How Marvel’s First Black Writer Finally Made Black Panther’s T’Challa an Iconic Hero

Comic book OG Christopher Priest was reluctant about writing what turned out to be his greatest work. It was 1998 and Marvel, which had just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, was desperate for a comeback when the company started the edgier Marvel Knights imprint. Priest—who holds the distinction of being the first full-time black writer at either DC or Marvel—was enlisted to write a new Black Panther series for the endeavor.

This obvious challenge was that Black Panther hadn’t been relevant in years, and the character itself had become a B-lister-at-best after debuting as a Fantastic Four adversary in 1966. Plus, there was the existential weight of being a black writer known for openly weaving race into his work. “I stopped being a writer, or being thought of as a writer,” Priest told Vulture in a recent interview, “and started being thought of as a ‘black writer.’” This wasn’t Priest distancing himself from his racial identity. There’s a version of inclusivity that states black voices are credible in specific lanes even if it’s under this wider umbrella of diversity. This ideology would lead someone to say, “Sure, Priest has been writing for decades, but he doesn’t quite have the experience to write about Superman, though.” It’s one of the many anxieties of being black in a white-dominated space.

Despite those initial roadblocks, Priest not only took on the job he excelled at it. Ultimately what made his Black Panther run (1998-2003​) so reinvigorating was that it delivered a hero who wasn’t confined by any preconceived constructs. T’Challa’s a black polymath with his own set of ethics and king to a sovereign nation. This iteration of the character is crucial because the record-breaking blockbuster film, which is rooted in Priest's work, doesn’t exist without it. But the decades of appreciation for Priest’s work comes from how much depth it applied to Black Panther as a concept. T’Challa’s duties as the king of Wakanda and responsibilities in America form a tension that propels the 62-issue series, and it’s a thread that continues on in author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ more recent saga. The idea of a powerful African nation with its own complexities is a central audacity that ties into the allure of the Black Panther movie.

'Black Panther' poster
Image via Marvel

T’Challa doesn’t explicitly concern himself with race in Priest’s run, but the black-centric philosophy. In an effort to not just make a “black book,” Priest told Black Panther’s story through the lens of Everett K. Ross, a just-past-competent U.S. State Department officer assigned to escort Black Panther during his visit to America. Self-effacing and full of pop culture references, Ross becomes a stand-in for the audience, and his everyman nature forces us to see T’Challa with a sense of awe. When Black Panther conveniently escapes in a hidden ship during a pivotal chase scene in issue No. 11, for instance, Ross is right there to rein us in to contextualize: “[T’Challa’s] a full-bird monarch from one of the most technologically advanced nations on the planet. And, somehow, we keep forgetting that.”

The titular Black Panther is a bit too stoic to work as a narrator, but he does work as a character nonetheless because Priest outlines very concisely what T’Challa is about: He has an undying love of his people and dedication to his homeland. They’re a small set of traits that are malleable enough to jump from supernatural fantasy to political thriller. Black Panther’s triumph over satanic ​villain​ Mephisto in the series’ opening arc isn’t simply about good vs. evil as it is about connecting T’Challa to a mythos (the Panther God in this case), setting the tone of what’s to come. When it’s revealed that the only reason that Black Panther has been hanging with the Avengers is just to keep tabs on them, the shock is in how logical this reveal is. After all, why should an African king 100-percent trust a Westerner running around in tights and a star-and-stripes shield?

This iteration of the black panther is crucial because the record-breaking blockbuster film, which is rooted in Priest's work, doesn’t exist without it.

The subversive premise needles at entire concept of what it means to be a hero because Western civilization isn’t a priority for Black Panther. At one point, he sends the global economy into a tailspin to thwart his arch-nemesis Erik Killmonger’s plan to takeover Wakanda. The question of racial identity sneaks in directly in issue No. 6, where a crowd of black people form outside of a New York Hilton reception because of an invitation oversight (the organizers forgot to invite any black people). King T’Challa appears in front of the mass and proclaims that the Avengers are “their heroes” and that the Black Panther is “our hero.” He goes on to deny that title, saying, “In any country—among all peoples! We should not become polarized by self-interest—but embrace common humanity.” T’Challa hasn’t been rolling around spouting hotep-isms at the Avengers; his existence in America comes with tangential significance.

Not to sound all “their earlier stuff was better,” but the best storylines of Priest’s run are in issues 1-12, which cover Black Panther’s meeting with Mephisto and Enemy of the State—a transcontinental summertime blockbuster that finds Wakanda hi-jacked thanks to a farmer-turned-madman and some rogue U.S. Intelligence factions. Must-see showdowns like Black Panther's battle of attrition against Killmonger and damn-near causing World War III with Atlantis provided worthy follow-ups, but sales eventually declined midway through Bush’s first term. By issue No. 50, T’Challa was written out as the star of the series in favor of a new Black Panther: a New York officer that looked more like “Vin Diesel” than kingly.

