Last year I was offered the opportunity to script an 11-issue series of Black Panther, for Marvel. The Black Panther—who, when he debuted in an issue of Fantastic Four, in 1966, was the first black superhero in mainstream American comics—is the alter ego of T’Challa, the king of Wakanda, a mythical and technologically advanced African country.
By day, T’Challa mediates conflicts within his nation. By night, he battles Dr. Doom. The attempt to make these two identities—monarch and superhero—cohere has proved a rich vein for storytelling by such creators as Jack Kirby, Christopher Priest, and Reginald Hudlin. But when I got the call to write Black Panther, I was less concerned with character conflict than with the realization of my dreams as a 9-year-old.
Some of the best days of my life were spent poring over the back issues of TheUncanny X-Men and The Amazing Spider-Man. As a child of the crack-riddled West Baltimore of the 1980s, I found the tales of comic books to be an escape, another reality where, very often, the weak and mocked could transform their fallibility into fantastic power. That is the premise behind the wimpy Steve Rogers mutating into Captain America, behind the nerdy Bruce Banner needing only to grow angry to make his enemies take flight, behind the bespectacled Peter Parker being transfigured by a banal spider bite into something more.
But comic books provided something beyond escapism. Indeed, aside from hip-hop and Dungeons & Dragons, comics were my earliest influences. In the way that past writers had been shaped by the canon of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wharton, I was formed by the canon of Claremont, DeFalco, and Simonson. Some of this was personal. All of the comics I loved made use of two seemingly dueling forces—fantastic grandiosity and ruthless efficiency. Comic books are absurd. At any moment, the Avengers might include a hero drawn from Norse mythology (Thor), a monstrous realization of our nuclear-age nightmares (the Hulk), a creation of science fiction (Wasp), and an allegory for the experience of minorities in human society (Beast).
Zendaya has landed a key role in Marvel and Sony’s “Spider-Man” reboot starring Tom Holland, sources confirmed to Variety.
Jon Watts is directing the currently untitled “Spider-Man” film from a script by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal are producing the movie, which focuses on a teenage Peter Parker’s high school days.
Holland is starring as Parker, while Zendaya’s role is still under wraps. Marisa Tomei will play Aunt May.
Zendaya was one of a handful of actresses who had been testing with Holland for the past couple of weeks, but insiders stress that the character is neither Parker’s love interest nor a lead role. She will, however, play a bigger part in future installments. Plot details are still being heavily guarded.
Holland’s Spider-Man will first make an appearance in the upcoming “Captain American: Civil War” with a standalone pic bowing on July 7, 2017. Production is expected to start this summer.
Zendaya is the star of the Disney Channel series “Shake It Up!” and “K.C. Undercover.” The actress-singer also appeared on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2013 and recently had a guest role on “Black-ish.”
Michael B. Jordan‘s first attempt at playing a superhero didn’t go over well with movie buffs. The 2015 reboot of “Fantastic Four” bombed at the box office but similar to his character in “Creed,” Jordan is a fighter! He’s now planning to star in his own superhero franchise.
Jordan and Nathan Edmonson are co-authoring the comic book, “North.” Here’s the premise of the series from The Hollywood Reporter:
“[‘North’] follows a soldier who is recruited into a top-secret paramilitary program that modifies his mind to make him a spy like no other. When an operation goes south, he is betrayed by the organizations he serves but quickly discovers he is far more dangerous than even his betrayers realize.”
While it sounds a lot like “Captain America,” Edmonson is an accomplished writer who wrote “The Punisher” and “Black Widow” for Marvel. He and Jordan met, ironically at one of Los Angeles’ top comic shops, Golden Apple, and decided to collaborate on their own comic.
The pair have already completed two issues which will be published by Dark Horse Comics in 2016. According to THR, this is the start of something big for the 28-year-old. “The duo want the comic to stand alone on its own merits, one of the goals is to craft an eventual producing vehicle for Jordan.”
After several months of meeting with various black directors and not locking one to helm “Black Panther,” it’s finally confirmed that “Creed” director Ryan Coogler is in negotiations to direct the action film for Marvel and Disney, TheWrap reports.
The studio has been desperate to lock a black director, and had considered Ava Duvernay and F. Gary Gray for the project. Marvel and Coogler had discussed the movie in the past, but both sides cooled on the negotiations until recently resuming talks.
EUR previously reported on Coogler’s comments regarding why the race of the director is important on projects such as “Black Panther.” He explained ScreenRant, ”Yeah, I think it’s important. Perspective is so important in art. That’s not to say that you can’t work outside yourself.”
Since the critically acclaimed success of Coogler’s tragic drama “Fruitvale Station,” he has had his pick of projects, including the “Rocky” franchise, casting his “Fruitvale” star Michael B. Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed. The Oscar-buzzed film grossed nearly $30 million its opening weekend.
