Today's Marvel Comics line feature a tribute to the actor Chadwick Boseman, who played Black Panther in the Marvel Comics movies. Activist writer Ta Nehisi-Coates writes the Black Panther and Captain America comic books for Marvel.
"Death is just a different kind of journey…to the land that I am king of."
—T'Challa, Secret Wars #7
In the Black Panther mythos, T'Challa often retreats to his City of the Dead, where all the previous kings and queens of Wakanda have been buried. There, T'Challa finds wisdom and counsel from his ancestors who have gone before. It was in such a city, almost 25 years ago, that I met Chadwick "Chad" Boseman. Our City of the Dead was Howard University, a place where we felt our ancestors — Kwame Ture, Donny Hathaway, Zora Neale Hurston — walked with us. The word "ancestor" is key here. It was not simply that Howard had produced "notable" or "accomplished" alumni; it was that it had produced warriors, men and women who'd spent their lives employing their chosen weaponry in the very same war that both Chad and myself, by virtue of color, felt ourselves drafted into. Like T'Challa in his own City of the Dead, we were so inculcated with their spirit that we felt we had a responsibility to do much the same. So it would not have been enough for Chad to become a leading man in Hollywood. His art would have to somehow advance the ancestral war for justice.
Not that Chad needed much urging. I met him leading a protest with my friend Kamilah Forbes to preserve the dignity of Howard's fine arts college. What I am saying is that before I knew Chad the artist, I knew Chad the warrior. And he was regal even then. There was something almost otherworldly about Chad — I would listen to him talk and only catch about 60 percent of what he was actually saying. It took time to realize that this was because Chad was always a few steps ahead of everyone.
I got to watch him through the years — advancing out of student theater, on to TV and film, and then finally cast as T'Challa. He was perfect. He had T'Challa's royal spirit, the sense that he did not represent merely himself, but a nation. And this is how I am understanding his death. It is personally sad to lose him at such a young age. But for those of us who so needed him right now, in these dark times, those of us who went to war with him, the loss is unthinkable. We simply cannot afford to be without Chad. My recourse is inadequate, but it's all I have to make meaning of this tragedy. It is the idea of ancestry. It is the notion that when someone like Chad wields their weapons as fiercely as he once did, they are remembered. It is the idea that Chad's wisdom and power are still with us in ancestral form. It is the thought that just as Chad once walked into the City of the Dead and harnessed the energy of those who'd gone before him, so he too may be harnessed, by all those warriors to come.
The essay was accompanied by this image by Brian Stelfreeze.
While the back cover features an image by Joshua "Sway" Swaby.
I bought mine from Piranha Comics in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Piranha Comics is a small south London comic store chain with a small south-east store in Kingston-Upon Thames's market centre, which runs Magic The Gathering nights on Fridays, and a larger south-west store in Bromley, which also runs Magic nights and has an extensive back issue collection and online store. If you are in the neighbourhood, check them out.