvel and Comics

It’s another Mighty Marvel Monday, and this past week we had possibly the biggest news for Marvel in…ever? Honestly, I was trying to think of some kind of comparable announcement in other media, and I couldn’t.

Ta-Nehisi Coates will write the new Black Panther ongoing.

Fittingly, Marvel chose The New York Times books section to break the news instead of their usual media outlets like Entertainment Weekly or Variety. Marvel is worthy of The New York Times, is the message, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes for Marvel.

Throughout the week since the announcement, Coates has shown his enthusiasm, excitement, and expectations for this project, and I can’t wait to read it. It’s a coup for Marvel, who has been taking a lot of heat for its tone-deaf attempts at diversity lately, but it’s also a coup for comics, generally speaking. When a public figure as esteemed as Ta-Nehisi Coates comes out as a lifelong comics fan and, further, is actually writing a comic himself, that says a lot about the medium of comics, which are still written off by many in the academy and elsewhere as being too “mainstream,” too “low culture,” to have any value.

But Coates’ own announcement on his Twitter is equally important, demonstrating that Coates, and comics generally speaking, aren’t just for the intellectual or economic elite.

With Coates tweet, a callback to Nicki Minaj calling out Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards weeks prior, he demonstrates the way that identity itself is intertextual; a complex network of race, class, neighborhood, and life experience, all of which require different proofs of authenticity. The New York Times announcement is indicative of Coates’ status and the gravitas that he brings to Marvel, but his tweets are indicative of someone who hasn’t renounced where he came from, or pop culture generally speaking, and won’t. If you have time to go back through them, and see not only his replies, but the tweets he’s retweeted, I highly recommend it. Coates is a flawless navigator–and he seems to be enjoying himself, appearing both playful and take-no-bullshit.

And just because Marvel now has Coates on the writing staff doesn’t mean that they get a pass from now on when it comes to diversity, whether it be on the page or on their staff. WWAC contributor J.A. Micheline was part of a discussion segment on HuffPostLive on the announcement, and also appeared on Southern California NPR to talk about how Marvel still has more work to do:

I think it’s a bittersweet announcement. The great thing about it is that he’s an amazing writer who really understands the semiotics of race, of how black people have been depicted in media, and really understands the nuances of history. I think he’s going to have so much to bring to the table, and it’s amazing to have someone like that writing comics. It’s fantastic, and kind of unprecedented.

The only bitter thing about it is that I look at the announcement and I say to myself, Okay, is this what it takes for Marvel to hire a black writer? Do you have to have two books out? Do you have to be a household name and a writer for The Atlantic in order to be considered for a role?

Other stories, in brief

Victoria Alonso (no relation to Axel Alonso) was named the vice president of physical production for Marvel Studios. According to the Variety exclusive, she will oversee post-production and technical production operations, and will be one of the few women to ever hold such a role.

A new teaser for Jessica Jones is out.

I love it. Is it November yet?

ICYMI

Chris Evans went to his first “real” convention this past week at Salt Lake City Comic Con. I say first “real” because while SDCC is amazing, it’s not really representative of what comic cons aspire to be. Based on his tweets from this past weekend, he had an amazing time, and continues to be the living embodiment of sweetness and good, just like Captain America.