When asked during a recent interview how important it was “to build a central narrative of a black boxer in a film that doesn’t directly address race,” Ryan responded:
“It was very important. When I would watch “Rocky” films, Apollo was the guy that I identified with as a young black man, because I grew up as an athlete for most of my life. With boxing, we have a long history of the greatest American fighters and so many of them are black and Hispanic but you don’t see that representation in cinema so I was really excited.”
Chadwick Boseman is set to star as T’Challa, the superhero in charge of a fictional African nation called Wakanda. The character will first be introduced in “Captain America: Civil War.”
“Creed” is currently playing in theaters across the country. “Black Panther” is scheduled to be released Nov. 3, 2017.
Black girl magic has just been further actualized with the new Marvel superhero Lunella Lafayette, who goes by Moon Girl. Lafayette is a new take on a 1978 Marvel comic Devil Dinosaur that involved the adventures of a red Tyrannosaurus Rex and a young caveman-like boy known as Moon Boy. Today, Lafayatte may take over the Moon-child role but there’s nothing cave-ish about her. The new Moon Girl is an African American pre-teen genius.
Entertainment Weekly reports Moon Girl will be similar to an inspector gadget, but even more clever due to her “unpredictable alien DNA.”
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur were brought to life when Marvel’s team of creatives realized they did not have many books and characters that appealed to all age groups. The unlikely duo of dinosaur and girl genius will seek adventures across the concrete jungle of New York City.
“Generally, we’re skewing a little bit older with a lot of our titles and we wanted to create something that adults and kids could really love, like a Pixar feel. That’s where the tone jumped off for us,” said Emily Shaw, Marvel’s assistant editor.
However, it isn’t the age group we’re thrilled about – it’s the representation of a black girl superhero that has excitement over the new comic growing. Nancy Bustos, the artist behind the new superhero, spoke on her excitement of seeing the representation come to life.
“It’s great to be a part of the creation of something which can mean something special to so many people,” said Bustos who is Afro-Brazilian, Chilean, and Spanish.
Bustos can relate to growing up with a lack of characters that looked like her, “I myself have come up against this dilemma of finding few or no cultural references, especially in Spain,” she noted.
I received a press release this morning with the following:
“Marvel and Stephen King are proud to announce the next chapter in the bold epic Dark Tower series. Coming this September, THE DARK TOWER: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE –THE LADY OF SHADOWS #1 continues the epic story through the eyes of one of the series fan-favorite characters [Odetta Holmes]. Perfect for new and old fans alike, the rich and vibrant world of the Dark Tower series comes alive like never before! New York Times Bestselling writers Peter David & Robin Furth alongside rising star artist Jonathan Marks bring the action from Mid-World to our world in this exciting new installment! The Gunslinger Roland and his companion Eddie Dean, the troubled young man with the ability to open doors to other worlds are now united. Together, they will find the Dark Tower. But first they must locate the 3rd member of their ka-tet, residing in our world. Enter Odetta Holmes, a wealthy Civil Rights activist living in the South. But Odetta has a dark secret, and a darker side. To uncover that secret, we’ll have to go back to the beginning…A bold new chapter begins as Odetta Holmes makes her entrance into this landmark series. Don’t miss Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE –THE LADY OF SHADOWS #1, when it comes to comic shops and digital devices this September!”
This is obviously a comic book/graphic novel adaptation of the literary series – the second book in the novel series is titled “The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three” – so don’t get too excited. But I mention it because there is a film adaptation of the massive “Dark Tower” series that’s been in some form of development for at least 4 years (I recall writing about it on the old S&A site, prior to 2011). Most recently, earlier this year, Sony Pictures has announced that it had teamed with MRC (the a diversified global media company) to co-finance the film adaptation of the first book in the series, with plans for more, which Sony will distribute, along with a TV series based on the novels.
Also, as fans of the book series will already know, the Odetta Holmes mentioned in the above breakdown of the upcoming new installment, happens to be one of the alternate personalities of Susannah Dean – the paraplegic with multiple personalities, who, by the way, also happens to be a black woman. Odetta was the original name that she was born with – a civil rights activist though more of a pacifist, in contrast to Detta Walker, the other personality. During her time as Odetta, Susannah was the daughter of Daniel and Alice Holmes, a wealthy black couple, living in New York City. At the age of five, the serial killer Jack Mort dropped a brick from a high balcony on Odetta’s head, placing her in a coma. Out of this traumatizing incident, Odetta’s damaged mind created a completely separate, second personality named Detta Walker.
The disparity between Odetta’s two personalities approaches the level of polar opposites. Odetta is a morally righteous intellectual with a significant level of education and class who participates in civil-rights protests. Detta is a violent, base individual ruled by sexual desire and fueled by hatred towards the white people Odetta passively resists. The two personalities are completely unaware of each other’s existence – at least initially. Eventually, Odetta and Detta are forced to recognize each other’s existence, and they then combine to create the singular personality of Susannah Dean.
Initially, years ago, Universal Pictures initially planned to turn Stephen King’s mammoth novel series “The Dark Tower” into a feature film trilogy, as well as a network TV series, with Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Akiva Goldsman, to direct (Howard), produce (Grazer) and write (Goldsman) respectively.