“None of the artists could convey the BET/gangsta rap sensibility Marvel had requested; qualities Marvel insisted were missing from T’Challa,” Priest said about the misfire. “The thinking seemed to be, if we made Black Panther more ‘street,’ it would sell better.”

As absurd as the change-up was, Black Panther-for-the-streets wasn’t enough to sully what was a groundbreaking take on an underdeveloped character. There are plenty of mainstream black heroes, including John Stewart as the Green Lantern, Static, Falcon, and Luke Cage, to name a few. But Black Panther’s universe carries a specific sense of gravity because of how rigorous and thrillingly it explores the idea of an African superpower that was void of Western influence. Priest is solely responsible for making that premise real on the pages he commanded and now there’s the chance for a new generation to see that world come to life on the big screen. 

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Snoop Dogg Preps Us for Gospel Album With ‘Super Bowl Gospel Celebration’ Concert

Snopp Dogg looks like he's making good on his promise to make moves into the world of gospel in 2018 with not only his forthcoming album Snoop Dogg Presents the Bible of Love, but an upcoming appearance at the 19th annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. Alongside Grammy-award winner artists Faith Evans and Tye Tribbett, Snoop will perform at the shindig that dubs itself the “only inspirational music event sanctioned by the NFL for Super Bowl weekend.” 

According to Business Wire, the star-studded show, hosted by Yvonne Orji of HBO's Insecure and Pastor John Gray of OWN, will not only celebrate one of the world's largest televised sporting events but also honor NFL players Russell Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald. The show will feature other gospel artists such as Erica Campbell, the Clark Sisters, and Donnie McClurkin, as well as frequent Prince collaborator Sheila E., and a 40-member choir made up of current and former NFL players.

Last year, Snoop told Billboard he was considering the idea of making a gospel album after close to 25 years in the game. “I have always wanted to try gospel,” he admitted. “This may surprise some people but all I gotta say is get ready for some good for your soul music in 2018!” No doubt, Snoop's public persona might clash with Christian values for some, but it all falls under feel-good vibes for the 46-year-old rapper. After trading in hip hop for reggae briefly in 2013 as Snoop Lion on Reincarnated, and soulful funk in 2015 with BUSH, let's just wait to see what genre Snoop hops to next.

The hourlong special will air on BET on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 11 PM.

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On today’s episode Tony gets invited to a previewing of the upcoming 2018 Spring collection. Let’s just say there is an incredible variety of beautiful sneakers and apparels! 

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Even Cavs Players Are Doubtful They Can Win a Championship This Season

Contrary to popular opinion, LeBron James is human after all, and though his run of seven consecutive trips to the NBA Finals might make him seem otherworldly, it doesn't make him invincible. This season more than ever, it feels like Cleveland is surviving rather than thriving. At some point, someone in the East is going to beat them. And after Cleveland's 118-108 home loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors last night, we might've officially reached that point.

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, there is growing discontent and a strong sense of concern within the Cleveland locker room. The Cavs are 26-17 with only three wins in their last 12 games. They got blown out by a combined 62 points against Toronto and Minnesota last week. They might have the worst defense in the entire NBA, and they've slid so far that many of the team's veterans now doubt whether they can fix their problems this season.

Age. One-dimensional role players. Defensive-issues that go far beyond fundamentals. Several prominent players told ESPN, Cleveland.com, and The Athletic that the team's problems won't go away simply by getting healthy. 

This is not the first time we've heard grumblings coming out of Cleveland this season. Just last week, Yahoo! Sports reported there were complaints in the locker room about “personal agendas” getting in the way of success. Some Cavs players thought LeBron was chasing assists in an effort to win one final MVP award. Others didn't like coach Tyronn Lue's rotations. The bickering reeks of familiarity, like a family that's been living together far too long.

In past years during their inevitable regular season lapses, the team could lean on Kyrie Irving. But Irving is gone, and his replacement is a 28-year-old, 5'9″ defensive problem who may or may not ever be the same after returning from a major hip injury.

LeBron has to know all of this. He also knows Cleveland holds the rights to Brooklyn's first-round pick next summer—and that there are several names potentially available on the market. That pick and this year's trade deadline might be Cleveland's final chance to position themselves for one last run at a title. Among the NBA's contenders, they have the least to lose and the most to gain by making a deal.

