Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Black Panther

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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35 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    Looking forward to hearing more about the series as he tells his story.

    Man, me too. I don’t know that I have ever been as fascinated and intrigued by the announcement of a literary event still to come.

    I believe Coates to be one of the greatest writers of prose of his generation, regardless of subject matter. His style is simply gorgeous. And yet, I also recognize that he is about to delve into a kind of storytelling that does not necessarily translate his gifts (or at least those gifts that I have witnessed thus far) successfully. Indeed, a lot of intellectuals — especially ones of a public and political bent — who try their hand at fiction fail in those efforts pretty spectacularly. So on the one hand, the series may be pretty embarrassingly god-awful.

    On the other hand, one of Coates many admirable traits is that he seems to crave to constantly learn from others in a way that most public intellectuals eschew. And he is likely to do so as he tries his hand at this medium. So the series may end up being mother-fishing fantastic.

    And then on top of that, there will be all of the background noise surrounding its release, as the pro- and anti-TNC forces line up to do battle about things that wan’t really be about Ta Nehisi’s Black Panther story at all.

    Like I said, I am on tenterhooks.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I had a gut-level bad reaction to him when I first started reading his stuff. The whole reparations thing irked me. I’ve come around though. I think he’s an extremely honest and introspective writer and that is something to be commended.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      It is the combination of his impulse to go right at things, together with “Talk To Me Like I’m Stupid” that makes Coates so appealing to me. And it’s what makes this so promising.

      He has long said, “we need new myths”. Somebody at Marvel said, “Ok, put your writing behind that”. And being Coates, he said, “Sure, let’s do this. You’re going to teach me, right?” That’s how I imagine this happening.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      @tod-kelly First issue is out now! So if you’re jonesing, it’s waiting for you. (I have tried and failed to read comics an issue at a time, so I’m jonesing for September, myself.)Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    “Coates’ writing has been controversial at times…”

    I want to ask a question that feel simultaneously very specific but also very vague and general… What does it mean to call something ‘controversial’ in this day and age? Specifically, what makes Coates’ writing controversial? I don’t mean to threadjack and don’t necessarily think that is an inaccurate adjective to use, but I’m wondering what we mean when we say it anymore. Perhaps it would be better to say what is NOT controversial at this point? And if my assumption is correct that we can paint almost anything as controversial, what does it say when we only label certain topics/people (without necessarily a discernible pattern) as such?Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


      I’ll make a deal with you: Leave a comment about the general theme of the post, instead of hyper-focusing on the one line with the most potential to lead to a heated sidebar discussion, and then I’ll be happy to address your question.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I find this a pretty uncharitable read of my comment here. I made a point to note that I was not intending to threadjack nor disagreeing with the assessment. Rather, I was asking a meta question. If this isn’t the forum for that, I can hear that and direct the conversation elsewhere (or abandon it).Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

          I don’t think it’s uncharitable Kazzy. You did this on my last post here and it’s somewhat habitual IMO. I understand this is your commenting style and I also appreciate that you are self-aware enough to know you are doing it but it’s not ideal, especially when you are a staff writer and have the opportunity to host that conversation in a separate post. If you want to take one sentence of my posts and riff on them, I’ll be happy to participate. I just ask that you do it in the appropriate forum.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            While I would put that comment and this in different categories, I can see how the tack might feel similar. For whatever it is worth, my goal (whether it is achieved or not) is to communicate something along the lines of, “Hmmm… I think he meant for this to hit my ear and make a ‘chirp’ and instead it hit my ear and made a ‘beep’. And that ‘beep’ is a little uncomfortable. Let me engage him to both suss out the intent and communicate one potential impact.” If that is not something you desire or feel is productive, I can do my best to abstain. If there is a more effective means of doing such, I’m all ears.

            I can’t find it right now, but I’m reminded of the recent ‘joke’ I made about prison rape which @maribou offered an alternative take on that appropriately challenged me and helped me to grow.

            But now we have gone very far afield. Happy to continue talking behind the scenes. Or here if you desire but I’ll let you make that call.Report

            • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


              I think a paragraph that seems to chirp instead of beep might warrant a question. A sentence that seems to be at the wrong frequency may be digging a little too deep. I wish I could say that my prose was so rich that every line merits review, but most of the time I am just stringing a few words together and hoping it all makes sense.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                If you want my expectations for you to be something other than “Perfect all of the time without fail or exception”, I just don’t know what to tell you at that point…

                For what it’s worth, if I didn’t have a general respect for you as a writer, thinker, and listener, I’d be much more inclined to dismiss chirps or beeps or whathaveyou than engage. That I might sometimes irk you as I have done here should be taken as a compliment!