However, Universal later dropped the project over budget concerns, and word on the street was that Warner Bros picked up where Universal left off, with the 3-headed monster (Howard, Graze, Goldsman) still very much spearheading the thing.
Skip to 2012, when it was revealed that Goldsman would soon be delivering an amended draft of the script to Warners, which addressed the budget issues, and if the studio OK’d what he delivered, the project would be good to go.
And adding to excitement that the project seemed to be getting closer to becoming a reality was word that Russell Crowe would be replacing Javier Bardem, who had long been attached to play the lead role of gunslinger Roland Deschain – which wasn’t a big surprise, since Crowe, Howard and Grazer have worked together at least twice in the past.
But the one character we are most interested in, in all this, who also happens to be one of the key characters in the sprawling epic work, is obviously Susannah Dean/Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker, who will apparently be at the center of the next chapter in the book series.
The “Dark Tower” series, which King himself considers his magnum opus, is a cross-genre work, including elements of science fiction, fantasy, horror and western, with 8 novels in the series, published between 1982 and 2012.
Here’s a plot summary: In the story, Roland Deschain is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers and the last of the line of “Arthur Eld”, his world’s analogue of King Arthur. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West but is also magical. Many of the magical aspects have vanished from Mid-World, but traces remain as do relics from a technologically advanced society. Roland’s quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to be the nexus of all universes. Roland’s world is said to have “moved on”, and it appears to be coming apart at the seams. Mighty nations have been torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish without a trace and time does not flow in an orderly fashion. Even the sun sometimes rises in the north and sets in the east. As the series opens, Roland’s motives, goals and age are unclear, though later installments shed light on these mysteries. Along his journey to the Dark Tower, Roland meets a great number of both friends and enemies. For most of the way he is accompanied by a group of people who together with him form the Ka-tet of the Nineteen and Ninety-nine, consisting of Jake Chambers, Eddie and Susannah Dean, and Oy.
And so the question I’ve always had is, who should play Susannah Dean?
You’re not supposed to go on the Internet when you’re cast as a superhero. But after taking on Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four—a character originally written with blond hair and blue eyes—I wanted to check the pulse out there. I didn’t want to be ignorant about what people were saying. Turns out this is what they were saying: “A black guy? I don’t like it. They must be doing it because Obama’s president” and “It’s not true to the comic.” Or even, “They’ve destroyed it!”
It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I can see everybody’s perspective, and I know I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961. Plus, if Stan Lee writes an email to my director saying, “You’re good. I’m okay with this,” who am I to go against that?
Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of “Black Film.” Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today.
This is a family movie about four friends—two of whom are myself and Kate Mara as my adopted sister—who are brought together by a series of unfortunate events to create unity and a team. That’s the message of the movie, if people can just allow themselves to see it.
Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.
To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s okay to like it.
According to ew.com, Oscar-winning writer/producer John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) is teaming up with Marvel to develop a mysterious new TV series. The deal reportedly involves reinventing an existing Marvel superhero character or property for ABC—but all sides are staying quiet on exactly which title Ridley is adapting.
Ridley is an executive producer of ABC’s acclaimed midseason drama American Crime, which has not yet received a second season renewal. Coming off winning best adapted screenplay for 12 Years a Slave, Ridley is also a writer/producer on the 2016 big-screen update of Ben Hur.
Marvel’s aggressive expansion into television now includes four current series (ABC’s SHIELD, Agent Carter—which is on the bubble for a pickup—and Netflix’s Daredevil), plus several confirmed upcoming titles (Netflix’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, followed by the Netflix character mash-up The Defenders). Neither Marvel nor ABC would comment on the Ridley project.
According to Marvel Studios, Mike Colter has signed on to play Luke Cage in the upcoming Netflix series, “A.K.A. Jessica Jones,” starring Krysten Ritter, in 2015.
The all-new 13-episode series will follow private investigator Jessica Jones who encounters the enigmatic Luke Cage, during the course of an investigation in New York City. Cage is described as a man whose past has secrets that will dramatically alter Jessica in ways she could never have imagined. After a tragic ending to her short-lived super hero stint, Jessica Jones is rebuilding her personal life and career as a detective who gets pulled into cases involving people with extraordinary abilities in New York City.
“Mike embodies the strength, edge and depth of Luke Cage,” said Executive Producer/Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg. “We’re excited to have him bring this iconic Marvel character to life.”
“Fans have longed to see Luke Cage and in Mike we’ve found the perfect actor,” said Jeph Loeb, Executive Producer/Marvel’s Head of Television. “Viewers will get to meet Luke Cage in ‘Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones,’ and experience why he is such an important super hero in the Marvel mythos.”
Colter, who has appeared in the critically-acclaimed television series “The Good Wife” and “American Horror Story: Coven”, is currently starring in the XBox original series “Halo: Nightfall” as Jameson Locke.
“Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones” is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios for Netflix.