No one ever expects a run to end before it does. Miami's Big Three era faded with a whimper, getting blitzed by 14 points per game against San Antonio in the 2014 Finals. Kobe's Lakers collapsed in a surprising sweep in 2011, burnt out and exhausted. Before that, it was Shaq and the Lakers getting old before our eyes and even before that, it was Houston and Hakeem Olajuwon getting run into the ground by Seattle and the Detroit Bad Boys wilting under the athleticism of Jordan's Bulls. 

Is this Cleveland's moment of reckoning? If it is, it shouldn't surprise anyone.

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Irv Gotti Blasts 50 Cent’s New BET Comedy Series

Gotti claims ’50 Central’ was BET’s lowest rated premiere in 2017.

Irv Gotti on 50 Cent: ‘No One Is Afraid of This Guy’

What's beef? Apparently, not a damn thing—at least not to Irv Gotti. During his Friday appearance on Everyday Struggle, Gotti took a moment to speak on the recent back-and-forth he's been locked in with old foe, 50 Cent.

As a guest on The Breakfast Club, 50 called Gotti's BET program Tales “not well executed” and suggested he would be cutting it, as he's come into a bit of power at the network and will be producing a new project called 50 Central. “I have full-on intentions of removing that,” 50 said. “There's some adjustments to be made.” 

At the 1:00:00 mark of Everyday Struggle, host DJ Akademiks brought this up to Gotti, saying, “It feels like 50 is always hating on anything you guys are doing.” 

“I hate it,” Irv replied. “But it's what he does. I truly would love to wake up one day and it's just none of that, and we just all could get money. He's getting money. He's having great success in the TV space. He's doing wonderful. But I'm doing pretty good, you know what I'm saying? I got my show, Tales; I'm potentially about to branch it out to other genres, potentially about to branch Tales out to other countries. The premise of what I created is so dope—it's funny because even he said it was dope. He said, 'Ahh, just poorly executed.' Or whatever like that—he had to throw a zing. But he gave it up and said the concept is dope.”

When asked if he thought 50 actually had the power to have the show removed, Gotti wasn't pressed whatsoever. “He can't get my show outta there,” he said. “BET and him made a campaign showing like, he's taking over, 50's taking over the network. It's a campaign they've created. He can't get my show cancelled. I'm here to tell y'all right now, he can't do that. He can try, but he can't do that. I'm strong up there, and I'm strong at Viacom. You may see Tales on MTV: Tales pop, Tales rock, Tales country on the CMT.”

Talk that cash money shit then, Irv. Before he wrapped up with Akademiks and Nadeska, Irv made it clear he's not intimidated by 50 in any way, shape, or form.

“I wanna make something clear to everyone who's watching: no one is afraid of this guy,” Gotti said. “He's like a bully. 50's this big bully. He can have the aura or whatever, but there's not one fearful bone in my fucking body—with not just him, but anybody in the world. So when it comes to me and him, please, if you're watching, don't think when he said 'Yeah, I'ma slap the shit outta Gotti.' I was like, 'Yeah this guy is crazy.' He's gonna slap the shit outta me? You had 20 years to slap the shit outta me, nigga. You the nigga that got slapped and touched.”

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After years of not being allowed into the Hot 97 studios (which stem from a shooting outside of the station in New York City back during the G-Unit vs. the Game days), 50 Cent made his return to Hot 97 to talk about a number of topics with Ebro, Peter Rosenberg, and Laura Stylez.

One of the biggest revelations occurs towards the end of the interview (38:47), when Ebro asks if 50 spoke with Floyd Mayweather after the Conor McGregor fight. 50 says they Facetime'd a few days ago, and says that Floyd wasn't really feeling Conor. “He really didn't like him,” 50 said. “All that, he's getting away with touching his head? That's not Floyd, he ain't like that.” 50 also said that when he heard Floyd tried to bet $3 million on himself, he made sure he got his bet in (although he won't reveal what he made).

50 also spoke on Cardi B hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (at the 19:32 mark). “What Cardi does is so amazing for our culture; it means that there's no rules.” He calls Love & Hip-Hop the “graveyard,” and says that now the visibility of the show will mean that Cardi won't be the only success story.

Now 50 Cent was actually there to promote 50 Central, which is his upcoming variety show on BET. “There's a lot of cool sketch comedy,” he reveals, but does say that you might not see much Trump talk. Not because he's shook, but because he doesn't want to do stuff that a Saturday Night Live has already made their mark with. 50 does have an interesting take on Trump's presidency, though (around 34:36): “his presidency is an accident.” He takes it further, revealing his theory that Trump was “doing that to build his profile for a bigger deal on television,” which is something a number of people theorized during the debate season.

50 also speaks on Power being the No. 2 show on cable television behind Game of Thrones, goes back and forth on WHY Ebro can't blame him for the state of New York hip-hop, his views on 4:44, and much, much more. Check out the full interview up above.

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