Roxane Gay Is Writing A ‘Black Panther’ Spinoff Comic For Marvel

Despite all the big movie and TV announcements coming out of San Diego Comic Con, the most groundbreaking news from this year’s convention was that Marvel Comics is hiring its first-ever black female writers. Author Roxane Gay, along with poet Yona Harvey, will be writing a Black Panther spinoff comic called World of Wakanda, which spotlights the women of the (fictional) African country where Black Panther and his people reside. The first issue will feature a story by Gay about two renegade soldiers from Black Panther’s elite all-female royal guard, and one by Harvey about a female revolutionary who seeks to overthrow the monarchy and restore power to the common people.

*Pause to internally freak out about how goddamn cool all of this is*

With art by Alithia Martinez and covers by Afua Richardson, World of Wakanda is a first not only for Marvel but for major American comics publishing as a whole: a comic about black women that’s actually created by black women. This is a particularly significant development in light of recent calls for Marvel to increase the diversity of its creators as well as its characters. Black Panther’s current creative team, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Brian Stelfreeze, represents one of the first times Marvel has ever put a black writer and artist on the title together. The comic just debuted this year, and Stelfreeze is going to be replaced by a white artist next month. So Marvel really, really needs Gay, Harvey, Martinez, and Richardson right now.

Although Gay and Harvey are new to comics writing, fans can take heart in the fact that Coates himself recruited them for the project. Plus, Harvey’s poetry often combines visual and verbal elements, which is great for comics, and Gay can write a damn good zombie story as well as critical examinations of feminism. Their mix of specializations and talents promises to elevate the comic beyond the usual Strong Female Character cliches, which I’m looking forward to a lot — especially since Gay’s story in World of Wakanda #1 focuses on openly queer black women in a loving relationship, something you almost never see in mainstream comics.

Given how quickly Stelfreeze got replaced on Black Panther, I’m cautious in my optimism. Hopefully World of Wakanda will last long enough for its team to get some real recognition in the comics industry and from fans, and that Marvel doesn’t pull any surprise white dude switches. Let’s also hope that mainstream comics don’t get complacent about their diversity problems once this comic comes out. It’s an amazing step forward, but the industry still has a long way to go.