Baltimore Comic-Con: Behind the Black Panther

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The Black Panther panel with moderator Tom Brevoort, colorist Laura Martin, comic book artist and voice actor Afua Richardson (dressed as Wakandan version of the X-Men character storm), and Brian Stomfreez, was my favorite. Even though I don’t follow the comics, the discussion was easy to follow, and pretty fascinating. The panelists’ enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, the Black Panther universe was extremely impressive. I got the sense that each of them really loves working on the comic and has a personal connection to the characters.

The full Black Panther panel from Baltimore Comic-Con. From left to right are Tom Brevoort, Afua Richardson, Laura Martin and Brian Stomfreez.
The full Black Panther panel from Baltimore Comic-Con. From left to right are Tom Brevoort, Afua Richardson, Laura Martin and Brian Stomfreez.

I particularly enjoyed what Brian had to say about the character. As one of the current artists for the Black Panther comics, he talked about what it’s like writing for a comic that has a huge movie coming out and a fast growing fan base. When he originally agreed to draw the comics he thought that he was signing on for a lesser know comic, something he prefers because it allows him more freedom with the artwork. He was shocked when production for the movie was announced and joked that even his mother who knows nothing about comics and from time to time will tell him about job openings at McDonalds, called him and made a congratulatory fuss about it.

Brian also talked about how drawing series was particularly interesting because Wakanda, the fictional nation that Black Panther lives in, was never colonized by the western world. Brian compared the people of Wakanda to large cats, in that they fought to keep their territory and then stayed within those lines. Brian did not include throne or throne-room, but instead a conference table. He noted that kings are a western idea. He also tried to incorporate African clothes and symbols and wanted to frame them as if some of them were originally Wakandan, and that other countries had adopted them. Brian also talked about how he is constantly going over everything to make sure it doesn’t have a western influence.

Characters from The Black Panther were extremely popular at Baltimore Comic-Con this year, as this purrefct fan proves.
Characters from The Black Panther were extremely popular at Baltimore Comic-Con this year, as this purrefct fan proves.

All panelists including the moderator had only glowing praise for the writer of the current Black Panther comics, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Brian loves working with him because he is a team player. Afua said that his passion for the story and his intelligence really show through. Afua designed one of the covers of the comic, which originally was supposed to just be a variant cover. The writer fell in love with it because of Afua’s use of symbolism and made it an official cover. She also mentioned that she went to one of the shooting locations for the Black Panther movie and auditioned to be in the background, because she wanted to be a part of it in any way.

Laura Martin, who the night before had won a prestigious award for her color work, did not have as much to add to the discussion as the other two. She noted that the technology the Wakandans use in this comic is very Kirby-esque (referring to Jack Kirby, one of the creators of The Black Panther).

This was a highly enjoyable panel. I left wanting to read the Black Panther comics and even more excited for the upcoming movie. The only issue that I had with this panel is that they changed out one of the people last second and I had to be extra vigilant to catch their name.

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