                (Goddamn, I’m an arrogant fucker…)Report

            • Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

              @kazzy Since you namechecked me, I’ll point out that I think the two cases are a bit different, and why:

              a) I was informing you of my reaction directly,.
              b) my problem was with the whole of your comment (short though it was), not one sentence in a multi-paragraph post,
              c) you had previously indicated that you wanted to hear that kind of reaction,
              d) I was reacting out of my personal hurt, not an abstract desire to inform.

              Of course, I wouldn’t be making this comment if it weren’t for c) + you having namechecked me, so take it as seriously as you want, and no seriouslier.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

      There are two questions going on here.

      As to the first, the most obvious answer is that his reparations article was highly controversial. It was so controversial, in fact, that most of the people who read it and agreed with it went on to do absolutely nothing — personally, through donations of time or money, or even indirectly at the ballot box — to make it happen.

      As to the second question, it’s true that all writers (and artists, for that matter) are to some degree controversial. But I also think that some are clearly more controversial than others, and indeed market themselves as controversial. Coates is clearly one of those writers, as is anyone who holds up a mirror to the status quo that shows things that the status quo would just assume didn’t exist. Calling Coates controversial seems, well, an incredibly uncontroversial thing to say.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        And to be clear — and as I stated in my initial comment — I don’t necessarily consider it inaccurate to call him as such. It just made me wonder about the general use of that term and the power it has. Calling something “controversial” can both legitimize or delegitimize a topic or individual. Referring to it as the vaccine-autism “controversy” implies there is legitimate disagreement when none really exists: vaccines are safe, do not cause autism, and any arguments to the contrary are rooted in pseudo-science or worse. But the “controversial” tag can also have real negative implications for a writer, especially if it is both unwarranted and unwelcome.

        Neither seems to be the case for Coates. He willingly tackles very tough topics and seems open to living in the resulting wake. My question was more meta than anything.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

          This is probably worth a post on its own, so I might encourage you to do a comments rescue on your own comment. Because I do find the meta question fascinating. It touches on so very much in today’s media, especially the commodification of disagreement.

          I understand your concern for threadjacking in this post though, so I will again encourage you to do a comments rescue for your own comment. It seems worthy of discussion.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I think that is what I will do. Or at least table further conversation unless or until I can do that. But glad to know that there is a ‘there’ there and that I am not alone in pondering this topic.

            My apologies to Mike for any distraction. None was intended.Report

      • Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “It was so controversial, in fact, that most of the people who read it and agreed with it went on to do absolutely nothing — personally, through donations of time or money, or even indirectly at the ballot box — to make it happen.”

        Actively untrue, honestly. However, the people who most DISAGREE with reparations are going to be the people to make it happen, if it ever does.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

      What strikes me in

      Coates’ writing has been controversial at times but it has brought him recognition as one of the leading voices on race in America.

      Is the “but”. How could one of the leading voices on such a controversial topic be anything else?Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Good point – no leading voice, on much of anything of import, becomes such by reiterating that which is already broadly accepted.

        In the natural sciences that means making new and important discoveries that hold up under reproduction experiments. In the arts and social sciences that means controversy.Report

    • LTL FTC in reply to Kazzy says:

      If it’s disliked by the right (or someone on the right), it’s controversial.
      If it’s disliked by the left (or someone on the left), it’s problematic.Report

  3. Burt Likko says:

    I’ve not followed the comic at all so I feel like I lack standing to opine on Coates’ narration. With that said, I think he was a brilliant choice and it’s thrilling to see a public intellectual like him dive directly into popular culture like this. There’s every reason to think the storylines will be intellectually and morally challenging. Everybody wins: it’ll be good for business, and it’ll be good for the culture.Report

  4. Maribou says:

    @mike-dwyer Excellent post and thanks for the link to the interview! I think the reluctant hero is a wonderful trope and I’m looking forward to seeing what Coates does with it…. hope it doesn’t get TOO autobiographical though.Report

  5. Kim says:

    This could be the second best comic in current production.
    (The first being one by a nobel prizewinner…)Report

  6. Jon Rowe says:

    Let us not forget Jack “the King” Kirby who created this character and most of Marvel’s leading characters (and some of DC’s too).Report